Victorian Landcare Magazine - Spring 2017, Issue 70

Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award - Ian Higgins

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Above: Ian Higgins with a healthy echidna on the Campaspe River near Kyneton.

Ian Higgins’ early interest in native plants has continued through his life. He developed a remarkable knowledge of indigenous flora species, their propagation and revegetation, leading to a 30-year professional career during which he has contributed significantly to revegetation and environmental planning in Victoria, in both professional and voluntary capacities.

Ian Higgins’ early interest in native plants has continued through his life. He developed a remarkable knowledge of indigenous flora species, their propagation and revegetation, leading to a 30-year professional career during which he has contributed significantly to revegetation and environmental planning in Victoria, in both professional and voluntary capacities.

Ian’s goal has long been to demonstrate how surrounding ourselves with diverse, healthy, productive and beautiful native vegetation leads us into a richer Australian life that builds a strong commitment to Country.  

To that end, he was principal architect of, and major contributor to, VicVeg Online, the website that helps Victorians plan revegetation and restoration projects through understanding indigenous plant species and their relationship to local landscapes.

At the local level Ian, and like-minded volunteers in the mid-1980s, lobbied for funding to improve the condition of Castlemaine’s creeks. In 1986 he led the first project of six people employed full-time to remove weeds and revegetate public land along Campbells Creek.

In 2000, Ian was an instigator of the Friends of Campbells Creek Landcare Group. With 72 financial members, the group is stronger than ever.  Capitalising on Ian’s early work and under his guidance, the group has transformed Campbells Creek into a richly biodiverse community asset. Some of the best-restored areas are now used as venues for bird watching excursions and a local childcare centre holds bush kindergarten sessions in one of the 30-year-old revegetation patches that Ian established.

Ian’s idea for a four kilometre paved walking trail alongside the creek to connect more of the community with nature received support from the local council, which now recognises the value of this urban woodland in the middle of the Castlemaine township.

Ian believes it’s the stories we tell ourselves that create our sense of place and connection to nature.

Under Ian’s leadership, the friends erected a series of innovative interpretive signs along the trail. The signs promote the group and the values of the creek-side environment. They explain the threats to its health and highlight how community members can help.

Ian believes it’s the stories we tell ourselves that create our sense of place and connection to nature. 

“For me, knowing the stories of the individual species we’re working to retain, re-introduce or attract is what builds those feelings. I try to draw on the science to illustrate why we are doing our Landcare work. Even knowing just one story about a single species seems to strengthen people’s appreciation of the natural environment.” 

While Ian’s long-term involvement allows him to appreciate the improvements over the decades, he says the commitment of the friends is his biggest reward. 

“The group and its members are a great example of how the Landcare ethic can be spread and sustained through the community,” he said.

Ian has been a huge part of the success of the friends group. His knowledge and passion for the environment and his keenness to share his knowledge and engage with others has brought many people together to further the cause.