Field & Game Australia celebrated its 60th birthday in style at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The birthday cake was cut by Tom Chick, who was granted Life Membership of Field & Game Australia during the evening.
The citation read:
‘Upon joining the board in the early 2000s, Tom, through his sound financial management, enabled the board to navigate its way through a severe financial crisis, which threatened the future of FGA.
‘During his 15 years as a board member Tom not only took responsibility for the financial aspects of FGA, but played an important operational role in a number of major projects and key activities from conservation projects, Duck Season openings, the National Carnivals, as well as human resources and payroll matters.
‘Tom has always displayed commitment and a willingness to get involved. He personifies the volunteerism that FGA values and relies on.’
A few days later, the significance of the award was still sinking in for a man whose passion for FGA is unbridled.
“It was totally unexpected and it is taking a while to sink in; it is very much appreciated,” Tom said.
Tom said he was fortunate to have the necessary skills at a time when they were most needed.
“It was very tough: we had, as the official record states, a fraud, and we were supported very strongly by our branches to get back on our feet,” he said.
“I steered the ship but I had a great chairman and a terrific set of people on the board. We did what we had to do: restore systems, turn around the finances and set a platform for the organisation.”
While the turnaround in finances was significant, Tom said that, during the same period, membership grew from 8500 to 17 000, the National Carnival was established as a premier event, and FGA returned to being a strong voice for conservation, hunting and responsible firearm ownership.
“My role was just one part of that,” he said.
“Walking into the room for the 60th was absolutely brilliant, to see old friends and to see an organisation that still has so much passion.”
Max Downes, a patron of Field & Game Australia, gave an impromptu address at the dinner on the importance of reminding non-hunters of our conservation history and our important contribution to preserving wetland habitat.
Professor Marcel Klaassen from Deakin University gave the keynote speech on his important research into avian influenza.
The suggestion that another pandemic like Spanish flu, which killed more people globally than were killed by munitions in World War I, is a matter of when, not if, might seem a little glum for a party.
However, Prof Klaassen had plenty of positives to report, particularly his relationship with Geelong Field & Game and his gratitude to hunters for helping gather live and dead bird samples for his research.
There was also encouragement for the consumption of wild meat.
The context was global warming vs the dramatic growth in meat consumption (particularly chicken).
His verdict: intensive meat production comes at a growing cost to the planet, so taking a wild duck for the table is actually better for the planet, making hunters a tinge greener than most people imagine.