Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Walking Together – towards Makarrata

Posted on 29 May, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at Nalderun have sent through a timely article, highlighting the history of native title, land rights and acknowledging country. The article was written Floria Maschek, an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”. Please see the article below, provided kindly by Nalderun.


WALKING TOGETHER – towards Makarrata

Makarrata = ‘coming together after a struggle, facing the facts of wrongs and living again in peace.’

Mabo, native title, land rights and acknowledging Country

Pardalotes are busy under the newly replaced eaves outside my window. The beautiful birds may be looking to build a nest there. I consider my family’s journey to this place, struggles and privileges that brought us to Djaara Country and our impacts on land and life. Connections of ‘Country’ are inseparable from First People’s culture and lore. I think about how this relates to autonomy, community, resilience and well-being. With respect to the elders past and present, their sovereignty never ceded, I acknowledge Country.

In my second contribution to Walking Together, I revisit the topic of native title and land rights. Mabo Day on June the 3rd during Reconciliation Week, is the anniversary of a momentous turning point in the land rights movement, acknowledging First People’s ongoing connections to their lands and culture. 

The far reaching Frontier Wars that occurred after 1788 resulted in vast displacement of First Nations people. Much truth telling is needed, but awareness is building. We know First Peoples have defended their rights to their lands, waters and self determination since the beginning of colonisation. 

During the 19th and 20th centuries many were forced onto missions, stations and reserves, working under horrendous conditions. There were many deaths and family separations. Culture and language were usually disallowed. This occurred under government ‘protection’ boards. Forced into these areas, some eventually obtained land leases as happened locally in the 1840s in Franklinford. However almost all that lived here were then moved onto Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve.

In 1966 hundreds of Gurindji Peoples walked off Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory in protest. In 1975 the commonwealth government transferred land to them in a historic first. The Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Rights Act was established, leading to further hand backs. Some states followed, introducing land rights legislations, though greatly limiting lands that could be claimed. 

In 1992 The Mabo Case, mounted by five Torres Strait Islander Meriam People including Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo, was successful in overturning the myth of ‘Terra Nullius’ (Land belonging to no one). The High Court recognised they had lived on their lands for thousands of years according to their own laws and customs. In 1993 the Native Title Act was passed with a promise to ‘rectify past injustices’. 

In the years that followed, a series of High Court decisions tested the implementation of Native Title legislation. Claims proved to be very difficult. Those that had been removed off their lands now had to demonstrate their People’s continuous practice of lore and customs there since pre-colonisation.

In 1996 in response to the Wik Peoples of Cape York Peninsula, the High Court Wik Decision ruled pastoral leases of crown land could co-exist with Native Title. These leases could now be more easily preserved over the rights of First Peoples. The extinguishment regime was furthered in the Native Title Amendment Act of 1998 and the 10 point plan. 

The Timber Creek decision of 2019 was the first time the High Court considered and confirmed how compensations should be assessed for cultural and economic losses from violation of native title rights. 

The South West Native Title Settlement was approved by the Noongar Nation in Western Australia. It was described by some as ‘Australia’s first treaty’, being the most comprehensive and largest native title settlement yet, commencing in 2021. Here is a mere glimpse into a very complex history. The ideals of Mabo are yet to be fully recognised. I centre my acknowledgements, hopes and efforts in the truth of Mabo. 

I am always moved by the strength of First Peoples and the love poured into self determination and community. Here locally, Nalderun, with the support of Friends of Nalderun and the broader community, are an inspiration as they strengthen connections throughout many areas of community, culture, grow proud generations, connect to the land and waters and nurture Country. I look forward to sharing more as I learn. 

Mabo day is on the last day of Reconciliation Week running from 27th May – 3rd June. Sorry Day – May 26th. Look out for the guide offering many locally run Nalderun events. The Reconciliation Week stall and exhibition will be on again this year at the Castlemaine Market Building.  


Floria Maschek is an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). FoN members are guided by Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation and are diverse individuals and representatives of many local community networks, supporting Nalderuns visions and work. Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation supports the Aboriginal Community and is led by Aboriginal people while providing many learning and cultural opportunities to the broader community. Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”. 

More information can be found at


Check out this cute as a button Phascogale (and thank you Arborcam!)

Posted on 29 May, 2023 by Jess

Here at Connecting Country, we are very grateful to all who donate their time or hard-earned cash to Connecting Country. It really takes a village to get things done!

We use remote cameras to supplement our volunteer nestbox monitoring program and to check any nest boxes that we can’t quite reach with a ladder.

We recently took our monitoring cameras to the manufacturer, Arborcam, for repairs and were delighted that Blair kindly donated us the newest model! You can see some of the fantastic, clear (and adorable) footage of our favourite dasyurid marsupial, the Brush-tailed Phascogale (or Tuan) that Blair provided using the Arborcam  Mk 3 (our cameras are pre-mk 1).


Thank you for your generous donation Arborcam!  We can’t wait to put them into action.

We loan our cameras out to Connecting Country and Landcare members in our local area for nest box monitoring. Or, they can be purchased from Arbocam: Click Here

For more about our monitoring program,  how to get involved or to donate to the program, please Click Here



2023 Landcare Link-up – sharing stories in Taradale

Posted on 24 May, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The 2023 Landcare Link-up is coming up on Saturday 17 June 2023 and everyone is welcome!

As part of Connecting Country’s ongoing support for Landcare groups in the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region, we coordinate an annual Landcare Link-up to provide groups with an opportunity to get together, learn, share and connect.  It’s also a great opportunity for anyone not yet engaged in Landcare to learn more about what’s involved.

The theme for this years Link-up event is ‘Sharing Stories’ and will be held in Taradale, starting with gentle walk through Barkly Park followed by afternoon tea at the Taradale Hall.

Taradale Landcare Group are kindly co-hosting the event and will walk us through their Rediscover Barkly Park project.  Barkly Park is public land with hidden conservation values and offers a wonderful space for Landcare activities and for the wider community to connect with nature.

The group has been working hard to promote Barkly Park through educational and engaging walks throughout 2022/23 and a mini celebration festival earlier this year.   They have plans to care for and restore the site for both community and animals to enjoy for years to come.  We will hear from group President, Brian Bainbridge, who will present the plans and processes behind the Rediscover Barkly Park project.   Brian has decades of experience in restoring landscapes and connecting people with nature through various volunteer and paid roles.  It’s sure to be an interesting and engaging event.

Barkly Park, Taradale VIC. Photo by Taradale Landcare. 




Following the visit to Barkly Park, we will head over to the Taradale Hall to hear more interesting stories from Landcarers in the region and enjoy a lovely afternoon tea together.

Bookings are essential for catering purposes. To book your place, please -click here

For any inquiries please email: or call the Connecting Country office on: 0493 362 394

We thank the North Central Catchment Management Authority for their support of this event.


Sorry Day & Reconciliation Week – 27 May to 3 June 2023

Posted on 23 May, 2023 by Hadley Cole

Every year National Sorry Day is 26 May and is then followed by Reconciliation Week. This years’ Reconciliation Week is held from 27 May  – 3 June 2023 and the theme is ‘Be a Voice for Generations’. Reconciliation Australia recognises Reconciliation Week as ‘a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.’ To learn more about reconciliation in Australia – click here

Our friends and project partners at Nalderun have sent us some information about their local events for Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week 2023. The week of events will commence with the 2023 Sorry Day commemoration at Castlemaine Secondary College oval on Friday 26 May 2023 at 10.30am. Please read on for details provided by Nalderrun about this important week for our community.


Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation, with support from Friends of Nalderun present:

The 2023 Sorry Day Commemoration
Where: Castlemaine Secondary College oval, Castlemaine VIC
When: Friday 26 May 2023 from 10.30 am

Introduction and MC: Vic Say & Zeppelin
Smoking and Welcome to Country ceremony: Aunty Paulette Nelson
Address by the Mayor: Rosie Annear and Castlemaine Secondary students
Guest speaker: Kelly Blake Wadawurrung woman

For the full program of events for Nalderun Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week 2023 please see below.

Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word which means ‘all together’, because we believe by moving forward together we can make the change needed for our children, our mob and the wider community in the Mount Alexander Shire region of Victoria to thrive. We are Aboriginal led and run – we know what our Community needs, as we are apart of it. For 10 years we have seen our children become stronger, proud and deadly. We know our future, and the future for our children’s children is safe, having created programs and ways of being and teaching now. We want you to join this journey in this two-way learning space. We look forward to walking forward together. We invite you to support us in caring for Culture, Country and Community and to meet the needs of our mob, and the ever-increasing commitment to support these changes in the broader community, which builds respectful and reciprocal relationships for all.’

To learn more about the amazing work of Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation head over to their website – click here or check out their youtube channel – click here

Connecting Country acknowledges the Jaara people, the custodians and caretakers of this land. We recognise their continued care of Country for millennia and pay our respects and gratitude to elders, past present and emerging. We extend this acknowledgement to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Bird of the month: Black-tailed Native Hen

Posted on 19 May, 2023 by Ivan

Welcome to Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by Damian’s stunning photos.

Black-tailed Native Hen (Tribonyx ventralis)

There are few species of dark brownish-grey water birds with very long toes, who lurk quietly in the swampy edges of waterbodies, and the Black tailed Native Hen is one of them. At about 38cm long it’s about the size of a chicken. It’s long reddish legs, bright yellow eye and grass green face shield above its green and red bill are distinctive, as is it’s erect tail. Listen out for their ‘kak’ alarm call at Bells Swamp where I saw 20 in one mob today and they did the classic run for cover rather than fly, when disturbed.

Defining characteristics of the Black-tailed Native Hen: Green face shield, red legs and cocked tail. Photo by Damian Kelly

Typical of irruptive species, the Black-tailed Native Hen can turn up quite suddenly in large  numbers, at the site of a new water body such as a lake, dam or swamp filling with water. They are driven by changes in climate and food sources, as well as predators. If food has become scarce, they will move to a new place with plentiful food. Factors such as food availability, the weather and water levels in swamps, level of threat posed by predators all influence the timing of irruptions.

A population of Black-tailed Native Hens irrupting is a good sign of its of robust health. Their ability to move in response to food, means populations don’t become to large in any one area and that birds survive even when conditions change. In addition to their irruptive behaviour, Black-tailed Native Hens are omnivorous, meaning they have a huge variety of foods available to them, such as seeds, berries, insects, snails, frogs and small reptiles.

They can breed at any time with favourable conditions, but their usual breeding season is August to December. They build a cup-shaped nest from stalks, twigs and leaves hidden in dense ground level vegetation, which they line with grass and feathers. They lay 5-7 pale green eggs. The incubation time is around 20 days, within a few hours of hatching the chicks can walk and feed themselves but it takes them a few weeks to learn to fly.

In short, the Black-tailed Native Hen is quite an adaptable species with it’s ability to move to water, it’s omnivorous diet and irruptive behaviour.

Mob of Black-tailed Native Hens by a dam. Photo by Damian Kelly.


To listen to the call of the Black-tailed Native Hen – click here

Jane Rusden
Damian Kelly


Castlemaine Landcare Group’s AGM: The fascinating history of Forest Creek

Posted on 17 May, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners, Castlemaine Landcare Group, are having their 2023 AGM on Thursday 25 May 2023 at the Northern Arts Hotel, Castlemaine VIC. Please find the details provided below about what looks like a most interesting guest speaker and topic for discussion. 

Castlemaine Landcare Group’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) with guest speaker Clive Willman, historian and geologist.

When: 7.30 pm, Thursday 25 May 2023

Where: Northern Arts Hotel, 359 Barker St. Castlemaine VIC

Local historian and geologist Clive Willman will give us new insights into the geological and cultural background of today’s Forest Creek at Castlemaine Landcare Group’s AGM.

Clive is a well-known geologist who has had a long career in government and the local mining industry. He has completed extensive geological studies of the local area for the Geological Survey of Victoria and is known for his deep knowledge of 19th century mining methods. Clive has contributed to international scientific papers and numerous books regarding Victoria’s geological history and has made educational films for the New South Wales and Victorian state governments. Clive is also a long-term member of Landcare.

Clive will speak about the ancient origins of Forest Creek and how mining and agriculture have affected the local landscape since the gold rush. He will explain how Central Victorian streams owe their origins to uplift of The Great Dividing Range, which was caused by Antarctica’s slow separation from southern Australia. Over the millennia, long-lived streams like the Loddon River, and Forest, Campbell’s and Barker’s creeks, have meandered but remained confined to remarkably persistent valleys. He will show how the latest high-tech LiDAR imagery complements 1850s surveyors’ maps, old aerial photos, and the oral histories of long-term residents. These all help to unravel the history of Forest Creek and Moonlight Flat since 1851 and show how mining, farming and Chinese market gardening have all left their imprints on the local landscape.

Drinks (beer, wine, and non-alcoholic) will be available at bar prices, and it is recommend that you purchase something to recognise the generosity of the Northern Arts Hotel for hosting. Castlemaine Landcare Group will provide a supper after the presentation. No bookings necessary. All welcome!




An ode to Landcare volunteers – Transforming local landscapes

Posted on 16 May, 2023 by Ivan

This week is National Volunteer Week (15 – 21 May 2023) and Connecting Country would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our many Landcare volunteers actively working to protect and restore the natural environment across the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region. We could not achieve what we do without you!

At its heart, Landcare is about caring for land so that it will support our society and maintain our natural resources for generations to come. Depending on where you live that might mean looking after a farm, nature strip, local bush reserve or waterway – all kinds of land. Through Landcare, individuals and communities get the support, knowledge and resources necessary to do this work. In the Mount Alexander/ Leanganook region, we are lucky to have over 30 community groups working with hundreds of volunteers, many who have been contributing for multiple decades.

In particular this year, we pay tribute to local Landcare legend, Maurie Dynon, who passed away in March 2023. Maurie was a well-respected and loved member of Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare Group for almost 30 years. He also contributed many volunteer hours to Connecting County, as a member of the founding committee and to the Landcare Steering Group. He swore by the power of a cuppa in connecting community and through his determination and many cups of tea, he recruited many Guildford and Yapeen landholders to get on board local restoration projects, helping to transform the local landscape to benefit both farmland and habitat in the local area.

Joining Landcare is a great way to meet your neighbours and get involved in grassroots environmental action that helps to build resilient landscapes. As Maurie has been quoted as saying; “Landcare is great fun! You’re meeting new people all the time with different outlooks, from different walks of life and you learn something from all of them.”

To find a group near you or find out how you could get involved, visit the Landcare page on the Connecting Country website – click here or contact the office at or ph: 0434 362 394.

Maurie Dynon and his wife Lois (both dec.) with Maurie’s beloved Landcare Ute. Photo from the Connecting Country archives.


Post Office Hill Action Group member Andrew with Chewton Primary School student Orlo, working together to revegetate Post Office Hill Reserve in Chewton VIC. Photo by John Ellis.



A tribute to Landcarer Maurie Dynon (1934 – 2023)

Posted on 19 April, 2023 by Hadley Cole

On Saturday 25 March 2023 we lost Landcare legend and Yapeen/ Guildford local, Maurie Dynon. Maurie contributed countless volunteer hours to Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare group and their restoration projects over almost 30 years. He was known affectionately by Yapeen and Guildford locals and often seen down at the local general store in his ute adorned with Landcare signage, collecting his morning paper.  After moving to Guildford around thirty years ago, Maurie signed up to Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare group and never looked back. He swore by the power of a cuppa in connecting community. Through his determination and many cups of tea he recruited many Guildford and Yapeen landholders to get on board local restoration projects.


Maurie with his beloved ute overlooking plans for the Larni Barramal Yaluk (previously Jim Crow) creek restoration project. Photo from the Connecting Country archives.


Most notably were his efforts in convincing landholders along Jim Crow Creek, now known as Larni Barramal Yaluk, to join forces in the management of Willow trees and other noxious weeds. Maurie went door to door and shared many cuppas with landholders as he talked of the value of restoring the creek line. Maurie shared the bigger picture with landholders, explaining how their local actions would help ecosystems downstream and lead to improving water quality all the way to Adelaide!

Maurie also worked with Guildford Upper Loddon Landcare group and landholders along the Guildford Plateau to restore shelterbelts and wildlife corridors across private land. His enthusiasm for restoration spread among landholders across the Plateau with farmers discovering that establishing the corridors also saved their lambs from frost.


Maurie working with Asha Bannon on mapping Landcare projects in 2017. Photo from the Connecting Country archive.


Maurie giving a tour of Blue Duck Mine project site. Photo by Ivan Carter.


Over the many decades that Maurie was involved with Landcare, he worked with many government and community organisations. His ability to leverage funding from government agencies was a credit to him. He saw the big picture possibilities in expanding restoration projects to the landscape scale. Restoration at the Blue Duck Mine site in Fyerstown was another of Maurie’s favourite projects that benefited from his enthusiasm, determination and wonderful conversation skills, resulting in positive outcomes for the local landscape.


Maurie with the Connecting Country team in 2019 at the Landcare Awards. Photo from the Connecting Country archives.


Maurie sitting in a workshop at the Connecting Country Reference group meeting in 2008. Photo by Beth Mellick.


Maurie worked closely with Connecting Country since its beginning in 2008, including as a member of Connecting Country ‘s Reference group and Committee of Management from 2008 -2014. He then continued his relationship as a valued member of Connecting Country’s Landcare Steering Group for over seven years, right up until late 2022. Maurie was a welcome regular visitor to the Connecting Country office, and an inspiration to us all.

The Connecting Country team send their condolences to the beloved family and friends of Maurie. Maurie’s positivity and kindness will be greatly missed.

Comments from his Landcare friends and colleagues:

I was honoured when Maurie invited me to accompany him as his ‘date’ for the 2019 Landcare awards in Melbourne. We have much to learn from Maurie‘s gentle manner, patient determination and significant on-ground achievements.    Frances Howe

I first met Maurie when Wettenhall decided to start Connecting Country. In 2007 we got together as many ‘key’ people in the area. Maurie and Lois (Maurie’s wife) were at all the initial meetings and workshops (Maurie always wearing his signature hat), and I got to learn a lot from him.    Beth Mellick

Maurie brought humour and wisdom to every room he was in through his many stories. His love for the land and his community were evident in the way he lived his life, and the gentle but persistent ways he inspired so many others to get on board the landcare movement. I’ll always remember his kindness and his perseverance in getting landcare projects done on the smell of an oily rag.   Asha Bannon

Maurie was a wonderful conversationalist, and I will always remember his cheeky giggle, positivity and kind nature.    Hadley Cole

Down the hill and down the map
Is Guildford Upper Loddon’s patch.
The group has members far and wide,
And utes with writing on the side.
The weeds that way will wilt with worry,
Just from catching sight of Maurie.

From Max Schlachter’s Landcare poem



Bird of the month: White-fronted Chat

Posted on 18 April, 2023 by Ivan

Welcome to Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by Damian’s stunning photos.

White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons)

Despite being quite common in certain areas, I get excited when I see a White-fronted Chat because they are not so common in Mount Alexander Shire. A very striking bird, especially the male with it’s distinctive black and white colouring. The female is a bit more grey and brown, but still has the beautiful white chest and belly with the stunning black chest stripe.

The White-fronted Chat’s range extends across the southern parts of Australia, avoiding the driest areas, Tasmania and some of the larger islands in Bass Straight. Locally they can be found on the Moolort Plains, along the edges of wetlands such as Cairn Curran and Lignum Swamp. This kind of habitat is typical for them as it’s essentially open grassland around open damp and possibly saline patches of ground.

Foraging amongst seaweed on Port Fairy beeches is where Damian Kelly took a photo of this male White-fronted Chat.

So, what is it that makes White-fronted Chats attracted to open areas of habitat? That would be food of course! They wander around, but don’t hop, foraging for insects and occasionally seeds, on the ground and in low shrubs. If startled, they will fly a short distance to a prominent perch such as a branch or fence. I’ve usually seen them perched on fence wires.

White-fronted Chats usually stay in one place all year round, however weather and food availability will encourage them to move when necessary. Banding recoveries have been from less than 10km from the original site where the bird was banded, indicating they don’t move far.

Female White-fronted Chat, with her grey head, on a fence wire, a very typical perch for this species.

Interestingly, behavioural studies at Laverton Saltworks in southern Victoria, revealed that White-fronted Chats are quite an adaptable species. Often they will be in flocks of 30 or so birds, with pairs often foraging together, they also communally roost when not breeding. Cooperative breeding (where non-parent birds help raise chicks), is not apparent in this species and breeding pairs may change over the years. However, they nest semi-colonially, with several nests close together. Essentially there will be a whole lot of breeding pairs, who are a bit fluid about who they are paired to, hanging out together most of the time, but doing their own thing.

The adaptability of the White-fronted Chat is highlighted in their breeding, being opportunistic in drier country, largely in response to rain and food availability. However, in wetter coastal areas breeding is seasonal. The nest is cup-shaped and usually, three eggs are laid. Both parents will brood and feed the chicks, and hopefully, a Horsefield’s Bronze Cuckoo won’t find them, to parasitize the nest with their egg.

To listen to the call of the White-fronted Chat – click here

Jane Rusden
Damian Kelly


Collecting or buying firewood? Look out for wildlife!

Posted on 17 April, 2023 by Ivan

Dead trees and fallen logs play an essential role in our local Box-Ironbark forest ecosystems. They provide food and shelter for countless living organisms from fungi to the invertebrates that sustain larger animals such as woodland birds and Brush-tailed Phascogales. Many of our local birds, reptiles and small marsupials also rely on tree hollows for nesting and shelter.

 When people collect firewood from our native forests, removing standing dead trees or woody debris on the ground, they can contribute to a serious loss of biodiversity and affect the long-term viability of wildlife habitat. Therefore firewood collection requires careful management. While many of us rely on firewood to keep us warm over winter, we can make sure our firewood is from a sustainable source.  If you are buying firewood, be sure to ask your supplier where it comes from and if you’re collecting your own wood, follow the Victorian Government firewood collection rules. 

The State government of Victoria recently published a timely media article, highlighting the sad reality of illegal firewood collection in Victoria. The Conservation Regulator, an arm of the State Government, is urging people to help save critical wildlife habitat and protect Aboriginal scarred trees by sourcing firewood responsibly this winter. Details are provided below courtesy of the State Government.

Australian owlet-nightjar uses a hollow in a dead tree (photo by Peter Turner)

The sad reality of illegal firewood collection in Victoria

As many Victorians stock up their firewood supplies for winter, the Conservation Regulator is urging people to help save critical wildlife habitat and protect Aboriginal scarred trees by sourcing firewood responsibly.

Illegal firewood collectors have caused significant damage to parks, forests and reserves in recent years, with some areas like the Mansfield Swamp Wildlife Reserve in Northern Victoria losing an estimated 50 per cent of its old mature trees through timber theft.

Birds and reptiles as well as a range of native mammals, such as possums, gliders and bats, rely on hollows in both standing and fallen trees for habitat. The illegal collection of firewood, if made up of mature trees and limbs, also has potential to harm Aboriginal scarred trees. Once gone, an important piece of Aboriginal cultural heritage is lost forever.

Domestic firewood collection from public land is only available in designated areas during the autumn and spring firewood collection seasons. During these times people can collect a maximum of two cubic metres of firewood per person per day and a maximum of 16 cubic metres of firewood per household per financial year. Only fallen timber without hollows can be collected.

This year the Conservation Regulator is targeting firewood theft with Forest Fire Management Victoria and Parks Victoria through Operation Hollows. Authorised Officers are educating the public about the rules and penalising thieves. Anyone caught breaking firewood collection rules can face on-the-spot-fines of $740 under the Forests Act 1958 or a maximum penalty of $9,246 and/or 1 year jail if the matter is taken to court.

Last year the Conservation Regulator laid 625 charges and issued 85 infringement notices and 16 official warnings for firewood offences, including cutting or taking fallen or felled trees, and disturbing, damaging or destroying wildlife habitat. Cases which resolved in the Magistrate Court system faced convictions, fines and had chainsaws and trailers forfeited and destroyed.

It is also important firewood collectors understand their obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. All Aboriginal places, objects and Ancestral remains are protected in Victoria. It is an offence to harm Aboriginal heritage and substantial penalties apply.

If you think you have found a scarred tree or other Aboriginal cultural heritage, contact your relevant Registered Aboriginal Party (if one has been appointed) or First Peoples – State Relations on 1800 762 003.

For details of where firewood can be collected, visit Forest Fire Management Victoria’s webpage on firewood collection in your region.

More information about firewood collection rules can be found on the firewood regulation page.

The community can report the illegal cutting or removal of firewood anonymously by calling 136 186.

Information on financial assistance available for low-income people who buy firewood for heating can be found on the energy concession and support page.

‘We can all do our part in protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage, wildlife habitat and biodiversity by knowing where, when and what firewood can be collected. It can take hundreds of years for nature to create tree hollows and habitat loss from illegal firewood collection has a serious impact on the future of our iconic native species’.

Kate Gavens
Chief Conservation Regulator


‘Our land at contact’ event: Tuesday 18 April 2023

Posted on 13 April, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at the Newstead Landcare Group are excited to be hosting Professor Barry Golding at an event on 18 April 2023 on the environment around Newstead at the time of European contact. The event will be an intriguing exploration of historical and early botanical records that may be vital in our restoration efforts and planning of revegetation works. Please see details below, provided by Newstead Landcare Group.

Our land at contact

Last October, we were very excited about Prof. Barry Golding’s presentation on the environment around Newstead at the time of European contact. Alas, a lot of rain and rising floodwaters meant a last minute cancellation. We are now very pleased to announce that Barry will be presenting on this subject for us this April. Barry has combed through historical records to put together a vivid and moving picture of how the land around Newstead and its environs may have looked prior to contact.

The arrival of Europeans in Australia produced profound changes across the continent. It can be hard to know exactly what the landscape looked like before this dramatic upheaval. The documents left by the earliest intruders can give us a few clues. Professor Barry Golding of Federation University has combed through historical records to put together a picture of how the land around Newstead and its environs may have looked prior to contact. From the extensive permanent ponds on the Loddon containing literally tonnes of Murray Cod to the vast meadows of Yam Daisies (Myrnong), some of the descriptions Barry has found give us a glimpse of the extraordinary richness of our neck of the woods.

Ancient River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). Photo Barry Golding

Come along to our presentation on Tuesday April 18th when Barry will present what he’s learned about the extraordinarily rich and diverse vegetation communities that once adorned our landscape and the marvellous wildlife on this land and in the rivers.

The presentation will start at 7.30pm at Newstead Community Centre. All are welcome to attend, gold coin donations appreciated.


Shining the spotlight on the Imperial Blue Butterfly

Posted on 6 April, 2023 by Ivan

We are constantly amazed at how talented members of our community are at nature journaling and documenting our unique biodiversity in central Victoria. We recently received a terrific article highlighting the stunning Imperial Blue Butterfly and how it interacts with other species to benefit each other. The article came from one of our members, Sandra Nowland-Foreman, who spent a decade in central Victoria, before a recent move to the coast. Sandra has taken some excellent photos and documented the symbiotic relationship between the butterfly and ants species and how to identity the species. Thanks Sandra, well done!

Imperial Blue Butterfly/Imperial Hairstreak (Jalmenus evagoras)

It is not often you encounter the entire life cycle of a creature all on one small shrub!

I was visiting the Bald Hill Reserve, a wonderful 96-hectare bushland reserve near Kyneton recently on a warm Saturday afternoon (3rd March 2023).  A beautiful blue butterfly with distinct black wing edging caught my eye as I passed a young silver wattle (acacia dealbata).  In the six years I had lived adjacent and regularly roamed this lovely reserve I had never encountered such a species.

Paying closer attention, I noticed the equally attractive creamy-coloured underside wings of several butterflies on its branches. The undersides were decorated with fine black spots with a pair of dainty orange dots on the lower wing ends adjacent trailing black tail filaments.

The young wattle was stripped almost bare of leaves, and I noticed clusters of pupae wedged along several upper branch intersections – some empty and others dark glossy encasements, lightly held by webbing. A closer inspection revealed an active trail of ants coming and going on the branches, attending the caterpillars, the pupae and even intermingling with mating butterflies.

My curiosity was piqued! Time for some further research…. the ants are of the genus Iridomyrmex and protect the larvae from both predators and parasites. Researchers have discovered that the Lycaenidae Butterfly species larvae and pupae use complex chemical and acoustical signals to manipulate ants (1).  The larvae produce three different types of calls, and larvae and the pupae have single-celled glands over their bodies that produce attractants (2). Ants respond and attend them and are rewarded with food secretions of amino acids. In my research I also came across a video posted by entomologist Roberta Gibson from her website “Wild about Ants” related to Blue Butterflies which provides further insight into the intriguing bodily mechanisms of the larvae and pupae. This video shows the glands in its depiction of the complex ant-caterpillar interaction. Click here

The breeding season is from November to March and judging by the extent and ages of pupae encasements, range of larvae size, egg laying and active mating observed on the day, it has been a good season. I learned that adult males keep proximity to the host plant for the opportunity to mate with emerging female butterflies. Warren and Gloria Sheather observed that pupae seem to develop rapidly, within two to three weeks (Sheather, W. and G. 2020). Eggs laid late in the season do not hatch until the following spring.

The photos below show mating butterflies, larvae, pupae and eggs, with the ants which I observed during the afternoon walk on 3.3.2023.

Conservation Status:

Vic: unknown

NSW: Critically endangered

Qld: Vulnerable


Caterpillars: 2 cm

Pupa: 1.3cm

Butterfly Wingspan: 4 cm



1. Pierce, N et all, The ecology and evolution of ant association in the lycaenidae (lepidoptera)

2. Gibson, R, Ants and Blue Butterfly, 10th January 2012, Wild About Ants

Australian Plant Society of NSW Warren and Gloria Sheather 2020

Butterfly House

Naomi E. Pierce 1, Michael F. Braby, Alan Heath, David J. Lohman, John Mathew, Douglas B. Rand, Mark A. The ecology and evolution of ant association in the lycaenidae (lepidoptera) 1 January 2002

Roberta Gibson, Wild About Ants, 10th January 2012,

Knox Environment Society

Museum of Victoria






2023 Victorian Landcare and Junior Landcare grants are now open!

Posted on 6 April, 2023 by Hadley Cole

2023 Victorian Landcare Grants

The 2023 Victorian Landcare grants are now open! Landcare grants of up to $20 000 are available to Landcare and environmental volunteer groups for on-ground works, education, and capacity building projects that protect, enhance, and restore our land and natural environment.

The grants are open to environmental volunteer groups, including Landcare groups and networks, Friends groups, Conservation Management Networks, Committees of Management, and Aboriginal groups to support the important work they do in protecting and restoring our land and environment.

There are also support grants of up to $500 available to Landcare and environmental volunteer groups for help with administration and running costs.

Applications close on Tuesday 16 May 2023.

For more information and to read the grant guidelines – click here

2023 Victorian Junior Landcare grants

Victorian Junior Landcare grants are now open! The Victorian Junior Landcare and Biodiversity Grants provide funding for projects that involve and educate young people in valuing and actively caring for Victoria’s biodiversity and natural environment. These grants provide young Victorians with an opportunity to participate in biodiversity focused hands-on projects and/or learning activities.

The grants offer up to $5000 and are open to all schools, kindergartens, childcare centres, Scouts, Girl Guides, youth groups, and Junior Landcare groups in Victoria.

Applications close Friday 12 May 2023.

For more information and to read the grant guidelines – click here

If you have any queries regarding the Landcare grants please contact Hadley our Landcare Facilitator by email: or call the Connecting Country office 0493 362 294.


Three of Connecting Country’s ‘Feathered five’ now listed as nationally threatened.

Posted on 6 April, 2023 by Anna

Diamond Firetail (photo by Geoff Park)

In March 2023, several bird species that occur locally were approved for listing as threatened under the Federal Government Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.

This includes the Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata, and south eastern subspecies of Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata cucullata, and Brown Treecreeper Climacteris picumnus victoriae.

These three species along with the Jacky Winter and Painted Button-quail were identified in Connecting Country’s ‘feathered five’ and have been the focus of community engagement and ongoing woodland bird monitoring since 2015.

Other bird species that occur locally have also been listed on the EPBC Act including, The Southern Whiteface Aphelocephala leucopsis and Blue-winged Parrot Neophema chrysostoma.

Species’ can be listed as either vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered or extinct under the EPBC Act. These categories represent increasing levels of population decline.  For example, the Hooded Robin population has declined over 50% in just 10 years, making it eligible for listing as endangered.

While Connecting Country is heartened that the ongoing decline of these species has been nationally recognised, the inclusion of a species on this list is a double-edged sword. Through listing, species are afforded more legal protection and are more likely to receive funding than those that are not listed, however, making the list in the first place is deeply concerning as it means that these species have declined significantly in recent years and will need a lot of help to recover.

To make the list, a species (or ecological community) must first be nominated, a rigorous and time consuming process that usually falls upon members of the scientific community to do in their own time.  A great little piece in the Conversation recently sought to demystify this process for the average punter.

A Hooded Robin


Bird of the month: Silvereye

Posted on 27 March, 2023 by Ivan

Welcome to Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by Damian’s stunning photos.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

A moderately common sight year-round, in gardens with a suitable food plant or water source, are small flocks of tiny Silvereyes, also known as White-eyes. They are a delight to watch. At only 10-12 grams and 125 mm long, this tiny olive bird, with a pale chest and distinctive white or silver eye ring, is a miniature favourite.

Even their soft-sounding “Zcheee” contact call, is endearing, which is lucky because they are chatty and constantly calling to each other. Like so many Australian birds, they are also mimics and adept at copying other bird calls.

It’s amazing to ponder the distances these tiny birds can cover, banding studies have recorded movements from Margret River WA to Braidwood NSW, that’s 3,159 km of flying. Many birds including some in the Castlemaine area where they overwinter, fly 1,500 km between Tasmania and NSW, which means crossing the treacherous Bass Strait. Silvereyes being so mobile, their ranges cover Southern WA, all along the south coast of Australia and up the eastern coast, extending inland over the Great Dividing Range to the edge of central deserts.

The Silvereye is not only highly mobile, but highly adaptable as well. They eat a varied diet including nectar, fruits, insects and foraging in small groups. Enjoying soft fruits in your garden, sipping nectar from flowers including gums, and gleaning insects, moving from ground level and right up through shrub layers into the tree tops.

Silvereye foraging for food in a Castlemaine garden. Photo by Damian Kelly.

Although Silvereyes are usually in small flocks, during the spring breeding season they split into life pairs and defend breeding territories. Both parents brood the 2-4 eggs laid in a cup-shaped nest, once hatched both parents feed the chicks. Often Silvereye pairs attempt to rear two broods in a breeding season.

So keep an eye out for this diminutive bird in your garden and around town, with its distinctive silver eye ring and ability to fly such huge distances. That’s a lot of birds in a tiny fluff ball.

Silvereye in a fruit tree, with its buff coloured flank, indicating it’s the Tasmanian type bird, which can be seen overwintering in the Castlemaine area. Photo by Damian Kelly.


To listen to the call of the Silvereye – click here

Jane Rusden
Damian Kelly


You’re invited to The Indigenous Seed Project Launch

Posted on 22 March, 2023 by Anna

The Castlemaine Seed Library invites you to come along on Saturday 25th March 10:30AM to launch The Indigenous Seed Project.

This project encourages anyone to germinate a selection of 10 local plant species.

With each seed packet you will receive a booklet/PDF with information about garden use and care, ecological significance, cultural information and propagation relevant to each species.

This information was provided by local experts ; Dr Cassia Read, Frances Cincotta and Aunty Julie McHale.

There will be catering supplied by the wonderful Murnong Mummas.


The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Hadley Cole

The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators.

The project was launched with a presentation from local entomologist and bee specialist Dr Mark Hall, Senior Biodiversity Officer at the City of Greater Bendigo, on Wednesday 15 February 2023 at the Campbells Creek Community Centre. The presentation focussed on the various native pollinators we may see in the local area and was titled ‘Native pollinators on your property: who, where and what they do?’

We had a wonderful turnout to the presentation with up to forty enthusiastic attendees who came along with fantastic questions. Mark spoke of the many pollinators present across the landscape from native bees, to flies, butterflies, moths, and beetles. He spoke of the importance of connectivity between gardens, roadsides, and bushland of native vegetation to help build corridors for pollinators to move and plenty of wooded areas for them to nest in. We learnt of the specific adaptations native bees have formed to pollinate indigenous plants and how introduced insects such as honey bees cannot perform the same pollination service as efficiently as the native pollinators.

Following the presentation, we then went out on a field trip with Mark to a private property in Harcourt on Friday 24 February 2023. The field trip was titled ‘promoting native pollinators from property to landscape.’ Thirteen enthusiastic participants came along to learn of the various monitoring techniques we can use to investigate the pollinators occuring on our properties, Landcare sites and in our backyards. The beautiful property of Lois from Barkers Creek Landcare and Wildlife group did not dissapoint! Although it is late in the season for many insects, we discovered a range of insect pollinators in Lois’s garden and the bushland on her property. A couple of species of Blue banded bees were on show, as well as the Imperial Jezebel (Delias harpalyce) butterfly that feeds on misstletoe, a few dragonflies were noted however were very difficult to catch with the net as they zip about so fast! The most exciting discovery was a Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus) found in one of the insect traps. As the cuckoo part of the name suggests, the native Cuckoo Bee will take over the nests of Blue Banded Bees by laying their eggs in with those of the Blue Banded Bees. Although the Cuckcoo bees are not the friendliest of bees they are very beautiful and Mark reassured us that they appear to exist in smaller numbers than many of the other native bees.

So far The Buzz project has been a wonderful success, bringing together community members, nature enthusiasts and Landcarers with a common focus of learning more about the various native pollinators occurring across the local landscape, where they live, how they behave and the types of pollination services they provide.

Connecting Country would like to thank Dr. Mark Hall for his brilliant contributions to The Buzz project. The knowledge he has shared with us all will go a long way to building a greater understanding of the native pollinators of the region. A big thank you also goes to Lois and Geoff for sharing their beautiful property in Harcourt for the field trip.

If you or your Landcare group are interested in learning more on how to monitor and survey insects across the region please get in touch by emailing

We will host one final event later in the year in Spring to wrap up The Buzz project, so stay tuned for more details!

This project was funded through the Victorian Landcare Grants and the North Central Catchment Management Authority.



Wheel Cactus hinders fire fighting

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and partners at the Tarrangower Cactus Control Group Inc. (TCCG) have recently published a media article highlighting the firefighting issues caused by infestations of the invasive plant wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta). Please find the article below which gives landholders yet another reason to control and remove infestations of this devastating noxious weed.

Patches of wheel cactus grow densely, forming an impenetrable barrier.   In some instances the plant was used as hedging. Where established, the weed is most likely to restrict human access and have impacts on the environment and agriculture. The barbed bristles of the wheel cactus are sharp, readily penetrating human skin causing severe irritation and are difficult to remove.

Wheel Cactus hinders fire fighting

Many of us are familiar with the destructive environmental impact of wheel cactus in Mount Alexander Shire. Some have volunteered for years in controlling this weed and take responsibility on their own and other properties. However, there are still properties in our area with significant infestations of wheel cactus.

Possibly, some landowners may not have considered the problems created by wheel cactus in a fire situation.

In a recent fire emergency in Baringhup, CFA volunteers were confronted with a situation made difficult due to the rocky and hilly terrain.  Equally confronting were the many large mature wheel cactus plants on one of the properties.  This dense infestation of wheel cactus created a dangerous situation for the CFA volunteers.  Combined with smoke affecting visibility and high-pressure hoses, the wheel cactus infected terrain became highly slippery and very challenging for the volunteers.

As CFA Captain Brendan McKnight commented “Wheel cactus is an OH&S issue for the CFA.  It is another risk factor in a situation that is already full of risk; just ask the poor bloke who fell onto a large wheel cactus while we were dealing with the fire”.

This fire incident has highlighted yet another reason why landowners need to control infestations of wheel cactus of their property.  We encourage all landowners to keep their property safe as well as environmentally healthy.

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group are available to provide advice and assistance to local land holders. Please contact us via our website

Tarrangower Cactus Control Group consists of Landcare volunteers dedicated to the eradication of Wheel Cactus (Opuntia robusta). 




Apply now for the North Central CMA Board

Posted on 14 March, 2023 by Ivan

Our friends and project partners at the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) have an opportunity open to join their board and assist in achieving their vision of sustainably managed land, water and biodiversity resources in a changing climate. Each CMA board has a maximum of nine members including the Chairperson. The Board is responsible for the strategic planning of the authority and ensuring that the CMA fulfils its statutory functions consistently with its overall governance framework and is renumerated accordingly. Please find the details on how to apply below, courtesy of the NCCMA.

North Central Catchment Management Authority Board: Now Open

We are encouraging people from the North Central CMA region with diverse backgrounds and differing environmental perspectives to #GetonBoard. Applications for positions on the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Board have recently opened.

The Victorian Government is committed to increasing diversity on CMA Boards to encourage new ideas and reflect the rich diversity of the Victorian community.

Our Chair, Julie Miller Markoff, leads a well-established, dynamic, and knowledgeable Board that guides an energised and dedicated natural resource management team to achieve our vision of sustainably managed land, water and biodiversity resources supporting productive and prosperous communities in a changing climate.

Alongside the strategic and regional perspective that the Board brings to the diverse work of the North Central CMA, they also have a sharp focus on supporting Traditional Owner self-determination and tracking new opportunities in natural capital and environmental markets for the region.

More information Member, Victorian Catchment Management Authority Board |

Applications close at 11.59pm on Monday 27 March.

If you would like to discuss in more detail the role of the North Central CMA Board or have a question regarding the application process, please contact our Chair Julie Miller Markoff on 0407 819 066 or email


Kaweka Wildflower Sanctuary – AGM – call for new members!

Posted on 9 March, 2023 by Lori

        Kookaburra at Kaweka Sanctuary

Kaweka Wildflower Sanctuary is a beautiful ‘hidden gem’ in Castlemaine.   People often confuse Kaweka with Kalimna, but they are two different places!

The welcoming entrance to the reserve is visible from the intersection of Hargreaves and Turner Streets.  The 8ha stunning wildflower reserve was given to the people of the district over fifty years ago and has been lovingly looked after by locals ever since.

On Wednesday March 15 the Kaweka committee is having its Triennial AGM at 5.00pm.  Would you like to join this congenial group of nature-lovers?  They are a small group, definitely in need of new members in order to remain active.

They have irregular seasonal working bees and occasional meetings.  The meetings are enjoyable and quick, and the working bees are for weeding, planting, watering and other general maintenance.  They especially try to keep the plant identification signs up to date.

The committee is in danger of having to go into recess/hibernation – they need new people!  They need you!  It is a great opportunity to get involved in restoring our natural environment, learning from experienced members and gain group management skills, all while having fun!

The meeting will be at the main entrance next to the beautiful big rock.  Please feel free to come along, even if just curious to meet the group.

If you can’t make it but are interested in getting in touch, please contact and we can connect you.

Photos:  1. Kaweka Sanctuary entrance and 2. kookaburra –  Kaweka Committee