Above A group of upcoming rabbit control leaders in the field at Euroa in 2018.
Who can you go to for advice on rabbit control if no one in your community or workplace has the knowledge? Can you find everything you need on the internet? What do you do when local rabbit expertise has been lost to retirement or organisational churn?
The Victorian Rabbit Action Network (VRAN) and Agriculture Victoria have co-designed a course on leadership in rabbit control to rebuild rabbit knowledge in Victoria. The free course is open to people from communities, agencies and industry who have a stake in controlling the impact of rabbits across our landscapes.
Three courses have been delivered across Victoria since 2015, training more than 60 people. VRAN plans to make the course an annual event. The course is delivered by VRAN mentors who share their knowledge and experience of best-practice rabbit management and community-led action. The aim is that course participants become their local ‘go to’ person on rabbit management.
A mix of classroom and field-based training gives participants an opportunity to experience the tools and equipment used in an effective rabbit control program. The course covers ecology, rabbit biology, Victoria’s legislative framework and how to implement an integrated rabbit control program.
VRAN recognise that rabbit issues are complex for everyone. Mentors discuss their personal experiences such as working in sensitive cultural heritage landscapes, the challenge of rural and peri-urban environments, the importance of collaboration, community engagement, and why rabbit work is challenging.
Networking is a key focus of the course. Participants get to learn alongside a group of people who are facing similar scenarios and challenges. This broadens networks and builds a community of interest.
Three learning networks have been formed to provide ongoing support and motivation after the training. Rabbit management is hard work. The learning networks are an opportunity for members to get together to exchange ideas, share challenges, seek feedback on programs and provide a deeper understanding of how complex rabbit management can be.
The learning network programs often include a field trip to a location where a member is working on a rabbit program so members get a firsthand look at each others' workplace or backyard. If members have information gaps, they can call on guest speakers to join the meeting.
Evaluation of the course and learning networks shows that participants have increased confidence in best-practice rabbit control, improved relationships across different parts of the rabbit management system and changed mindsets about how institutions and community groups can work together.
VRAN is aiming to boost the capacity of these local leaders and create a ripple effect across Victoria, with rabbit knowledge being sustained and shared across communities.
Heidi Kleinert is the VRAN Executive Officer.
For more information go to www.vran.com.au