Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Large old trees draw a large crowd: our AGM 2022

Posted on 22 November, 2022 by Ivan

On Saturday 19 November 2022, around 50 people gathered at Campbells Creek Community Centre to enjoy an afternoon of formalities and hear an excellent presentation from ecologist and PhD awarded, Chris Pocknee. We celebrated the hard work and achievements of Connecting Country’s past year with presentations from our Director Frances Howe and President Brendan Sydes, and heard an update on our finances from Treasurer Max Kay. We would like to warmly thank our presenters and all the committee members, staff and volunteers who assisted with the event, which was very well received based on feedback.

Caring for large old trees

The ‘Caring for large old trees’ event was part of our project, Regenerate before its too late, which engages the community about the importance of large old trees and how to protect them. The project is funded by the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation and over three years (2022-25) we will host a series of workshops and produce communication materials. We will also help local landholders with practical on-ground actions to protect their large old trees and ensure the next generation of large old trees across the landscape.

A strong crowd attended the event despite the cold and rainy weather (photo by Ivan Carter)


The biggest star of the show was a fascinating presentation from ecologist Chris Pocknee. Chris discussed the complex interaction between old trees and the wildlife that depend on them, and the role old trees play in agricultural productivity and habitat connectivity. Chris’s passion and understanding of the threats facing old trees, and native animals and ecosystems they support, were tied in with how we can address these issues to conserve old trees.

Chris is a Landscape and Biodiversity Conservation Ecologist with our project partner, Biolinks Alliance. He grew up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and completed his MSc at the University of Melbourne in 2017 before completing an internship with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in NSW. Chris recently submitted his PhD thesis at the University of Queensland, where he studied the impacts of fire and feral cats on the endangered northern betting.

A highlight of the presentation was a summary of recent academic studies that concluded that some woodland birds depend upon old scattered trees across the landscape more than dense vegetation belts. He concluded that we need to do more to protect and manage old trees in the landscape, and that we have lost far too many even in recent decades.

To download a copy of Chris’s presentation on caring for large old trees – click here

The presentation further validated our important work to engage the community to value large old trees and support landholders to adopt sustainable environmental practices that protect their trees. Connecting Country will be helping landholders fence to exclude stock, control weeds and pest animals, install nest boxes, and revegetate to restore diversity and ensure the next generation of paddock trees.

In response to an audience question about estimating tree age, Bev Phillips provided a brief overview of the work of Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA) to document, age and protect large old trees in the Maldon area. To contact MULGA email To read more about MULGA’s work on large old trees – click here

Annual general meeting 2022

Our AGM was short and sweet, and most of our committee members were re-elected for another year. We are excited to welcome new member, Stephen Oxley, to the committee. Stephen and his family recently moved to the Guildford area from Canberra. He brings a most useful background from his career in senior government roles, including with the Australian Department of the Environment. The hard-working Connecting Country committee are volunteers and must be thanked for their considerable strategic and practical contributions to our organisation.

Connecting Country’s Director, Frances Howe, describing some our highlights for 2021-22 (photo by Ivan Carter)


Members of Connecting Country’s committee of management  for 2022-23 are:

  • President:                  Brendan Sydes
  • Vice President:         (vacant)
  • Treasurer:                  Max Kay
  • Secretary:                  Marie Jones
  • Ordinary member:    Malcolm Trainor
  • Ordinary member:    Christine Brooke
  • Ordinary member:    Deborah Wardle
  • Ordinary member:    Stephen Oxley

Brendan thanked outgoing committee members Saide Gray and Karoline Klein for their contribution, and  invited anyone with relevent experience who is interested in joining the committee of management to contact us.

AGM minutes will be circulated to members and available on request. Stay tuned for upcoming events in 2023, including visits to some large old trees in our region.

After the presentation we enjoyed a convivial afternoon tea with delicious food from the Dove Cafe.

To read Connecting Country’s annual report for 2021-22 – click here

Special thanks to Chris Pocknee for his time and passion, and all the volunteers that generously helped with preparations, food and packup.

Thank you to the Ian & Shirley Norman Foundation for their invaluable support of our ‘Caring for large old trees’ project and this event. To read about their excellent work – click here

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