Saturday, May 30, 2009

public transport in the hills - forum at selby community house

Who’s NOT dissatisfied with Melbourne’s public transport?

Who doesn’t want to reduce their carbon footprint and petrol expenses?


Join with me and Public transport campaigner Davey Heller to outline some answers in a public forum format in which everyone can participate.

Where: Selby Community House, off Charles St. (Melways 75 K11)
When: 7 pm, Wednesday June 10
Cost: All warmly welcome. Gold coin donation. Light refreshments provided.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

housing strategy endorsed

report from the roundtable - 26th May

This week's council meeting saw us consider the housing strategy which will provide a planning framework to deal with increased housing in the Shire over the next 20 years.

The strategy has been a long time coming. When I was first elected to council in 2005 it was already a work in progress some 3 years old. Since that time there has been extensive consultation about the housing strategy.

In the first iteration of the strategy increased housing densities were proposed in the Dandenong Ranges towns of Belgrave, Upwey and Tecoma. The community was outraged and rejected the notion of smaller lot sizes, pressure on the environment and increased housing densities in these areas.

This latest version of the Housing Strategy responds to those concerns and no increase in densities is proposed in these towns. The only increases in density that apply in these towns are ones that apply have always applied. There is a very limited corridor of Residential 1 zoned land and within that there is the potential to subdivide. This has always been a possibility and the Housing Strategy does not change this in any way. It must be noted that all land zoned Residential 1 in these towns is categorised as a 'least change precinct'.

No changes will be made to Low Density Residential Zones which covers the majority of residential areas in Belgrave and Tecoma (the towns I represent) and the controls in place in these areas will be maintained.

There was some confusion by some of our submitters that the background research document,, was what council was adopting. The paper referred to infill development in Belgrave and raised the alarm of some community members. However the research had only identified what has always* been possible in this town. *note: 'always' refers to the time since council amalgamations.

It was abundantly clear to me in our local consultations on the housing strategy that our community did not want changes to their townships (see
blog & blog).

The Housing Strategy is an important step in guiding new housing in Yarra Ranges, particularly in the consolidation areas of Lilydale, Chirnside Park, Mooroolbark, Healesville, Yarra Junction, Kilsyth, Mt Evelyn and Yarra Glen. Yarra Ranges is the land of the single detached three bedroom home which does not meet the needs of the changing demographics and type of households in the Shire. The strategy will address housing diversity needs and it will encourage sustainability in house design with a focus on water and energy efficiencies.

Another important element of the Housing Strategy will see the implementation of our Neighborhood Character Study. In the past Yarra Ranges has seen many developments erode our neighborhood character. The Housing Strategy's residential planning framework will provide us with legislative framework in the planning scheme to protect and encourage our neighborhood character.

It was great to see the Housing Strategy endorsed unanimously by council, it has been a long time coming but certainly worth the wait.

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budget 09/10

report from the roundtable - 26th may
The budget for 2009/10 was endorsed by council for public exhibition. This year's budget is a responsible yet progressive budget. It is framed around jobs and our local economy. The budget includes many exciting key community major projects throughout the Shire but also focuses on basic infrastructure needs such as footpaths and roads too.

The budget is framed with a backdrop of the most devastating tragic event in Yarra Ranges, the February bushfires.

It mirrors the actions of the Federal and State governments in that it is focused on building things, creating jobs and supporting communities in a difficult economic time.

It goes a long way to addressing the infrastructure gaps in the Shire and includes long overdue emphasis on issues such as weeds, an issue that is raised constantly by my constituency.

I think the Shire has dropped the ball on weeds in the past and it is good to see that this budget has significant amounts and new programs to address this most urgent and pressing issue. I hope by putting our money where our mouth is, it will provide a bit of leverage and see other levels of government coming to the party on weeds in Yarra Ranges. It must also be remembered that increased programs results in increased local employment opportunities too.

It's an exciting budget, progressive in its aims and it will certainly deliver positive outcomes for our community.

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dacs out

report from the roundtable - 26th May
The State Government has proposed changes to the Planning Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 to establish Development Assessment committees (DACs).

The proposal is an attempt to remove councils from the planning process in activity and the widespread use of 'call in' powers for planning applications the Minister considers to be 'shovel ready'. As a further erosion of council's powers it is proposed that DACs would have 3 government appointees and 2 local government appointees, the numbers already against local government.

I was alarmed to learn of this proposal. We (councillors) have been elected as Local Government Councillors, we have been elected because our community has faith in us. By electing us our community has categorically stated they have faith in our ability to make decisions that represent the needs and aspirations of our local communities.

The establishment of DACs diminishes our ability to make decisions on behalf of our local communities and represents a loss in democratic process.

The establishment of DACs must be opposed in the strongest possible terms.

Council voted unanimously to write to the Premier and the Minister for Planning to express our concern. We will also write to our local MP, David Hodgett, taking up his offer to represent Council's position in parliament.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

new mums and grand mums

Today I joined with women (and some men) from near and far to participate in the Birth Week festival in Kallista. Birth Week is a five day festival jam packed with speakers covering all manner of subjects relating to birth and parenting.
Birth Week is an opportunity to come together with other mothers, partners, pregnant women, support persons, doulas and midwives to share, explore, discover and celebrate birth.

I am pleased to support Birth Week, it gives families and families to be a great opportunity to explore a whole range of opportunities in what is one of the most important events of their lives.

Later in the day I had the great pleasure of speaking to the Belgrave branch of the Country Women’s Association. A small but dedicated group of women committed to making life better for our community.

The ladies were keen to hear about how the Shire supports our older residents and the volunteering opportunities in the Shire.

The Shire has a Positive Aging Strategy, originally endorsed in 2006. It is through this strategy that we support our older residents by providing a whole range of different services, the key objectives include:
- Promoting a positive attitude towards ageing
- Promoting active participation by older residents in all spheres of community life
- Supporting older residents to age well in their communities, by providing access to health services, physical activities and other services
- Providing lifelong learning opportunities
- Promoting senior-friendly environments, including safe and accessible streetscapes and buildings in our community

It was also a great opportunity to highlight a new initiative by the shire,
Volunteer Xchange. Volunteer Xchange has been set up as a free service to connect community groups and their one off or short term projects with volunteers who would like to share their passion, skills and talents.

Community Groups can register their project with Volunteer Xchange to get their message out there that they need help. Keen and interested volunteers can register their interest and hey presto project and volunteers are matched and its all systems go!

Volunteering is very rewarding and helps to bond and strengthen our community. The range of volunteering opportunities and experiences is vast and Volunteer Xchange will provide a central point to help match you with your passion.

As part of my afternoon at the CWA I had the task of judging best bloom, best leaf and best memorabilia, it was a delightful way to spend my afternoon and I found the energy, commitment and compassion shown by the ladies inspiring.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

bushfire after party - you're invited!

Belgrave South Community House are hosting a Bushfire After Party and you're invited. It should be a great night to get together, share your experiences and enjoy each other's company at a community BBQ while entertained by The Quickfix and Yohosie - all for FREE.

The night kicks off at 6:00pm with a BBQ and entertainment, The Quickfix are on at 8:00pm and Yohosie start at 9:00pm.

I'm looking forward to it, hope I see you there.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

national climate emergency rally - 13 June

Click on image for more info,
I hope to see you there.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

planning for puffing

Today was planning day for the Southern Ranges Environment Alliance. The day saw members of the group come together to plan the next steps in how to get better outcomes for our natural environment.

SREA communicates between the many volunteers, community groups, landholders, agencies that have given high priority to working on environmental assets along the Puffing Billy corridor and adjacent areas. They work to restore habitat and bio links stretching from Bunyip State Park to Dandenong Ranges National Park, to Yellingbo Reserve and Lysterfield State Park.

Made up of many local landcare and friends groups, today saw them come together to work out the where to from here. The day covered many elements, not only a visioning exercise, but an action list was created so there is a clear plan for future activities.

The depth of knowledge and level of enthusiasm in the room was overwhelming. We are very fortunate to have these dedicated volunteers, not only giving up their time to do the physical on the ground work, but forfeiting their Sunday to ensure the development of a cohesive plan for the future to improve our natural environment.

fernlea funded for now

Fernlea house held its open day today and what a buoyant occasion it was. After the announcement of funding to provide respite care last week (see blog) the Committee, staff and volunteers couldn't be happier.

Pictured left to right: Gerald Overton - committee member, Samantha Dunn - Lyster Ward Councillor, Shire of Yarra Ranges, Ann Davis - President, Peter Markes - Chairman, Upwey and District Bendigo Bank Helen Pike - Fernlea's manager, and Jan Lancaster - past President, it was Jan's vision that saw Fernlea House become a reality.

The funding will enable the house to provide 4 days a week on site respite care and 5 days a week in home services. The funding will mean the house will need to extend to ensure it has adequate space to provide even more services to our community.
It was a great day to celebrate, the committee has done a great job advocating on behalf of the house and I congratulate them on their efforts. The big challenge now will be to raise the funds to build the extension, but there is much support for the house and I'm sure they will be successful.

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richard di natale senate candidate

Yesterday Dr Richard Di Natale was announced as the successful Greens lead candidate for the Senate in the next federal election.

Me and Richard in Belgrave. Richard ran in the last federal election and visited our region often to speak to locals about their issues.

In a vote of Greens members across Victoria, Richard was elected to be lead Senate candidate in the next federal election campaign. This time the Greens chances of picking up a Senator for Victoria are high.

Richard will be visiting the Outer East soon to speak at a party fundraiser in Belgrave - watch this space for more info, but be sure to pencil 5th August in your diary!

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e-waste recycling gets closer

Good news on e-waste! A national e-waste recycling scheme was given the go ahead at last week's meeting of the Environmental Heritage Protection Council, made up of Environment Ministers from across the country.

This is a very positive step forward in managing e-waste in Australia. Electronic waste is growing at three times the rate of general waste, filling landfill sites across the country, with the added potential of causing contamination at these sites.

A national e-waste recycling system will see the creation of substantial green jobs in the waste management sector and has been conservatively estimated to be worth $50million per year.

Recycling e-waste has many benefits, recycling would remove heavy metals from landfill sites and also enable the recovery of some of the more scarce materials that go into the make up of electronic equipment.

It's great to see the that the EHPC are listening to the community and to industry, both have a high level of support for electronic recycling, now the important thing is to get the best recycling scheme we can for electronic waste.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

arts open up

Today saw the first day of the Dandenong Ranges Open Studio weekend. It was a great day out, artists threw open their doors to welcome visitors from near and far to chat, visit the studio, find out more about the artist and perhaps buy some work.

I managed to get around quite a few artists, seven studios in total, all welcoming with artists readily chatting about their work and the creative process.

This is me with artist Joy Serwylo (from Upwey). Joy's work is exquisite, intricate and detailed, using many different media in her creations. She has a great creativity and the political and social commentary in her works is engaging as well as thought provoking. Her studio is always worth a visit.

This year I also visited the studio of Karen Scott in Upwey. Karen does the most amazing mandalas and she has a particular passion for insects in her work. Her work is very precise, the colours rich and vibrant, it's quite stunning.

Here I am with Jenny Rowe, a sculptor based in Tecoma. Jenny's studio, set in a lush gully with towering tree ferns is wonderful. Her works are dotted throughout the garden and set quite a stunning sight. Her work inspires tranquility and her sculptures are steeped in mythology.

Dandenong Ranges Open Studio has a record 24 artists participating this year, their work diverse and covering many different media, themes and aesthetics all based on the theme 'regenerate'. If you want to see a snapshot of all the artists participating this year I highly recommend a quick visit to the Jarmbi Gallery at Burrinja, it's an impressive exhibition and reinforces the Dandenongs as an inspirational place for artists to live and work.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

it’s lantern time again

Time to get creative and make your lantern for Belgrave’s Lantern Festival Big and Bright this year. Workshops are being held throughout June to ensure you’re well lit up for the parade through Belgrave on Saturday 20th June.

Details are:

Come and find out how to make a big lantern that your community group, school class or friends can work on together to make Belgrave ‘Big and Bright’ for the parade on June 20! The Demonstrations are FREE and no need to book.
Sunday 24th May: Burrinja (Glenfern Rd Upwey)
1.00pm to 4.00pm (with Open Studios!)

Bookings ~ please phone: 9753 6234
Belgrave Library
Saturdays 9am - 12 noon
• 6th June
• 13th June
• 20th June
NB: people can also bring their lanterns from previous years for touch ups

Workshop Prices
$10 per person for bamboo lanterns,
$5 per person for decoupage lanterns or touch ups and repairs to existing lanterns.

For more information on the Belgrave Lantern Parade visit

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telstra comes to the party

It was great news to hear that after months of communication with the Belgrave Trader's Association, Telstra have finally decided to put funding towards some public art on their building in Belgrave.

The side wall of the Telstra building has long been an eyesore in our town. It's in a prominent position, on a well used laneway, linking Safeway with the main street shops. It's a hot spot for tagging and is a mess - but not for much longer.

This wall is a dreadful eyesore in Belgrave. Tagging often creates feelings of insecurity and unsafeness for many members of our community.

It will be great to see some public art replace this blight on our town.

Telstra has agreed to fund a project which involves local young people, the shire and the Belgrave Trader's Association. Although still in the early stages of development the project will focus on local schools in the area, being assisted by a professional artist. My congratulations to the Belgrave Trader's Association, they have directed a lot of energy towards this project and their persistent efforts have paid off.

It's a great way to show Telstra can be a good corporate citizen. Their reputation has been in question in this town with the ongoing
removal of public phone booths in Belgrave but this public art project is a positive move forward and a gesture of goodwill and I'm sure it will be a great feature of the town once completed.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

out of the blue into the red

Friends of the Earth and Watershed Victoria are supporting a free screening of Out of the Blue into the Red, a documentary about the opposition to the Victorian Government's decision to build a desalination plant in Wonthaggi. It's a good opportunity to learn about the social, environmental and economic issues surrounding this decision.

Click on image for more details

Where: ACMI - Federation Square
When: Sunday 24th May at 2:45pm
How much: FREE

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

kevin comes to town

Tonight the Federal Government held a Community Cabinet at Emerald Secondary School. Many familiar faces were there, some successful in gaining a one on one meeting with a minister after the public forum, others not so lucky.

Before the public forum I joined with a small but vocal group made up of the Sherbrooke Community School and others to protest about the government's fundamentally flawed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Sherbrooke Community School is very committed to environmental issues and passionate about raising the profile of these in the community. Students and teachers joined to highlight the government's lack of action in addressing the issue of carbon emissions, the proposed road through Tasmania's Tarkine got a mention too.

The public forum started with a speech by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who categorically stated the greatest challenge for his government was the global recession. Although I do not deny the seriousness of the global recession, I am disappointed to know that global warming was not on the radar as this government's greatest challenge. We will recover from the recession, but the continuing impact of climate change won’t stay on hold whilst we deal with an economic crisis.

There are many opportunities to respond to global warming and global recession in one hit, a greater emphasis on renewable energy, green jobs and transitioning our economy to a sustainable future would provide a better way forward and also provide the economic stimulus to respond to the global recession. And whilst building infrastructure is a good investment in our future and provides many job opportunities, building with a sustainable future in mind is a far better longer term investment in this country.

There were many questions from the floor covering topics as diverse as bank regulation, vocational education, troops in Afghanistan, solar feed in tariffs, Australia as a republic, project finance from Australian banks, foster care support but most interesting to me was a question asked by a young person about Peter Garrett's (Environment Minister) commitment to fund weed removal in the Dandenong Ranges prior to the election.

Minister Garrett responded by talking about the need for a national approach, the EPBC Act and the identification of key weeds causing problems across Australia. This approach does nothing for the Dandenong Ranges, most of our weeds are environmental weeds (as opposed to noxious), are not listed, yet cause untold damage to our natural environment and in some cases put people at risk (ivy destabilising trees).

It is important that the Federal and State government understand that their criteria simply do not fit when considering environmental weeds in the Dandenongs.

After the public forum I was joined by the Shire's Director of Community and Economic Development to meet with Minister Joe Ludwig (Human Services) to highlight issues about families and young people in the Shire.

As an interface council (located on the perimeter of Melbourne) the Shire faces unique challenges in delivering human services to the area. The fact that our municipality is both urban and rural, that there are distinctly dispersed populations in isolated townships with poor public transport, we have a high number of families with young children makes service delivery very challenging.

Our region experiences significantly poorer health and wellbeing than our counterparts in metropolitan Melbourne, particularly noticeable with lower rates of school completion, lower Tertiary Entrance Ranking scores and a lower percentage of young people attending post secondary education.

There is a higher likelihood of young people disengaging from school and work in Yarra Ranges, with a greater prevalence of 'at risk' behaviors and higher use of alcohol and tobacco.

It is important that the Shire continues to highlight the significant issues we (and other interface councils) experience to ensure that governments of all levels continue to be aware of the very specific issues for families living in our region.

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fernlea funded

stop press stop press stop press
At tonight's community cabinet in Emerald I learnt that Fernlea House had received an eleventh hour reprieve (again!) with funding of up to $479,000 per year for the next two years from the federal government.

My congratulations to all who were involved in the campaign to save Fernlea, it is a valuable palliative care service, providing a caring environment for those with life limiting illnesses. It is terrific news to know that Fernlea can continue to provide a service that is so precious in our local community.

For a campaign history visit:
fernlea fearful - 9 May 2009

yarra ranges minutes (page 11) - 24 March 2009
fernlea’s future in question - 4 October 2008
forests, arts, palliative care, scouts - a busy weekend out and about - 25 May 2008

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Monday, May 18, 2009

tv takeback reborn

Environment Victoria and the Total Environment Centre have launched a new website, Reborn, in their campaign for a national e-waste recycling scheme. In April Environment Victoria contacted me to support a TV Take Back (e-waste) recycling scheme. There are many benefits and I was pleased to move a motion for Yarra Ranges to support the campaign (see blog) which was supported unanimously.

If we are genuine about moving towards a zero waste society we must move quickly to implement a national e-waste recycling scheme. E-waste is growing at three times the rate of general waste even though there is a significant market opportunity for recycling old TVs. A recent study by VECCI conservatively indicated that the e-waste recycling market was worth around $50million per annum.

Recycling old TVs would be of great benefit by removing heavy metals from our landfill sites and recycling would also enable recovery of some of the more scarce materials that go into the make up of televisions.

As part of the campaign, a sticker has been produced so concerned citizens can make their mark by plastering them on e-waste piled up on countless nature strips throughout Melbourne waiting for hard rubbish collection. The sticker is to raise awareness about
Reborn and to highlight that e-waste could be recycled. If you'd like some stickers email your address to:
What else can you do to help? Write to the federal Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett and the state Minister too, Gavin Jennings to tell them you support a national e-waste recycling sytem and they should too.

Want to know more? click below for more info

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a rare commodity in lilydale

report from the roundtable - 12 May

At the last meeting of council we had to consider a 26 lot subdivision in Lilydale. What made this subdivision application quite different to most council considers in Lilydale is that the land in question was covered by significant amounts of indigenous vegetation.

Planning officers had recommended a refusal of the subdivision and I readily seconded the motion to refuse the application.

The site is a rare commodity in Lilydale, it has high conservation significance due to the presence of habitat for the Powerful Owl and the rare Acacia Leprosa (Cinnamon Wattle).

I thought the subdivision was an overdevelopment of the site and the loss of vegetation was extensive. The proposal sought to remove over 170 indigenous canopy trees, 6 of them large trees, 4 very large trees under the native vegetation assessment.

The land is 250 metres from a know roosting site for the Powerful Owl, listed as vulnerable under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

These Powerful Owls (a juvenile and an adult) were photographed in Owl Land - Mt Evelyn. We are very lucky to have such magnificent creatures on our doorstep, its important we do what we can to protect their habitat. Many thanks to Francis Mayson-Smith of MEEPA for the image.
I thought the application did not respond well to the significance of the site and no attempt was made to provide building envelopes on each lot to protect vegetation.

I am pleased to say that councillors supported the refusal unanimously.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

10 cents can change the world

Today saw Greens MLC, Colleen Hartland, present over 4000 postcards to "the Minister for the Environment" supporting the Greens Container Deposit Legislation.

Gavin Jennings, Minister for the Environment, wasn't available so young Ewen stood in for him. Even before the legislation was introduced to parliament Minister Jennings indicated the government would not be supporting it.

In a rally on the steps of parliament, people came to hear Colleen speak about the benefits of a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS). A CDS puts money into the hands of community groups (the scouts in SA make $1 million a year!), uses less raw materials to make new containers, creates less greenhouse gas emissions, means much less recyclables in landfill and far less litter in our environment.

Last Thursday, Liz Ingham (Colleen's Electoral Officer), presented the benefits of a Container Deposit Scheme to a group of interested people in Warburton, the night was organised by the Upper Yarra Greens.

Julian Guess - Convenor of the Upper Yarra Greens, me and Liz Ingham - Colleen Hartland's Electoral Officer in Warburton. People were very supportive of the scheme, the benefits of restaurants having a financial incentive to recycle received a great response.

Today's rally on the steps of parliament to support the introduction of a Container Deposit Scheme. The Shire of Yarra Ranges supports the introduction of drink container deposits and recently voted to gain the broader support of all Victorian municipalities at the upcoming MAV State Conference.

94% of Victorians support a Container Deposit Scheme and if the legislation is successful it will see 83% of containers recycled, as it captures all those drinks consumed away from home. The Greens have conservatively estimated that the introduction of a CDS will mean $390,433 more dollars in Yarra Range's budget per annum.

Earlier this week Greens Senator, Scott Ludlum, introduced a federal bill for Container Deposit Legislation.

If you want to see 10cent refunds on drink containers contact your local MP and ask them to support the legislation.

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climate change - our future is in our hands

Today I went along to Climate Change Human Sign event down on St Kilda beach, organised by L.I.V.E. (Locals into Victoria's Environment).

Thousands of people gathered on St Kilda beach to form this human sign. Many thanks to Aerofoto for supplying this image.
Along with thousands of other Victorians I helped to form the message "Climate Change - Our Future is in Your Hands".

It was great to see Sherbrooke Community School at the event. The students and teachers have a great passion for sustainability and the environment, I congratulate them on their commitment.

There is an ongoing frustration within the community that all levels of government are not doing enough to reverse the dangerous effects of global warming with today's message aimed fairly and squarely at the Federal Government.

The Yarra Valley Climate Action Group were there, the group is made up of concerned citizens based in the Yarra Valley. These citizens, from various walks of life, are deeply concerned about the threat from man-made global warming arising from greenhouse gas pollution.

The Federal government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme was deeply flawed and now it is even more so with the latest announcement that the Government will delay the scheme by one year and deliver another $2.2 billion in compensation to Australia’s biggest polluters—in addition to $7.4 billion the polluters are already getting.

As the globe gets hotter more and more species are under threat of extinction.
The Greens are prepared to support a minimum unconditional 25% target – the bare minimum required by science and the global community – to end 12 years of climate inaction.
After 11 years of climate inaction, Australia cannot afford to delay any longer on emissions trading. The future of our children, grandchildren and their children is at stake.

Me with Janet Rice and Greens MLC, Colleen Hartland.
Climate action is URGENT. Urgent action is cheaper than delaying action and it provides the green jobs of the future.

A weak 5% target won’t stimulate long term investment in the clean, green jobs of the future.

Today's human sign transformed its message with the 'Y' becoming the underline of our. The future is in our hands, it is up to us to tell our leaders that we want serious action on climate change now.
Many thanks to Aerofoto for supplying this image
Treasury modeling shows 25% target is affordable; by 2020 Australia’s GDP will be roughly three times the size it is today whether we have a ‘worse than useless’ 5% target or the minimum effective 25% target.

Australia will reduce its emissions by 4% on 1990 levels by 2020. The United Kingdom’s target is 34% on 1990 levels by 2020. It is clear who is leading the world on climate, and it is not Australia.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

belgrave has its say

Saturday morning I hit the streets in downtown Belgrave to talk to locals about the Belgrave Township Enhancement Project (BTEP). It was a great opportunity to talk to residents about what they valued in Belgrave, what they thought was missing and what they thought should be fixed.

Here I am with Grace Reid-Simmons talking about the possibilities for Belgrave.

Time and time again people spoke about the sense of community in the township and that was what they valued the most.

There was a lot of talk about the difficulty of walking to the township of Belgrave, particularly crossing Belgrave Gembrook Road.

People really appreciated the opportunity to have their say and know that the council was serious about taking into account their views. It was a great way to capture a range of views, many of the people I spoke to would never put in a submission to council and taking it to the streets is a good way to communicate to a much wider range of community members.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

open studio opens

Next weekend (23rd & 24th May) will see the annual Dandenong Ranges Open Studio event on for the 6th year. The weekend is an opportunity for artists to throw open their doors to the public, show (and hopefully sell) their works.

Me pictured with Tracey Roberts and Stax at the Jarmbi Gallery - Burrinja, both feature in next week's Open Studio.

It is a great way to spend your weekend, meandering from one artist to the next, throughout the spectacular Dandenong Ranges, which is looking amazing with all the autumn colour.

There were some very colourful characters providing entertainment at the launch.

Friday night was the official opening of the Open Studio exhibition at Burrinja. If you can't make it around to the studios, the Jarmbi Gallery has a great display of the many and varied works of the local artists involved with this year's Open Studio.
Me with Neil McLeod and Mark Westaway - that's Mark's work in the background.
The Dandenong Ranges has long been a place of great creative inspiration and Open Studio reaffirms the links between artists and local region.
Tracey Roberts and me, with her work in the background, Tracey is exhibiting in Open Studios for the first time.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

women at work

Earlier today I attended the Eastern Women's Business Forum, the second in a series of three forums across Yarra Ranges, Knox and Maroondah. The Forum is an opportunity to hear other women speak about their journey whilst sharing your own. Through networking women discover new techniques to apply to their own businesses and at the same time get valuable mentoring support from other business women.

Pictured left to right: Donna Donavan - Economic Development, Shire of Yarra Ranges, Trudy Lynam - Floriculture, Dee Lynam - Floriculture, Samantha Dunn - Councillor, Shire of Yarra Ranges, Rebecca McKenzie - Director Corporate Services, Shire of Yarra Ranges, Joanne Tate - Yarra Valley Winery Tours and Janine McClelland - The Remedy Group.

Today’s speakers were a wonderful group of women, all giving frank accounts of their journeys, the pitfalls, the highpoints and the lessons learnt.

Janine McClelland of
The Remedy Group, was a relative newcomer to small business and gave a very frank account of the journey that lead her to homeopathy. Her start was difficult, her knowledge of small business limited and her future was looking grim, but she had a complete turnaround. The positive energy she invested into her vision for her business was inspiring and she is now reaping the benefits of that positive outlook.

Dee and Trudy Lynam of
Floriculture spoke about how a random decision (influenced by a dog!) saw them end up in the cut flower and foliage industry. Hearing how their business had grown, their commitment to delivering a quality local product and their continual expansion of the business into new marketplaces was terrific. The use of the internet was one of the key tools in their success and expansion and they utilise many technologies across their business very well.

Dee Lynam went on to speak about her membership of the Wandin CWA and the core of CWA was about addressing social issues and their impact on women and children. She spoke of her recent work assisting bushfire victims with both material and emotional support. She went on to speak equally as passionately about her membership of Winhort, a group set up in 2002 aimed at encouraging rural women to become more involved in horticultural issues.

Her commitment to her volunteer work was outstanding and she is a fine role model for all women.

Joanne Tate of
Yarra Valley Winery Tours spoke about her journey from learning about small business at Healesville's Living and Learning Centre through to taking courses in Box Hill about tourism, an industry she was very interested in developing locally. Her passion found her filling a gap, in what was a very thin tourism market 17 years ago. Her advice was very practical, don't overcapitalise, the web is very important (Joanne spends more on web development than advertising in print media) and never stop learning. Her enthusiasm for what she does was catching and she is a great motivator.

It was a wonderful morning, MC'd by the Shire's new director of Corporate Services, Rebecca McKenzie who did a great job. The value of networking can never be understated and at today's forum the women took full advantage of the learning opportunities, business tips and support proffered.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

local plants launched

Early last week I went along to the launch of the Local Plants of the Shire of Yarra Ranges at Lillydale Lake. Although the directory was completed in early February, the bushfires set back the official launch date.

The online directory
is very easy to use with a very useful link to the Shire's mapping system to work out what vegetation community you live in and what plants are indigenous to your area.

It is an amazing body of work covering over 900 plants in Yarra Ranges, with photos for most of them, an extraordinary effort in itself. Marilyn Gray (ex Curator of Karwarra Gardens) has spent many years compiling the work, tracking down photos of rare species and tirelessly walking around Yarra Ranges to track down various species.

Peter Kinchington photographed most of the plants in the directory and has done a marvellous job capturing plants whilst flowering, their leaf form and their growing habits.

It is a great online resource for anyone wanting to seek out more information about plants in Yarra Ranges, what plant community you live in and what is a suitable street tree for you. For more details including a link to the directory visit my
blog entry.

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gardens all go at birdsland

Birdsland Reserve in Belgrave South will soon be home to the Shire of Yarra Ranges first demonstration gardens featuring innovative sustainable design. The gardens will be based on the shire’s Sustainable Gardening booklet and will be used by the shire’s Environment team to demonstrate a wide range of sustainable gardening techniques to school groups and visitors alike.

Me and Garrique Pergl at the Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery located in Birdsland, a great place to purchase very reasonably priced indigenous plants for your garden.
It's the first time the shire has created sustainable gardens to use as demonstration tools. The Birdsland Education Centre already plays an important role in educating people about sustainability and these gardens will assist them in understanding what sustainability means in a practical on the ground way.

The gardens will provide living, breathing examples of how native plants can be used to create sustainable gardens in urban settings, as well as sustainable ways to create a other gardens such as rockeries and vegetable gardens. A self-sufficient sustainable irrigation system will also be installed in the gardens. The system will have a solar powered pump and will catch and store its own water.
As part of the upgrade the Birdsland Reserve Education Centre will also receive a new amphitheatre and access ramp. A bush fire recently burnt through extensive areas of Birdsland, but I'm told the bush is regenerating well and there has even been some mass germination of 'opportunistic' plants, one, a pelargonium, which in all likelihood hasn't been seen since the last fires in the region.The Education Centre remained unscathed by the fire, which is great news as it plays an important part in the education of school children through the Shire's Learning for Sustainability program.

I can't wait to see the gardens to pick up a few handy hints and techniques myself.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

fernlea fearful

I went to Fernlea House earlier this week to join in an afternoon tea with friends of Fernlea. It was lovely to chat to the volunteers and committee, all who are all so dedicated to seeing Fernlea House continue.

Fernlea House provide palliative care services, but rather than apply a clinical model of care, they provide their care based on a more inclusive and wholistic social model. Their future is in jeopardy, with federal funding running out in June 2009. Although palliative care is a state responsibility, the state government refuses to fund Fernlea because they fail to meet the criteria.

Pictured left to right: Ann Davis - President Fernlea House, Helen Pike - Nurse/Manager Fernlea House, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell and me at Fernlea's open day last year.

Last year the Federal goverment took the decision to cease their funding, however after a significant amount of pressure via talkback radio Fernlea had a reprieve when their funding was reinstated. With this funding due to run out soon, the committee are doing all they can to source out new funding.

They are a valuable service to our community, providing them with wholistic care in times of a life limiting illness, I wish them well in their endeavours.

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