Do you want to be part of a diverse and dynamic team that is helping farmers, community groups and organisations deliver their agricultural and environmental projects?

Do you want to learn new skills in land management, environmental monitoring, health and safety, all while discovering Melbourne’s great outdoors?

The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA is seeking nine works crew members to join its six existing work crews undertaking agricultural and environmental services on public and private land around the Port Phillip and Western Port region.

Three crews focus on providing agricultural and environmental services on private land and three work crews focus on providing environmental services on public land. If you are shortlisted, your interests and locations will be considered when determining which work crew you join.

The positions will be employed by labour hire company, Chandler Macleod, on behalf of the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA, and are funded by the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria initiative.

The positions are full-time for three months (1 February 2021 – 28 April 2021).

Applications are being accepted via Sidekicker. Interested candidates must register with Sidekicker and apply for the roles on that platform. The job listing can be found under the following category and sub-category:

  • Category – Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Sub-category – Labourer

Applications will close as soon as there is sufficient applications from suitable candidates, so you need to register with Sidekicker as soon as possible (please note that registrations with Sidekicker can take up to 24 hours to activate).

For further information contact Natalie Natalie.Porter@chandlermacleod.com

From July – December 2020, the PPWCMA worked with local farmers and schools to deliver Farms2Schools. This agricultural education program connected primary and secondary students with farms and agricultural businesses, to highlight the diversity and importance of agriculture around Melbourne and the potential for farming to be a rewarding career choice.

Farms2Schools was supported by the Victoria Government through the Working for Victoria initiative and employed three full time staff for six months through the economic downturn associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).

The PPWCMA expresses their gratitude to the Farms2Schools officers – Camille Coleman, Narelle Debenham and Osman Sobrie – for their outstanding work throughout the program. They worked with 40 farmers to deliver 240 online incursions to 9963 students from 49 schools during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions (and 1 excursion once restrictions eased!).

Below is their personal reflections of the last six months.

Osman Sobrie

Before joining the program, I was looking for jobs in community development, as I worked voluntarily for many years in that area. I was so delighted to be part of a program focusing on creating strong connections between schools, farmers and locally-produced food and creating a financial opportunity for farmers.

The program faced many challenges caused by the changing coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and its impacts, but I am pleased with how the Farms2Schools team came together and shared their knowledge and capability to adapt.

I was proud to be part of the program team, as we worked as a team, developing the online incursions, and supporting each other to deliver them. I had the honour of presenting the first online incursion of the program, and during the program’s implementation, I achieved a lot of professional development and training that I can use for my future employment.

Farms2Schools provided multiple benefits, such as improving students’ knowledge on farming and agricultural industry and farmer income, but it also positively impacted health, education, economy, and the community. It was a win-win situation as it is introduced a love of learning, improved student eating habits and brought new market opportunities for farmers.

Thank you to PPWCMA staff, Camille and Narelle, and our manager Karen, for their contribution to the program.

Camille Coleman

Farms2Schools has been a fantastic program to be part of. My key aim at the start of this program was to expand awareness about primary industries in Victoria and its importance in the Australian economy, environment, and community. This program has done just that.

Being able to support farmers in the region has been fantastic, and a valuable opportunity for our schools. The enthusiasm of the younger primary years in particular, to learn, ask questions and show their appreciation of the farmers and the program has been a rewarding experience as it makes you truly feel you are making a difference. I am sure the secondary students will show this appreciation at a later date!

I am proud of Narelle, Osman, myself and our manager Karen for being able to work so effectively together despite the constraints that coronavirus (COVID-19) brought on. As a team, we’ve been able to collectively develop a program which exceeded the schools’ expectations and gave our local farmers new opportunities during this difficult time.

Thank you to the entire PPWCMA team for their support and enthusiasm of us and the program. The way the whole organisation has adapted to the evolving constraints and new ways of working, while welcoming on multiple new employees, has been amazing.

Being able to host many incursions (and the only excursion) showed me the power of what introducing students to farms and produce at a young age does. Students saying that they will now look to purposefully buy local produce and re-visit the farmers they spoke to is an invaluable outcome for communities and Australian agriculture.

Lastly, I personally hope we have encouraged a number of young people to think of agriculture as a career path and in particular have shown the girls in class, how strong and capable women are in this male-dominated industry. 

Narelle Debenham

As a Farms2Schools Project Officer, I had the pleasure of coordinating virtual school incursions for young people to meet and connect with their local farmers. Through these experiences, students increased their awareness and understanding of the paddock-to-plate process.

At a time when innovation, creativity, leadership, critical thinking and problem solving are all skills future employers will seek in young people, it was an exciting challenge to develop and deliver a program that enabled these traits to be explored by students through local farms.

These vital experiences helped our young people develop so much knowledge and connection around where their food comes from. Feedback showed that students are also now motivated to explore potential careers in agriculture and land management. This, teamed with the fact that farmers and schools are pleading for the initiative to be supported in the future., shows that Farms2Schools is a beneficial and important community program.

A highlight for me was co-creating a video profiling jobs on farms for young people, with the aim of reducing the current average age of our farmers from 58 years. This, along with the other Farms2Schools resources, will leave a legacy that keeps the conversation going.

It was humbling to be part of the hardworking, friendly and vibrant PPWCMA team. Working in a role that encouraged collaboration between communities committed to contributing to environmental health is perfectly aligned with my personal core values. I am proud to have contributed to health and wellbeing of young people, farmers and the environment at such a pivotal time.

Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority’s Agricultural and Environmental Works Crews have had a busy month, working hard to rejuvenate many of the region’s iconic tourist attractions in preparation for the influx of visitors.

After an initial training and induction period, the work crews spent a few weeks undertaking works for Parks Victoria. Below are some highlights.

The crews have now moved onto landholder works requested through the EOI process. Please note that the PPWCMA is still accepting EOIs for 2021 and you can submit a request via the work crews web page.

The PPWCMA is proud of the outstanding outcomes the work crews have already achieved, and the feedback from land managers has been extremely positive. The enthusiasm of the crews has been fantastic and crew members (from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets) are working strongly together, learning from one another and sharing a positive view on what they can contribute to the environment.

The PPWMCA’s Work Crew project is supported by the Victorian Government through the Working for Victoria initiative.

Werribee Park (Western Crew)

The Western crew assisted Parks Victoria with weeding, planting, and general maintenance at the Point Cook Coastal Park (PCCP) and Werribee Park. These works have focused on maintaining amenities of the parks by weeding flower beds at the Victoria State Rose Gardens and Werribee Park Mansion, as well as cleaning car parks.

The crews have also focused on protecting conservation values with the removal by hand of thistles and African boxthorn from the sensitive wetland areas of the PCCP.

1,000 Steps (Central Crew)

The Dandenong Ranges region has provided the Central Crew with a variety of interesting tasks to sink their teeth into, including weed control works, closing down illegal mountain bike tracks, visitor facilities and track maintenance and installing new infrastructure on high visitation sites such as the 1,000 Steps.

Feedback from staff at Parks Victoria has been extremely positive, as they have managed to fast track all these works thanks to the extra help provided by the crew.

Bunyip State Forest (South Eastern Crew)

The South East Crew’s focused on closing around 15 kilometres of illegal trail bike tracks in the Bunyip State Forest  The team made the tracks impassable by burying them under tonnes of dead tree limbs branches and logs.

Trail bike riders blazed through the tracks across the forest’s blackened hills soon after a devastating wildfire in 2018. The forest is recovering but the trail bike tracks have gouged eroding scars into steep slopes and their creek crossings have become bare, tyre-tracked mud baths.

Since August 2020, the Farms2Schools program has delivered 102 online incursions to 5,586 students all across the region. They’ve learnt about the many aspects of agriculture, including production, farm life, food variety, technology and careers. 

Many of the participating schools have shared their experiences and the positive relationships they’ve forged with their local farms, so we’ve gathered together some of highlights.

Eastbourne Primary School

Image courtesy of Eastbourne Primary School

Last week the entire study body at Eastbourne Primary School in Rosebud West participated in their own ‘Farm Week’. Principal Stephen Wilkinson said it was an innovative way for students to experience life on a local farm and to raise awareness of the various careers across the region’s agricultural industry.

Through the Farms2Schools program, the PPWCMA organised five online virtual incursions with local farmers to teach the Foundation to Grade 6 students about the process of how agricultural products get from the paddock to their plate. Students investigated food and fibre production across a wide range of agricultural industries: sheep, chicken, beef, berries, market gardens, bee products and honey and commercially grown flowers.

The school also ran a range of farm-themed complimentary literacy, numeracy and STEAM activities and concluded the week with a playful farm dress-up day. Pictured is the Principal Stephen Wilkinson with one of his little chicks!

Altona Meadows Primary School

Image courtesy of Altona Meadows Primary School

Altona Meadows Primary School was recently treated to an online incursion with Velisha Farms which included a hand-on cooking session using fresh vegetables from the farm.

The students were treated to a virtual tour from Catherine of Velisha Farms and loved every minute of it. The students and teachers said of the incursion “It was so informative and the students LOVED the fresh vegetables you gave us- you’re pretty popular at AMPS now!

“We made San Choy Boy served in a lettuce cup with chicken mince, zucchini, spring onions & broccoli. The garlic, coriander & carrots used were from our school garden! Students also sampled some roasted cauliflower with the leaves left on, which was a hit!

“We know that farmer Catherine is passionate about growing cauliflowers and we could taste the deliciousness. The celery and cucumber given to us, were dipped in a roasted beetroot and tahini dip!”

Derinya Primary School

Image courtesy of Derinya Primary School

Derinya Primary School’s Grade Six students recently participated in an online incursion with Gippslamb. Gillian from Gippsland took 120 captivated students on a virtual tour of the farm, where they saw sheep, lambs, chickens and a pony and learnt lots of information about them.

The school said is was a very informative and interesting session and the students loved seeing the farm.

“Gillian was very friendly and easy to understand and gave all the information in a very clear and easy to understand way. She had a lovely manner with the students and certainly showed them some lovely aspects of her beautiful farm and its animals. It was also great to see and hear about the sustainable practices that operate throughout the farm.”

As an additional activity, the students were asked to imagine what it would be like looking at silhouettes of animals when the sun is setting over the rolling hills of the Gippsland properties they learnt about.

Dromana Primary School

Dromana Primary School was recently visited (virtually!) by Beekeeper Simon and his assistant Alex, who is studying science at Monash University.

Simon and Alex explained the role of an apiarist/beekeeper to 50 Grade One students and gave them a close up look at how a bee hive operates.

The students got to ask them lots of questions, such as “Is the queen the boss of the hive?” “How do bees make honey?” “Why are the girl bees the workers and not the boys? and “Can bees catch coronavirus?”

After the session the students were tasked with writing letters to Simon and Alex to tell them all about what they learnt.

Alex and Simon were touched by the influx of appreciation, with Alex remarking “The letters are so beautiful! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to teach these students about bees! I’ve love teaching science and agriculture to kids via the Farms2Schools program and I am definitely thinking about how that looks in a future career.“

Farms2Schools is delivered by the PPWCMA in partnership with AUSVEG VIC and is supported by the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria initiative.

The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA’s six Agricultural and Environmental Works Crews are now on the ground and kicked off this week across the Port Phillip and Western Port region.

The PPWCMA’s works crews are a six month project to assist farmers, organisations and community groups to deliver their agricultural and environmental projects and improve their sustainability credentials while providing employment to Victorians. The project is funded by the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria initiative and is employing 44 people.

They will be spending the next couple of weeks completing any important safety training and supporting Parks Victoria with work on their sites.

Monday morning saw the south east crews helping with weeding and track restoration in the Gembrook area, while the central crews completed defensive drive training and the western crews undertook First Aid training.

By the end of November the crews will begin work on public and private properties engaged through the expression of interest process. The PPWCMA’s Works Coordinator will soon be in touch with those that have already submitted expression of interest to finalise plans.

The work crews will be working until April 2021 and PPWCMA is still accepting expression of interest. For more information visit the Work Crews web page.

On 7th October 2020, the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA and the Western Port Catchment Landcare Network ran a preliminary results day on the demonstration site as part of the Preying on Insects the IPM Way project.

This one year pilot project provided farmers with information on implementing an Integrated Pest Management strategy (IPM) in their pasture systems.

The aim of the project was to improve pasture management practices so graziers are less reliant on chemical options as the go-to strategy for managing pasture pests.

This was done through educational events with a local farmer discussion group and a demonstration site that was set up and monitored to trial a new IPM approach for pastures that reduced pest (and therefore the need for chemical control) and encouraged beneficial insects.

The project funded through Ripe For Change (delivered through Sustainable Table).

Benefits of integrated pest management

Adopting IPM as a management tool can deliver significant reductions in farm input costs and result in improved productivity and a much more resilient farm ecosystem.

Conventional control usually relies heavily on a pesticide treadmill to treat a pest problem, often creating a niche for another pest problem to replace it.

These approaches often exacerbate problems as the beneficial insects are also killed and without a resilient system these beneficial insects can’t bounce back in time to help combat the pests.

About the trial

The trial involved using a specific sowing sequence for renovating a pasture. Pests such as the reg-legged earth mite and lucerne flea target broad leaf species, depleting their nutrients and therefore reducing the nutrients available to grazing livestock.

The trial’s assumption was to sow a pasture mix that is less suspectable to pests first, then once it was established, direct drill and add the highly-suspectable seeds during a second pass (appx 6 months after depending on the crop and season).

This meant the highly-suspectable seeds are provided protection, and the early sowing of the other seeds has already depleted pest numbers as the less preferred species to eat.

Preliminary results

The early results show that this technique can contribute to reducing pasture pests, reduce the need for chemical control and encourage beneficial invertebrates. However as this was a 12 month project, the result are only preliminary and more trials and monitoring is needed.

The PPWCMA and project partners are sourcing additional funds to continue the trials and multiple farmers in the Cardinia and Gippsland areas have already expressed an interest in the results and changing practices if this technique proves successful.

A short video of the demonstration site can be seen below. A field guide for pasture pests and predators will be available shortly. Sign up to the PPWCMA enews to be informed when this becomes available.

The Port Phillip and Western Port region is home to three Ramsar wetlands, listed as internationally significant under Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

The Spit Nature Conservation Reserve near Point Wilson, is part of one of these Ramsar wetlands, and is home to some of the most significant areas of saltmarsh vegetation in south-eastern Australia.

The reserve lies within the Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site and supports endangered
species, threatened ecological communities and thousands of waterbirds. It also provides an important food source for fish and sustains a variety of species during critical stages in their lifecycles.

Aerial image of The Spit Nature Conservation Reserve
Aerial image of The Spit Nature Conservation Reserve

Through the Two Great Ramsar Wetlands project, the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA recently engaged Nature Glenelg Trust to investigate the potential hydrological causes of decline in the condition of the reserve’s saltmarsh vegetation.

Saltmarsh provide important habitat for many of Australia’s waterbird and shorebird species, including migrant waders such as curlews and stints. The saltmarsh community at The Spit Nature Conservation Reserve is a vital site for a small population of Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) that migrates across Bass Strait from Tasmania over the winter, non-breeding, season.

Pied Oystercatcher in saltmarsh vegetation at The Spit (Andrew Morrison)

The research found a series of impediments to the natural hydrology of the area feeding the saltmarsh vegetation community. These impediments include a road easement through the conservation reserve resulting in measurable restrictions of tidal movement entering and exiting the inland section of saltmarsh (60 hecatares). In addition, changes to the natural waterway within the immediate catchment has diverted freshwater flows away from the saltmarsh. The cumulative impact of these changes has resulted in a gradual decline in condition over many decades.

This work has provided a vital understanding of the complex hydrology ‘story’ of The Spit Nature Conservation Reserve. A series of recommendations have been identified to reconnect these important threatened ecological communities and will inform a restoration plan for the site.

This will be achieved through continued collaboration with stakeholders, partners and land managers, who are committed to the ongoing protection there internationally significant wetlands.

The Two Great Ramsar Wetlands is supported by the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

The Australian Government is investing $8 million in 28 projects across the country under the Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program to assist in restoring the health and functionality of coastal and estuarine fisheries habitats.

Two of these projects will be delivered in the Port Phillip and Western Port region and led by the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA.

Reel Big Fish – Western Port

The ‘Reel Big Fish – Western Port’ project will contribute to the improvement of fisheries habitat by restoring critical vegetation communities throughout Western Port.

Mangrove forests will be restored at priority locations, contributing to an increase in the extent of suitable habitat for recreational fish species.

Mangroves are important nursery habitat for many of the fish recreational fishers love to catch, so along with restoring mangrove forests, the project will be connecting local fishers and the wider community with fish habitat specialists.

Through a number of events and forums they’ll work together to increase their understand the importance of fish habitat and how to contribute to its protection.

Port Phillip Community Shellfish Reef Project

In partnership with OzFish, this project will see recreational fishers become habitat heroes as an artificial shellfish reef is created on the site of a functionally extinct shellfish reef ecosystem in eastern Port Phillip Bay.

Recreational fishers will play a central role in the restoration and monitoring activities and assist with fish habitat recovery. They’ll also participate in multiple events, forums and activities to build recreational fisher knowledge and promote environmental stewardship and scientific literacy in the community.

French Island is set to become a haven for threatened species with the Australian Government announcing last week that $335,000 in funding from the Environmental Restoration Fund will be contributed towards efforts to eradicate feral cats on French Island. 

Nestled within the internationally significant Western Port Ramsar site, French Island is a sanctuary for Victoria’s wildlife. Over 230 bird species have been recorded on French Island including significant species such as the White-Bellied Sea-Eagle, King Quail and the Orange-Bellied Parrot. 

The island also supports a large population of Long-nosed Potoroo, as well as a significant population of Koalas. Recently, 70 critically endangered Eastern-barred Bandicoots were released onto the island to help bring this species back from the brink of extinction.

Of the native species recorded on French Island, 34 are listed as threatened under state and/or federal government environmental classifications. However, many of the species on the island are highly susceptible to predation by feral cats.

Feral cats are a significant pest species and have had catastrophic impacts on Australia’s native fauna. Predation by feral cats is one of the greatest threats to Australia’s land-based mammals and is implicated in the extinction of at least 27 mammal species.

Since 2010, Parks Victoria, French Island Landcare, Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority (PPWCMA) and others have been collaborating to control the feral cat population on French Island and reduce the damage they have wreaked upon the island’s wildlife.

French Island residents have also been implementing a responsible pet ownership program to prevent owned cats from entering the feral population.

The intense efforts undertaken by all partners has seen the island’s feral cat population reach its lowest point, with an estimated population of between 100–200 individuals remaining. This, combined with French Island’s natural barrier to new cats reaching the island and the absence of European Red Fox set it apart from other biodiversity conservation areas in Victoria and make it the perfect place to establish a safe-haven for wildlife.

Funding from Victorian Government agencies and Australian Government initiatives including the National Landcare Program is being secured and, with the new funding announcement is now very near the total estimated to achieve eradication of feral cats over the coming four years.

The PPWCMA will be working with Parks Victoria, Zoos Victoria, French Island Landcare, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions to also secure the necessary permits and approvals to commence the project with major on-ground work proposed to start in 2021. 

The bushfires of 2019-20 have overshadowed our recent summers and have had an enormous impact on environmental volunteers, who dedicate their time to its protection, and bring out stress and anxiety about the realities of climate change.

The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA has collaborated with the Mind Room to host an eco anxiety forum for volunteers and facilitators from Landcare and community groups in the Port Phillip and Western Port region.

Participants will discuss the impact of environmental events and disasters (with a focus on recent fire events) and share ideas on how to re-empower volunteers and groups in the face of real-life climate change. You do not have to have been directly impacted by the fires to attend.

The forum will be run online over two sessions on Friday 13 November, 10am – 1pm and Friday 20 November, 10am – 1pm. Participants need to attend both sessions.

The Mind Room has been developing tailored group workshops for a range of mental health topics and has been researching the effects of eco-anxiety.

20 places are available for this event. Individuals can express their interest in attending using the form below and the PPWCMA will select 20 participants that represent the widest range of geographical locals from across the region.

A waiting list will also be established, so if you cannot attend this event please still complete the EOI and you will be contacted if a second forum is arranged at a later date.

This event is funded by the Victorian Government and was developed in collaboration with Landcare volunteers and NRM professionals.

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