Motivating the disengaged

Field day participants at a talk on serrated tussock controlAn innovative social science project has delved into one of the biggest issues plaguing community pest management: how to motivate disengaged landowners.

Funded by the VSTWP through the Weeds and Rabbits Project, it focused on understanding the mindset of “don’t know/don’t care” landowners.

The research considered different types of landowners and the values that would be most likely to drive or hinder weed control.

Community Engagement Officer at VSTWP, Ivan Carter, said the findings were transferable to many environmental issues and challenges.

“The work provides us with more effective options and strategies to embed into our engagement activities, and gives us a better understanding of the landowner groups we are dealing with and what exactly motivates them.”

A report on the project is available on the VSTWP website.

Image: VSTWP Extension Officer Ivan Carter with community members at a recent field day.

Master class on leading change in communities

Master Class delivery team members Tanya Howard, Ted Alter, Lisa Adams and Darren MarshallA community engagement course with a difference has helped build new skills and networks for supporting community-led management of weeds and pests.

The Master Class in Leadership for Community Engagement brought together 23 aspiring community engagement leaders, representing Landcare, government agencies, local councils, industry and community groups.

Instead of following a step-by-step engagement framework, the Master Class encouraged participants to consider how they could advocate for a stronger voice for the community in the planning and delivery of weed and pest management.

The program highlighted the importance of investing in relationships within the community to build trust. For many participants, this was a shift away from the more traditional approach of coming up with a project idea and then ‘engaging’ the community to help ‘deliver it’. It also highlighted that ‘outputs’ such as hectares of control undertaken, number of trees planted, or number of people ‘engaged’ are not always reliable indicators of success for either projects or communities.

The Master Class is the Weeds and Rabbits Project’s major community leadership program. It was facilitated by Professor Ted Alter from Penn State University and Dr Tanya Howard from University of New England.

If you missed out on this opportunity and are keen to build your community engagement skills, read on below for details of an upcoming program.

Image: Some of the members of the Master Class delivery team – Tanya Howard (co-facilitator), Ted Alter (facilitator), Lisa Adams (panellist) and Darren Marshall (presenter).

Apply now: Leadership in Rabbit Control course

The rabbit program will strengthen the capacity of volunteers and professionals to lead effective rabbit management.

Do you currently manage a rabbit control program in your community or workplace? Are you keen to learn new skills, be inspired and collaborate with others for better rabbit control?

Boost your rabbit management expertise at the Leadership in Rabbit Control course.

27-29 November 2018, Boho South (near Euroa), Victoria

The Victorian Rabbit Action Network’s (VRAN) Leadership in Rabbit Control Course is open to all Victorians currently involved in the management of rabbits on private or public land.

The free course is delivered over 2.5 days, with a mix of classroom and practical field-based training to boost technical skills and best practice knowledge.

Eligible participants can also apply for a $1,000 Community Action Grant to assist in raising awareness and building capacity in their local community.

Twenty positions are available and applications are invited from all community members, volunteers and professionals interested in leading rabbit management, whether it be through a community or farming group, Landcare, government agency, Catchment Management Authority or another organisation with responsibilities in land management.

Find out more at rabbitaction.com/leadership-course/

Applications close 26 September 2018.

The Leadership in Rabbit Control course is funded by the Commonwealth Government, as part of the Weeds and Rabbits Project. VRAN is a partner of the Weeds and Rabbits Project.

Gorse extension and engagement

VGT’s Heidi Snow and John Cable at a recent field day.

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce (VGT) has appointed Heidi Snow as its new Communications, Community Engagement and Extension Officer.

Heidi will be busy over the next 12 months meeting with land managers at field days, developing gorse control publications and delivering VGT events – all in the name of promoting coordinated best-practice gorse management across Victoria.

The VGT is also providing new extension services to landowners in the Bellarine Peninsula and Hepburn Shire. This includes free property visits and tailored gorse management information.

To keep up to date with VGT activities, follow their new Facebook page.

New resources to tackle serrated tussock

VSTWP members Lance Jennison (left) and John Burgess (right) with Cassie Borg from Hume City Council at a recent serrated tussock workshop (photo: I. Carter).
VSTWP members Lance Jennison (left) and John Burgess (right) with Cassie Borg from Hume City Council at a recent serrated tussock workshop (photo: I. Carter).

The Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party is working to support the community to manage serrated tussock in the core infestation area west of Melbourne.

The group is working closely with new landowners in the area to ensure they’re equipped to manage this weed. A new extension officer will be providing additional support to landowners and local council around Sunbury and Diggers Rest.

A recent best-practice management field day in Diggers Rest attracted 42 landowners and community members to see treatment demonstrations and discuss integrated control options.

Further field days are planned for spring 2018. For more information contact info@serratedtussock.com.

Spreading the word on rabbits

VRAN mentor John Matthews (centre) and Learning Network participants at the Mt Rothwell conservation reserve.
VRAN mentor John Matthews (centre) and Learning Network participants at the Mt Rothwell conservation reserve.

The Leaps and Bounds Learning Network is about boosting the expertise and strengthening the support networks of Victorian community members who manage rabbits.

At its most recent meeting, network members explored rabbit management for large-scale conservation projects, cultural heritage legislation and the recent K5 biological control release. A visit to the Mt Rothwell conservation reserve highlighted the challenge rabbits pose for conservation and cultural heritage, but also the positive impact a small band of dedicated people can have on a landscape.

The Victorian Rabbit Action Network will be starting a new Rabbit Learning Network in 2018. If you or someone you know is interested in joining, contact Heidi Kleinert from Agriculture Victoria: heidi.kleinert@ecodev.vic.gov.au.

Building community blackberry action

Screen shot of the VBT start-up kit front cover.
The Victorian Blackberry Taskforce’s community start-up kit.

Is your community concerned about blackberry? Are you interested in how people can collectively manage weeds?

The Victorian Blackberry Taskforce supports local groups to establish Community Blackberry Action Groups.

Its Start-Up Kit can help your community take control of the problem.

The kit, which has recently been updated, contains interactive videos and templates to help communities start their own blackberry action groups, plus practical advice and insights based on the experiences of established groups around Victoria.

Contact the VBT to receive a free copy of the Start-Up Kit: vbt@vicblackberrytaskforce.com.au.

Off to a flying start

With the first full year of the Weeds and Rabbits Project behind us, we took some time in late 2017 to stop, reflect and look at what’s working and where we can improve. As part of this process, we asked people who have participated in the project so far tell us what changes they’d seen as a result.

We found that the four community pest management groups – rabbits, blackberries, gorse and serrated tussock – are collaborating more and sharing their knowledge. Their members have a better understanding of how pests are managed in Victoria, where their group fits into the bigger picture, and how they can work with others more effectively.

We’ve also seen institutional changes, like new governance structures, that are better supporting both community-led decision making and the way government agencies engage with groups and administer projects.

Do you have a story to share about how the project has affected your organisation, community, or pest management activities? We’d love to hear from you.

Lives are meant to get easier

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Malcolm Fraser infamously reminded us that life is not meant to be easy, indeed each generation considers their lot hard. After some reflection it occurs that we do want life to get easier.

That’s what your family and forebears worked for and it is what you’re doing for your children, learning and working to make life different for them. Ours is a co-operative way of life, we elect our representatives to work for and on our behalf. It’s their job to direct the servants of the public to help us get things done that benefit the community and the catchment. Where farmers and town’s people put in their share reasonably, government can meet halfway. After years of working on the land, waterways and catchments we have this chance now. For now is the best or maybe the last chance. The work of others means we have the knowledge to remove Australia’s most costly pest – the rabbit – and be in charge of what plant species grows and survives on country.

Over 50 years of research proves that only by kicking the rabbit out can ecosystems recover. Just a rabbit per three hectares can stop natural regeneration in most landscapes in your state. All of the tree planting schemes, ever done pale in comparison with rabbit reduction. The returns from implementing effective rabbit control based off warren destruction are great; every dollar invested, ten comes back. Ten million dollars invested can return $100m for Victoria. The best efforts of farm and conservation managers will come to nought without effective rabbit control.

Lives are meant to get easier.

WAGS – Wabbit Action Group Silvan

Laying carrot bait

The Wabbit (rabbit) Action Group Silvan operates in an area of high value, intensive horticultural production on the urban fringe of Melbourne. Rabbit numbers have increased significantly over the last two decades, causing economic damage to orchard trees, berry crops, nursery and cut flower plants.

Small acreage holdings and the many hobby farms means that traditional methods of rabbit control are no longer appropriate. Traps are banned, baiting (1080) is not safe and ferreting is no longer popular. Shooting is still useful if care is taken but is discouraged by many people. Many lifestyle landholders have some complacency about the damage rabbits cause, perceiving them as ‘cute’.

Mechanical warren destruction is much more difficult here because a majority of warrens are in dam banks, creek banks, under trees or on land that is not to be disturbed for environmental reasons.
Blackberry infestations are a major harbour for rabbits and it is very difficult to get landowners, to clear blackberries.

WAGS has run several information workshops since it was formed 18 months ago. We have distributed Pindone bait to interested landholders. However, with plenty of fresh green grass all year round, rabbits do not eat the bait.

WAGS participated in the recent Calicivirus K5 release. The uptake of the treated bait was very encouraging but only one obvious Calici carcass has been collected. Our next spotlight count will, hopefully, confirm this success of the K5 release.
WAGS’ next steps are to assist the spread of the K5 virus by storing K5-dead rabbits for re-release of the virus at an opportune time in the future.

A demonstration plot is being developed to revegetate a warren-pocked area that was also infested with blackberries.

With ongoing funding, WAGS will continue to encourage and assist local landowners to combat rabbits in an area-wide multifaceted approach.