Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Ian Lunt Talk and Workshop Launch: 2 March 2014

Rebecca Phillips from the Dja Dja Warrung Clans welcomed us to her Country and spoke about her connection to this area and the Jaara’s wider links. Here’s Jules’ summary of Ian’s talk.  You can read more on his thoughts on this topic at and visit his blog.

Ian’s presentation and the 2014 Workshop Program is part of Connecting Country’s Connecting Landscapes Project and is funded by the Australian Government. For more information on the workshops, download the flyer, the registration-form, or read more about the sessions. 

Connecting Country celebrated its 2014 Workshop Program launch with a crowd of over 130 people who assembled at Newstead to hear Ian Lunt, vegetation ecologist from the Institute for Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University. Ian’s theme was “Natural Regeneration: creating new habitats in central Victoria”.

Beginning with a group exercise outside in the courtyard of Newstead Community Centre, Ian had participants locate themselves according to locality, the positive and negative environmental changes they’ve seen in their neighbourhoods, what people valued most and what they’d like to see more of (plants won hands down). The key thrust of Ian’s talk was one of good news concerning regeneration which may have surprised some in the crowd.  Focussing on natural regeneration – regrowth and passive – rather than intentional planting, Ian proposed that the biggest conservation gains in Australia since the 1950’s have been in the south east of the continent, and that our region of central Victoria is riding a wave of landscape change.

Using a combination of aerial photographs from the 1940’s to contemporary shots, and the work of many of his PhD students, he identified a swathe of natural regeneration that has occurred, much of it on private land. Ian also identified amenity land use as a key factor in regeneration success, with new owners also planting a diverse range of indigenous species.  The loss of pasture to rural housing sub-divisions may actually benefit birds who will move into new habitats, although slow moving fauna may not fare as well. The expansion of habitats should in theory increase the number of birds and more species.

The role of volunteers and government funded programs and agencies such as Connecting Country, while vulnerable to economics and ideologies, will always be able to add diversity, fast track programs, focus on areas where re-growth is least likely to occur and to modify the environmental structure itself by thinning trees, adding logs, etc. Suggesting that it is an impossible goal to recreate the (largely imagined) landscape pre-settlement,  Ian exhorted the crowd to look forward to create new landscapes – and to enjoy the ride!

Juliet Walsh, Workshop Program Steering Group