Sadly this is my last column as chairman of Field & Game Australia due to circumstances beyond my control.
My professional life is with the Department of Defence and the involvement of FGA’s Heart Morass wetland in the emerging PFAS contamination investigations around Defence bases nationally raises issues of conflict of interest, hence I have regrettably resigned as chairman and from the FGA and WET Board’s.
FGA is a great organisation I have been proud to serve.
I have invested 22 years of voluntary service in various committees and my branch and I would be willing to do so again when circumstances permit.
One of the things you do in a leadership role is attend a lot of events and in doing so these past years I have seen first-hand the real strength of the organisation, its people and their commitment to do good.
Whether it is an organised shoot, a working bee, a wetland conservation project, pest control or pitching in at a hunting camp, our people are doers. Any grass roots organisation needs people to do things, to organise the firewood for the fire, set up the traps, order and prepare the food for the kitchen, to sweep out the toilets and check for snakes, to check and maintain nest boxes, to fix tracks, to man the nominations hut or to clean up and pack up afterwards.
Many organisations struggle with the basic tasks that keep them operating because too few do the heavy lifting, I am proud to say from personal observation, we don’t suffer that problem.
When I took the chairman’s role I wanted to focus the organisation on supporting and empowering the branch network.
Our branch network needs to be strong to continue to provide a range of events for members, and for our membership to keep growing.
On that path of strengthening FGA’s advocacy voice, it is terrific that we grew by two branches during the past 12 months.
I know the Bill Paterson, who has stepped back into the chairman’s role, and the rest of the board will continue to work on this.
As an organisation FGA punches well above its weight given the resources at our disposal.
FGA will face significant challenges over the next year, ranging from dealing with environmental issues that impact on all Victorian outdoor users, to working with the various departments in the 2018 season arrangements.
Make no mistake that the various agencies involved in game bird hunting will apply the precautionary principle due to past hunter behaviours. This situation will be a bitter pill for the majority of hunters. The hunting community will need to accept some reform in the future particularly as we recruit new hunters. Our efforts need to focus on educating them to make them successful. I congratulate the Geelong Field & Game branch on their initiative in this regard: they ran a very successful education day for new and intermediate waterfowl hunters that you can read about on page 78.
That said, one of the reasons I became involved in our great organisation was to fight for the freedom of choice to be able to hunt. Much to my delight both my children do and I value every one of the hunts I enjoy with Emily and Jack, and I thank them for allowing me the time to play a leadership role with FGA.
I have no doubt that they enjoy a lazy morning sitting over the decoys as much as I enjoyed doing the same with my father.
Our ability to continue our cultural hunting traditions is dependent on us all: our conduct and our respect for hunting is paramount. FGA is the sharp end of the spear for the hunting community, I encourage you to become involved in your branch committee and become local advocates for wetlands and the shooting sports. FGA will be sixty next year and our future is bright, I am proud of FGA’s conservation credentials and the advocacy role it plays.
To the board and staff, thank you for all your efforts and assistance during my time at the helm, particularly Peter Hawker our vice chairman for his support.
I also thank Bill Paterson for stepping up as chairman and wish him well.
My future will involve more field trips fishing and hunting with my children, a return to active participation in my branch at Seymour and whittling away some time catching up on some decoy carving.
To all members, shoot straight, be safe and be proud.