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Friday 14 June 2019

Welcome to the Weeds and Rabbits Project newsletter.

As we head into the final 12 months of the project, our partners at the four Community Pest Management Groups are focusing on extending their community capacity building initiatives.

Our featured video looks at how the Victorian Rabbit Action Network (VRAN) is supporting community members and agency staff to deliver effective, collaborative rabbit control programs.

The gorse, blackberry and serrated tussock groups are also offering information packs, demonstrations and localised support for communities over the remainder of 2019.

And in the coming months we'll be launching a new grants program to bring more young people to the invasive species management cause. Read on to find out more.

Featured video

Learning tips and tricks from the best in the rabbit business: participants in the recent rabbit bootcamp share what the course has meant for their rabbit programs... watch the video.

Inviting young people to the cause

“Imagine what would be possible if we gave young people the skills and the agency to deliver environmental projects…”

This question was posed to participants at a recent workshop on boosting youth participation in invasive species management.

The response? More innovation, better sharing of knowledge and power, employment pathways for school leavers, effective succession plans, more diverse volunteer groups, more young people connected with their environment.

The youth demographic has one of the lowest rates of participation in invasive species causes in Australia, despite there being no shortage of skilled, passionate young people with an interest in the environment.

The Weeds and Rabbits Project has recognised the importance of inviting young people into the conversation about how we address the invasive species problem. Over the past 12 months, the team have been working with Intrepid Landcare to understand barriers to youth engagement and how we can overcome them.

The project culminated in early May with a training workshop for community members keen to boost youth engagement in local projects. Participants came from all over Victoria, representing groups such as Landcare, the environmental ‘Friends’ network, local councils, schools, Parks Victoria and community pest management groups.

Participants overwhelmingly left the workshop inspired, empowered and ready to engage young people. For tips, insights and ideas on engaging young people, take a look at the workshop highlights package.

Image: Participants at the youth engagement workshop, co-designing projects to support youth participation in invasive species management.

Coming soon… grants to support youth engagement

The Weeds and Rabbits Project will shortly be launching a competitive grants program for projects that boost youth interest, engagement and capacity in invasive species management.

Applications will open in July / August, with up to $100,000 available for projects delivered by August 2020.

Keep an eye on this mailing list or our website to be notified when the program launches.

Image: Intrepid Landcare 

Local councils equipped for blackberry battle

The Victorian Blackberry Taskforce (VBT) hosted a forum for local government officers in March to boost knowledge on blackberry control.

The forum aimed to provide council staff with resources and knowledge that they could share with local community members to support effective blackberry control efforts.

VBT Chair Lyn Coulston said that landowners are often overwhelmed by blackberry weed because the control process can be exhausting, expensive and if not done properly, worthless as the blackberry grows back. She is seeking to spread the word and continue educating councils and communities about effective and proven methods to win the battle against the berry.

The progress made by community members in the Whittlesea region following the Black Saturday fires, in conjunction with the City of Whittlesea, was highlighted at the forum. For Lyn, this is testament to the fact that with the right approach, the blackberry weed can be well managed.

Case studies on the Whittlesea program are available on the VBT website. Local councils can contact the VBT for more information on the local government information package.

Rabbit learning networks spreading the word

“What a wonderful concept this is, teaching more and more people to teach, inspire and support others in the community about rabbit control.”

This was the feedback given by a VRAN learning network member, following the group’s most recent rabbit management ‘bootcamp’ program.

VRAN’s original learning network, ‘Leaps and Bounds’, has been meeting since 2015, catching up several times a year to share their experiences and work through challenges. They’re now joined by two new networks, formed out of VRAN’s 2018 and 2019 rabbit management bootcamps.

At the recent Leaps and Bounds meeting on the Bellarine Peninsula, members looked at opportunities to work with traditional owners on community rabbit programs and spoke with local Landcare volunteers and agencies about the challenge rabbits pose for conservation, tourism and cultural heritage.

The second group visited French Island to meet with the local Landcare group working to rid the island of both rabbits and feral cats. The group are using an integrated approach to manage French Island is part of the ‘Five Feral Cat-Free Islands’ program funded by the Office of the Threatened Species Commissioner. The group also visited The Briars on the Mornington Peninsula to learn about the complexities of rabbit management in a wildlife sanctuary.

The VRAN bootcamps bring together volunteers and agency staff from across Victoria to learn how to tackle some of the big challenges in rabbit control, including working in culturally and environmentally sensitive environments, and managing effective partnerships across community and agencies. For more information on the program contact VRAN.

Image: The rabbit learning network at a recent visit to French Island, where members spoke with local Landcare members about efforts to eradicate rabbits and feral cats.

Citizen scientists for gorse management

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT) has hosted a series of workshops across the state recently to support community members to map invasive species and biodiversity.

The workshops showcased the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) citizen science mapping portal, demonstrating how groups and individuals can use the various applications to log sightings of gorse and other invasive species, and then use data to plan control and monitoring programs.

More than 140 people attended workshops in six locations: Daylesford, Ballan, Beechworth, Drysdale, Portland and Bass.

VGT Chair, Peter Everist, said the ALA portal is an exciting resource for managing the impact of gorse on agricultural productivity and biodiversity, providing groups with an opportunity to map the distribution of gorse and other invasive species, and also the native biodiversity that shares the same ecosystem.

For more information visit the VGT website.

Image: Participants at the VGT’s recent forum with the Moorabool Catchment Landcare Group on the Atlas of Living Australia mapping portal.

Targeting tussocks above and below

A new research project on serrated tussock will shed light on the effect of combining multiple control tools.

Commissioned by the Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP), the study will look at different combinations of herbicide, fire, soil scraping, fencing and broadcasting native seeds.

Lead researcher, Professor Singareyer Florentine from Federation University, said the aim is to identify the most effective integrated control method for reducing the above- and below-ground biomass of serrated tussock on a landscape scale.

Previous research suggested that intense heat could significantly enhance seed germination rates. Building on this, they are investigating whether the strategic use of fire could assist in reducing the soil seedbank.

The research is being undertaken on experimental plots in a grassland near Little River that is dominated by serrated tussock and other invasive plant species. The team will study the longevity of serrated tussock seedbanks to identify how long seeds can remain viable in the soil at different depths, and herbicide resistance under projected climate change.

Project partners include Parks Victoria, Aus Eco Solutions, Melton City Council, Golden Plains City Council and Wyndham City Council.

For more information contact the VSTWP.

Image: The same experimental plot pre-treatment (top) and after the herbicide spray and burn treatment (bottom).

New communications expert for gorse

Brydie Murrihy is the new VGT Communications, Community Engagement and Extension Officer.

Brydie comes into the role with the aim of increasing the level of community awareness of gorse amongst key stakeholders. She’ll be working closely with land managers over the next few months to help them understand their responsibilities and empower communities to take necessary actions to control gorse.

Her key projects include hosting four field days to demonstrate gorse control techniques and opportunities for citizen science mapping of infestations and biodiversity.

Image: Brydie Murrihy joined the VGT team in early 2019.

Community extension services: serrated tussock

The Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) offers a tailored extension service to local communities and agencies to support serrated tussock control.

Programs are tailored based on local attributes, level of community support and the density of the infestation, and include services such as surveillance, educational support, field days and site visits.

For more information and to apply for this program visit the VSTWP website.

Image: VSTWP community extension programs can include best practice field days, amongst a range of education and awareness initiatives.

Landcare tax tips

The Basalt to Bay Landcare Network has been working with the Australian Tax Office to produce free guides for farmers on tax rebates for Landcare work.

The publication includes claiming for the costs of weed and pest control, as well as the costs of fixing the problems weeds and pests cause during and after control.

Visit the Basalt to Bay website for more information.

Image: Primary producers are eligible to claim tax deductions on the cost of pest control activities such as rabbit bait laying.

Provide feedback on the Agriculture Victoria website

Have you recently tried to find information on the Agriculture Victoria website? Complete this survey and tell us about your experience to help shape the website’s redevelopment.

The online survey will take approximately 5-10 minutes to complete and your response will help us understand why our community, industry and business customers are visiting our website. This is an opportunity to let us know whether the information on the website meets your needs and share with us your suggestions for improvements or new features.

Complete the survey here.


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