The first half of 2020 has presented multiple challenges for Victorians. This summer’s bushfires devastated not only property and lives, but also our wildlife and biodiversity. As our communities began their recovery, coronavirus (COVID-19) struck, compounding the strain for many.
The Victorian Government is still supporting the bushfire recovery, while working hard to help Victorians stay safe and well.
Our Landcare and environmental groups and networks play a vital role in the recovery of our landscapes and of our communities post-bushfires. The knowledge and connections members share help them respond quickly and effectively following bushfires. These groups and networks, largely made up of volunteers, play an important role for Victoria’s unique biodiversity, but also for local communities.
We are continuing to back Landcare and environmental volunteer groups and networks through these challenging times by extending funding for existing Victorian Landcare Facilitators until the end of the year. This is an important decision that ensures the groups and the Landcare facilitators themselves are given the appropriate support and job security while we work through the broader impacts of the current situation in the coming months.
This will also enable the Victorian Landcare Program to run an Expression of Interest process later this year for Landcare and environmental volunteer groups and networks who would like to employ a Landcare facilitator from 1 January 2021.
This is part of a suite of recommendations the Victorian Government is implementing following the 2019 independent Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program Review to improve the program starting next year.
In this issue of the magazine we feature some inspiring stories about how Landcare groups and networks deal with emergencies, such as fire and drought. Landcare members also talk about the innovative ways they have adapted to a changed world.
The Northern Bendigo Landcare Group tells its story of losing a decade’s work restoring the Creekline Grassy Woodland habitat within Huntly Streamside Reserve to bushfire in January. In the aftermath, the group has collaborated with Parks Victoria to replant. They and the Huntly Fire Brigade are working on how to enhance habitat values along Bendigo Creek while minimising the fire risk.
A number of stories in this issue of the magazine touch on the important role recovery work plays in enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of communities affected by fire and drought.
The Heytesbury Landcare Network led a collaborative approach after the March 2019 fires burnt more than 24,000 hectares of the south west. The network worked across organisational and geographic boundaries and with government agencies for the benefit of landholders, producing some great outcomes.
By working together to help the land and our biodiversity recover, we are strengthening communities. The bonds that have developed are also helping these communities cope in the current circumstances.
The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change
Minister for Solar Homes
The Victorian Landcare Program staff at DELWP urges you to continue to follow public health measures and stay informed through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website. DHHS have released a factsheet for Victorian volunteers - DHHS Volunteer Factsheet.
We know that environmental volunteering and Landcaring are great ways to stay connected with people and the environment, and we are cautiously welcoming the easing of restrictions whilst being urged to remain vigilant and ensure everyone’s safety. As volunteers and members of community organisations you are resilient and adaptable, and together we will get through this challenging time.
DELWP’s Landcare and Community Programs staff have prepared Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to provide some suggestions about what you could do under the current public health measures. The FAQs are on the Landcare Gateway at COVID-19 update - 19 May 2020 and COVID-19 update - 18 June 2020.
Victorian Landcare Program staff – DELWP