Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Bill Gammage to Launch 2015 Workshop Program

Posted on 24 December, 2014 by Connecting Country

Historian, award winning author and adjunct professor in the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University (ANU), Professor Bill Gammage will launch the 2015 Connecting Country Workshop series on Sunday February 22, 2015 at the Castlemaine Golf Club (in the clubrooms, near the corner of Rilens Rd and Pyrenees Hwy, Muckleford).

Bill’s most recent book, ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth. How Aborigines made Australia’ won several prizes for history and literature when it was published in 2011 and pieces together details of land management strategies from around Australia, stating that Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more complete, systematic and scientific way than has often been recognised. He challenges the myths that Aboriginal people were careless nomads and that the pre-colonial ecology was purely ’natural’. Based on his research findings from around Australia, Bill will talk about how our knowledge and learnings of the past can inform current land management.

‘The Biggest Estate’ raised plenty of discussion and debate amongst scientists when it was published and this is an opportunity to hear first-hand of Bill’s historical perspective. You can view an earlier video of Bill discussing his book hereDownload the launch flyer and spread the word.

Bill Gammage grew up in Wagga, and was an ANU undergraduate and postgraduate before teaching history at the Universities of Papua New Guinea and Adelaide. He wrote The Broken Years on Australian soldiers in the Great War (1974), Narrandera Shire (1986), The Sky Travellers on the 1938-39 Hagen-Sepik Patrol in New Guinea (1998), and The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia (2011). He served the National Museum of Australia for three years as Council member, deputy chair and acting chair. He was made a Freeman of the Shire of Narrandera in 1987, a fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences in 1991, and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2005.

The launch will begin at 4:00pm and be followed by a BBQ dinner to celebrate the start of Connecting Country’s ‘Working with Nature to Improve Your Property’ Workshop Program for 2015, supported through funding from the Australian Government. This year’s program is aimed at property holders in the Mount Alexander region who are seeking information, resources and practical skills to improve, protect and restore their land. More information will be available on the evening.

There is no cost to attend the event. RSVPs are not essential, but are greatly preferred for catering purposes. Contact Janet on 5472 1594 or for more info or to book.


Rewarding Feedback

Posted on 12 November, 2014 by Connecting Country

Workshop program participants Dr Malcolm Barnett, Liz Heath and Caroline Lovell have been rewarded for their contribution this year. The three were amongst those who provided some detailed and considered feedback on the 2014 workshop program. As a result, Malcolm will receive a visit from an ecologist for a two-hour property ‘wander’ and Q&A; Liz takes home a nest box to provide an instant home for a Brush-tailed Phascogale or Sugar Glider; and Caroline Lovell now has a copy of Leon Costerman’s excellent field guide to eucalypts of south-eastern Australia, ‘Trees of Victoria and Adjoining Areas’.

biodiversity 4 may_0012Thanks to all presenters, participants and steering group members for contributing to a successful program this year. The six workshop sessions involved 133 participants (45 individual participants) managing 1925 hectares or 4756 acres and 28 presenters. Plus around 130 people attended the opening launch with Ian Lunt.

If you missed out on this year’s sessions you can read up about them – and access resources – on the Education Program Pages.

The education steering group met recently and we are well on the way in planning for the 2015 program. Next year’s program will continue on the field-based activities, but we will run two separate series, in autumn and spring, with something indoors for winter … Stay tuned for more information later this year.

For more info on Connecting Country’s education program, contact or 5472 1594.



Time to Evaluate

Posted on 21 October, 2014 by Connecting Country

Workshop Program - Biodiversity 2014 094We’ve just finished the 2014 workshop program and it’s time to evaluate!

If you attended any of our sessions during the year (including the public talk by Ian Lunt) we are keen to find out what you thought. And here is an incentive to fill in the short survey: besides helping us to improve the program for next year, you’ll also have the chance for some great rewards, including one lucky person who will receive a two-hour session with an ecologist – who will visit your property for a one-on-one session. Perhaps you need help with identification and developing a plant or bird list, planning a restoration project, or have specific property management questions. Also on offer to randomly selected respondents include a nest box to provide an instant hollow on your property for a Brush-tailed Possum or Sugar Glider and a copy of Leon Costerman’s excellent field guide to eucalypts of south-eastern Australia, ‘Trees of Victoria and Adjoining Areas’.

Go directly to the link here: connecting-country-2014-workshop-program-evaluation. If there are two of you in the same household, you can fill out a second survey from the same computer, just return to the link. Respond before 27 October 2014 to be in the running for one of the incentives.

If you missed out on this year’s workshops, you can still catch up on the summaries here. We’ll be running a similar program in 2015.


Back from the Brink

Posted on 14 October, 2014 by Connecting Country

Landcare works on weeds and riparian zonesWhich weed is your main bane?

Participants at our sixth workshop session on October 5th 2014 reeled off a lengthy list. The most despaired over were spiny rush, gorse, blackberry, bridal veil creeper, bent grass, crack and basket willows, quaking grass, wheel cactus, capeweed, and all manner of thistles. The list may have lengthened as the day progressed, but at the end of the session we certainly had a greater understanding of their ecology, control and management, if not an overall view of the place of weeds in the restoration story.

Whilst the noisy hot rods and ‘chopped’ vehicles did laps of the nearby Newstead racecourse, our group visited three local sites to look at “before” and “after” weed control sites and heard some of the challenges of working with riparian zones and creek-lines. These sites are usually the most compromised sites, but also the most potential value for biodiversity.  Farmer Adrian Sartori and Landcare stalwart Maurie Dynon (Guildford-Upper Loddon Landcare), Pat Radi-Mansbridge (Bushco Land Management), Patrick Kavanagh (Newstead Landcare) and Botanist David Cameron (Arthur Rylah Institute, DEPI) shared their experiences and practical knowledge of weed ecology and management with us.

_DSC0020_0927Thanks to all our presenters, the Sartori family for hosting us at the Strangways site and to Newstead Landcare Group’s Patrick Kavanagh for introducing us to two significant Newstead sites. Also thanks to the Newstead Mens’ Shed who manned the Rotunda park BBQ for us.

To find out more about the session, including a view of the day from participant Deb Wardle, go to the corresponding page in the Education Program, where you will also find resources and images from the day. For more information, contact or 5472 1594.

This was the last session of the 2014 series. Thanks to all who contributed, either in planning, participating, presenting, assisting and hosting. We will be running the program, in a similar format, again next year.


To plant, or not to plant?

Posted on 17 September, 2014 by Connecting Country

This was the question posed at our fifth Connecting Country Workshop for 2014, on Sunday September 7th. And the answer? It depends!

Jarrod and Saide talk tubestock techniques

Jarrod and Saide talk tubestock techniques

Saide Gray and Gary Gibson hosted the session on their Sandon property, where they have used a mix of tubestock planting, direct seeding and natural regeneration in their revegetation program. Guided by our presenters Damien Cook (Rakali Consulting) and Jarrod Coote (Connecting Country) we were able to examine and discuss each of the approaches.

The session gave participants the opportunity to explore revegetation options at both a property and landscape scale, interpret the findings for their own situations, and pick up some practical tools, tips and techniques for each of the methods.

As Damien highlighted, restoration science is a new area – we’ve only been studying it in depth over recent decades (after spending so much effort removing native vegetation in Australia for the past 200 years or so) and we are constantly learning as we go.  But the key to any revegetation program is to observe the natural processes happening on your property and in the surrounding landscape and try to employ them, such as using pioneer or succession species in your plantings.

Thanks to Saide and Gary, Damien and Jarrod for sharing their expertise with the 26 participants from across the Mount Alexander Region, and also Frances Cincotta (Newstead Natives) who provided additional resources.

For more information on the session, including photos, a summary from participant Louis Crabb and follow up resources, go to the Workshop Session Page. For more info on this year’s program, contact janet@connecting or 5472 1594.




Is it possible to manage for fire and biodiversity?

Posted on 10 July, 2014 by Connecting Country

What do you feel when you think about managing the fire risk on your property?

“Confused … worried … fearful … ignorant … confident … conflicted … overwhelmed …”

These were some of the responses from participants at the latest Connecting Country ‘Improving Biodiversity on Your Property’ session on Sunday 6 July 2014.

By far the most common response was confusion – about the messages put out by various agencies, and about whether it’s actually possible to have a property that provides a healthy habitat for wildlife, yet is also a relatively low fire risk.

By the end of the session, those initial responses had changed:

” informed … empowered … reassurred … more aware …”

With facilitator Chris Johnston guiding the discussions, presenters Owen Goodings (CFA, Statewide Vegetation Team Leader), fire ecologist David Cheal (ex-DEPI, now Federation University), field ecologist Julie Whitfield (ex-DEPI now Amaryllis Environmental) and landholders Team and Christine Henderson shared their expertise and experiences – each through their own particular lens.

A summary of the session and follow up resources are can be found here:  Workshop 4: Fire & Biodiversity.

Thanks to Team and Christine for offering their beautiful Taradale property for the session, a perfect venue to explore the issues at both a property and landscape level.

Mid-winter might not be the best conditions for a workshop in the field, but it is a good time to be thinking, observing and planning around fire and biodiversity.


A well placed fence can do wonders

Posted on 6 June, 2014 by Connecting Country

fencing 007

the ‘fence affect’ on jan’s grassy plot is pretty evident here!

It’s not quite on the scale of Mount Rothwell, but Jan Hall’s  property at McKenzies Hill is making a difference at a local biodiversity level by ‘fencing in’ a raft of plants to protect them from the heavy grazing of rabbits, wallabies, kangaroos and sheep. Exclusion Fencing was the topic for our latest Workshop Session on Sunday June 1 2014 and Jan’s property, which has a number of types and sizes of exclusion plots, was a perfect setting for the session.

Peter Morison (ex DEPI and Land for Wildlife) shared his considerable expertise and experience, outlining the role of exclusion fences in conservation projects and the practicalities of building and maintaining them, including monitoring the results.

And if you want to completely ‘fence in’ or at least protect your block from future land use changes or development, then a Covenant could also be the way to go. Parts of Jan’s property are covered by a Conservation Covenant through Trust For Nature which means these areas will be protected and conserved for perpetuity under a legally binding agreement. This gives Jan confidence that all her work in excluding pest plants and animals and bringing back biodiversity won’t be in vain.

damp but undeterred; peter outlines fencing

damp but undeterred; peter outlines fencing

To read more about the session, access resources on the topic and see photos from the (slightly damp) day, visit this page. You’ll also find workshop participant Kerrie Jennings’s views on the day.

For more info on the 2014 Workshop Program, email


All things great and small

Posted on 15 May, 2014 by Connecting Country

A gully at Baringhup, with remnant bulokes and other trees, provided us with shelter from the biting wind and a chilly autumn day for our second workshop session, “Biodiversity in the Paddock”  on Sunday May 4th 2014. The spot also provided a more permanent home to an array of flora and fauna, all contributing to local biodiversity on the property.

Thanks to property holders Jacqui and Lachlan Brown for providing their farm as an ideal location to explore concepts around biodiversity, productivity and restoration.

Guided by Lachy, Jacqui and our expert ecologists we moved between scales; from the broader landscape, down to the property and paddock level and back, to identify what makes up ‘biodiversity’ and how we can improve and monitor the health of a landscape.

Cassia Read, Karl Just, Bonnie Humphreys and Chris Timewell led us through a hands-on foray for the obvious to the often overlooked – in this case plants, birds, mosses and lichens, ants.

Jim Radford talks species, genetics, processes

Jim Radford takes us on a journey of species, genetics, processes

Karl, Bonnie, Cassia, Lachy, Jacqui and Chris

Karl, Bonnie, Cassia, Lachy, Jacqui and Chris

More information, photos and links from the session as well as Jules Walsh’s summary of the session, can be found here.

For more information: email ( or call Janet on 5472 1594.


Registrations Open for Box-Ironbark Ecology Course 2014

Posted on 15 May, 2014 by Connecting Country

We have been informed by the organisers that registrations are open for the 17th Box-Ironbark Ecology Course. This five-day residential course in Nagambie commences on Monday 6th October and concludes on Friday 10th October, 2014.

The course is for those interested in gaining a general understanding of ecological processes and principles specific to Box-Ironbark Country, as is complementary to the workshops being run locally be Connecting Country.

The course involves five absorbing days of field studies and is taught by a number of expert ecologists including: Cathy Botta (soil), Andrea Canzano (insects), Garry Cheers (birds), Paul Foreman (plants), Lindy Lumsden (wildlife), David Meagher (mosses and liverworts) and Neville Rosengren (geology).

Have a look at their course flyer for more information on the location and topics.  Note that this is not a Connecting Country event.  Contact Kate Stothers ( if you are interested in attending.

This area of Box-Ironbark Forest has a Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) and Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus tricarpa) overstorey. Not all ‘Box-Ironbark’ forest contains these two eucalypt though.



Taking the Big Picture

Posted on 16 April, 2014 by Connecting Country

The past informs the future. The natural and social history – and their interconnections – of this region have had an important, and often negative, impact on our natural environment.

Understanding where you and your property fit within these contexts means you can be more informed to make positive decisions and actions to address declining biodiversity. This was the background to our first workshop session, “The Big Picture” (Sunday April 6th), held at Welshmans Reef.

Thanks to property holders Brian and Robin Rebbechi for providing an ideal location to interpret and discuss the history and potential future for this site.

Guided by Deirdre Slattery and Ian Higgins, we moved between scales; from the broader landscape, down to the property level, and back, exploring the landuse history and vegetation changes over time at Welshmans Reef.

More information, photos and links from the session as well as Jules Walsh’s summary of the session can be found here

Ian Higgins discusses vegetation classes for the property

Ian Higgins discusses vegetation classes for the property

Deirdre Slattery guides participants through the complex history of the property

Deirdre Slattery guides participants through the complex history of the property

For more information: or 5472 1594.


2014 Workshop Program Launch this Weekend

Posted on 24 February, 2014 by Connecting Country

A reminder that Connecting Country will be launching it’s Improve Biodiversity on Your Property Workshop Program 2014 at the Newstead Community Centre this Sunday (2 March) with a talk by popular ecologist and author Ian Lunt.

This will be social event with a free BBQ dinner after the talk and it would be great to see as many Connecting Country members & friends there as possible.

Ian will be presenting a talk titled “Natural regeneration in central Victoria: the biggest positive change for conservation in south-east Australia”. Have a look at our previous post for more information.

The talk will begin at 4pm and dinner will be at 6pm. RSVPs are not essential, but are greatly preferred for catering purposes –, or phone 5472 1594

Please note, if you are planning on attending Vocal Nosh with Fay White in the adjacent Mechanics Hall that evening you can do both! Ian Lunt’s talk will finish just as Vocal Nosh is getting started.

Natural regeneration of Drooping Cassinia near Metcalfe.

Natural regeneration of Drooping Cassinia and Eucalyptus in a lightly stocked paddock near Metcalfe.


10 & 11 April – Carbon Farming Field Trip

Posted on 26 March, 2013 by Connecting Country

carbon-farming-projectA two-day  Carbon Farming Field Trip to western Victoria open to farmers and Landcare members has been organised by the North Central CMA and funded as part of the Carbon Farming Initiative Communications Program.  It will take place on 10 and 11 April.  There is sponsorship available to cover the cost of bus travel from Bendigo or Maryborough as well as accommodation and all meals. To find out more about the field trip, download this flyer. An Expression of Interest form is also available. Places are limited and EOI forms need to be submitted by 2 April.


29 Nov 2012 – Secrets to Successful Groups

Posted on 17 October, 2012 by Connecting Country

A training session on ‘Secrets to Successful Groups’ will be held in Bendigo on 29 November. The session is organised by the Farm Tree and Landcare Association and is free for all Landcare members. For a list of modules that will be covered and booking and location details see the flyer here.


Back by popular demand – Eucalypt Identification Workshops

Posted on 26 September, 2012 by Connecting Country

Participants at a 2011 Eucalypt Identification workshop in the Botanical Gardens, Castlemaine

Following on from our booked out 2011 sessions, Connecting Country are pleased to announce another series of Eucalypt Identification Workshops, funded through the Bjarne K Dahl Trust.

In October and November 2012, Connecting Country shall be running workshops in five locations across the Mount Alexander Shire. The sessions aim to provide participants with the skills needed to identify some of the common eucalypt species to be found in the region, and to provide them with a greater understanding of the life history of this group of iconic Australian trees.

Presented by Greg Guy, a botanist and lecturer from Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE, there will be a classroom-based discussion on the biology and ecology of our local eucalypts, with a special emphasis on our rare and endangered species. This will be followed by a ‘walk and talk’ session to identify some local eucalypts in their natural habitat, and will conclude with a fun classroom-based session where all participants will learn to identify eucalypts on their own. Participants will be provided with a resource CD and also a copy of Leon Costermans ‘Trees of Victoria and Adjoining Areas’ – an excellent field guide containing descriptions and illustrations of the vast majority of eucalypt species found in south-eastern Australia.

The workshops are being held from midday to 4pm in Maldon (Friday 12th October), Newstead (Sunday 21st October), Chewton (Sunday 28th October), Harcourt (Sunday 11th November), and Taradale (Sunday 18th November).  The cost for attending the workshop is $15 per person ($10 for members of Connecting Country) and afternoon tea will be provided.  The field session of the Maldon workshop has the added bonus of having guidance from Leon Costerman’s himself.

For more information click here. Bookings are essential as places are limited.  To reserve your place, contact or call 5472 1594.  If you were on the waiting list from last year, we have your details and you will be contacted shortly.


Conservation and Land Management Pathway Program

Posted on 19 July, 2012 by Connecting Country

The BRIT TAFE Conservation and Land Management Pathways program is designed for people who:

  • are interested in the conservation and land management industry
  • would you like to learn more about the opportunities that are available in this field
  • are thinking about trying a short course to see what might be involved,
  • have good field skills but would like to learn about putting this knowledge into reports
  • considering applying for the Conservation and Land Management Certificate IV Program in 2013 but would like to try some units and get support in the application process
  • need some assistance with the computer skills and report writing to help with your study and/or employment in this field?

Information/ enrolment session: Tuesday 28th August 4.30pm
Location: Arrival centre seminar room Charleston Road Campus, BRIT
Course Commencement: Tuesday 11th September
Delivery will be on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays for 6 weeks.

For more information contact Tony Mission on 03 5434 1759 or email


Register Now for Volunteer Training

Posted on 11 July, 2012 by Connecting Country

Mount Alexander Volunteer Network is conducting a six month program of volunteer training to support community groups and NFP organisations throughout our Shire.

The training will include first aid qualifications, governance training, effective communication, food safety training, conflict resolution and how to avoid burn-out as a volunteer.  The training will be subsidised by the Mount Alexander Shire Council and the cost to individuals will be only $10.

If you would like to register or find out more, contact the Mount Alexander Volunteer Network on 0425 323 005 or


Farm Chemical and 1080 Pest Control Training

Posted on 24 April, 2012 by Connecting Country

BRIT TAFE is offering Farm Chemical and 1080 Pest Control training this month. There may be some positions available and people interested should contact Tony Misson, Coordinator, Primary Industries, Bendigo TAFE, on 03 5434 1759, or email

Farm Chemical Users Course (23, 24 and 25 April)
Course cost $375.00
Participants will receive training in the basic skills and knowledge to select, purchase, transport, store, record and use agricultural and veterinary chemicals responsibly. Completion of this course is required before participants can be issued with an Agricultural Chemical Users Permit (ACUP) from the Department of Primary Industries (DPI)

1080 Pest Control Course (27 April)
Course cost $200.00
This course aims to provide 1080 pest animal bait users with the knowledge, skills and competency to use 1080 pest animal bait products in a manner which is both safe for themselves and the environment. The course also aims to ensure bait end users understand that the use of 1080 pest animal bait products is only one element of an integrated pest animal management strategy. The course is designed for individuals and for persons operating within an integrated pest management plan eg. landcare groups.

Upon successful completion of this course (and prior completion of the Farm Chemical User Course), you will be eligible to obtain a 1080 endorsement to your ACUP issued under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use Act) 1992. This will qualify you as an “authorised person” and permit you to purchase and use 1080 pest animal bait products in Victoria from 1 January 2008.


18 April – Can I get paid to farm nature?

Posted on 11 April, 2012 by Connecting Country

On the evening of Wednesday 18 April at the Campbells Creek Community Centre, Connecting Country will host a facilitated panel discussion on the topic of ‘Can I get paid to farm nature?’.  Participants will hear local industry experts present and debate the pros, cons and economic opportunities of managing biodiversity values on private land.

Peter Johnson from Land for Wildlife and Tim Read from Trust for Nature will discuss the benefits of land covenants. Chris Timewell from Connecting Country and Nick Lewis from ES Link Services will outline incentives available to land managers to include biodiversity in their business activity. Paul Dettmann from Greenhouse Balanced will discuss ways in which land managers can make the most of the emerging markets in biodiversity and carbon offsets. After the presentations, community members are encouraged to pose their own questions to the panel.

The free evening talk, the second of Connecting Country’s 2012 Education Program, commences at 6.30pm with a pre-talk supper.  The event is fully catered by CAKE (Castlemaine Abundance Kitchen Enterprise) and the food will be sourced from locally grown ingredients – gold coin donations to the local Landcare group are welcomed.

Following this interactive evening, a field excursion will be held on Sunday 22 April where we will explore a farmer’s and a conservationist’s points of view within the context of an operational farm business.  Geoff Park, North Central Catchment Management Authority’s (CMA) Knowledge Broker and operator of the Natural Newstead blog, together with Malcolm Fyffe, a Sandon sheep farmer, will discuss the ecological and agricultural values of soils, waterways, pastures and native vegetation. They will also explore notions of social equity, climate change and land-use planning. There are still places available for the field trip so register now to guarantee your place.

For more information and to RSVP please contact or call the Connecting Country office on 5472 1594. Full details of the education program and a registration form can be found here.

Those remnant trees in the back paddock may bring in some extra farm income – attend the Connecting Country panel discussion to find out how.


FarmPlan21: Develop a Whole Farm Plan

Posted on 2 April, 2012 by Connecting Country

FarmPlan 21 is seeking interest within the North Central Region from landholders who would like to attend an accredited training course at DPI Bendigo on developing a whole farm plan. The course is free, runs for six evening sessions and commences on 12 April.

For more details click here.


2012 Autumn Fungi Workshops

Posted on 24 February, 2012 by Connecting Country

Photo: Alison Pouliot

The Central Victorian Fungi Ecology Workshop Series is running again this coming autumn. If you would like to know more about this curious kingdom, workshops include interactive displays, illustrated seminars and exciting forest forays deep into our local forests. Full details are listed at Workshops book up fast so perhaps don’t delay making a reservation if you’d like to attend.