I AM GOING to begin by expressing my sadness regarding the unprecedented scale and ferocity of the bushfires. I have visited the firegrounds on the South Coast of New South Wales and all of us at AWPC extend our thoughts to all of you in the firegrounds across this continent.
We commend the bravery of all those involved in fighting these fires and to the dedicated vets and wildlife carers engaged in animal rescue and rehabilitation activities.
I will also say this simple thing: wildlife in Australia is in crisis because of the severe impacts of climate change being experienced across the Australian continent, the situation will continue to deteriorate for a long time to come. That is why Australia’s wonderful wildlife now needs your help more than ever before.
New committee and thanks
I want to welcome and thank the new committee of the AWPC: Maria Taylor, Jan Heald, Chris Lehmann and Carmen Ryan. You may meet Carmen as administrative secretary this year.
A particular thank you goes to retiring AWPC secretary Eve Kelly. I would like to thank Eve for her dedication to both wildlife and to the AWPC.
I would ask that each of you encourage many others to join the AWPC to help in the very large task of ensuring a secure future for Australia’s species.
Issues for 2020 and let us hear from you
The AWPC, as a national wildlife organisation with a new managing committee, is still formulating specific priority campaigns and directions for 2020 keeping in mind the current extreme circumstances.
At one level we are considering how best to support positive, forward-looking, public and private initiatives (both economic and conservation-focused) that help and respect our unique wildlife and biodiversity.
We will continue to work with state-based and single-issue wildlife groups to strengthen our combined voice.
I also encourage AWPC members to tell us what you consider the most effective strategies and directions going forward to help and protect Australian wildlife. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Personally, I have three things at the very top of my list. The first is to put pressure on the various state and federal government authorities — that have continued to promote and issue permits for the killing of very large numbers of Australian animals during these extreme fires — to change their behaviours.
While Macropod species head the list of these tormented and vilified animals, another hundred or so Australian species are also subject to unjustified and barbaric practices. In the days following Christmas I, and others, have called on governments to stop the killing.
To date the Victorian Government has responded by putting a temporary halt to its commercial Kangaroo pet food trade. There are serious issues here regarding government standards including the use of misinformation, poor standards of governance and secretive and undemocratic behaviours.
While I am critical of all Australian governments, I am particularly critical of New South Wales, Queensland, ACT, Victoria and now South Australia. Each of these governments needs to lift their game and they need to understand the world is now watching them.
Australians who care need support, particularly now
The second thing on my list concerns people and their treatment by government departments. In some states, the treatment of wildlife carers, who are mostly self-funded volunteers, is abysmal.
Also, the level or the lack of support (including financial support) from governments who see some of our carer community as a nuisance and an obstacle to the agenda of mass scale killing of wildlife, needs to change.
Greater respect for carers is essential and this is also a matter of governance. Financial support from government must be a long term and stable measure, rather than window dressing at times when the world media is watching.
Also of concern are those Australians living in regional Australia who witness and are often harassed by the killing activities conducted by governments and industry.
Because of state-based legislation there are almost no avenues to complain about these horrendous acts occurring on their doorstep.
We have heard many such stories from individuals whose houses and children have been hit by shot from hunting activities and from those witnessing the butchering of kangaroos from their properties.
These are the animals that they have come to love. There is a great deal of anxiety and fear among many, for their families and the animals they have come to love; this horrible situation has now been extended to new regions including in Victoria and Kangaroo Island (both significantly impacted by fire). I will be looking at human rights implications here.
Thirdly, education. We must all do more to ensure that Australia’s wildlife is better known and understood and we need to engage more children and their parents in the fight to save wildlife. We need schools and teachers to engage with this critical issue.
If we don’t do these things our landscapes will be forever silent.
In the last few weeks and months I have made submission to various inquiries being held in Australia, these inquiries are; Australia’s Faunal Extinction Crisis (Commonwealth of Australia); Meeting obligations to protect Ramsar Wetlands (Victorian Government Auditor) and, because it required a response from the AWPC, the oddly named Review of the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes (AgriFutures).
The world is watching us
I will end by saying that we were able to visit the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales shortly after the fires and to say to all of you that, as a result of what has occurred, there has been an outpouring of care and concern for Australian wildlife from around the world.
The help and care given to Sara and Gary at the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary, is among many such things. I think the world sees its own reflection in us.