State Game Reserves
In 1958, a report was released by the Victorian Government which stated that the Pacific Black Duck could become extinct in as little as 10 years. The prospect of losing Victoria’s premier game bird horrified hunters.
In response, concerned hunters rallied together to present a united voice on field shooting and game management, and the Victorian Field & Game Association was formed. One of the first tasks set for the fledgling Association was to lobby for a licensing system for Victoria’s hunters.
Hunting licences were introduced in Victoria in 1959, at the cost of £1. The licensing system raised over £34,000 in its first year. This new revenue source allowed the government to conduct research into the cause of the Pacific Black Duck’s declining numbers.
Then, as now, the loss of habitat was the cause. Massive drainage programs across Victoria were removing the shallow lignum and cumbungi swamps that the ducks called home. With this problem identified, the continuing revenue from game licences was used to acquire wetland habitat across the state, with a view to restore, preserve and maintain these habitats as a system of State Game Reserves for the purposes of sustainable hunting.
“Without the increased wildlife-carrying capacity... the rapid development of the State will leave little living space for game birds and other wildlife.”
–Arthur Rylah, 1959
State Game Reserves were intended to become powerhouses of native waterfowl breeding and feeding, to provide for sustainable hunting, and to compensate for the loss of habitat elsewhere. To achieve this, human intervention, assistance and management is needed.
Hunters are dedicated conservationists. The most obvious and overarching reason for their conservation work is sustainability: to ensure that the game they harvest for the table will be available in the future.
Since the inception of Victoria’s State Game Reserve system, hunters have helped maintain and improve the natural habitats at more than 200 sites, totalling over 60,000 hectares across the state.
Nest boxes, environmental watering schedules, active management and regular maintenance supplement and augment the natural habitat, and help to ensure that these reserves provide the correct conditions for the continued survival of many species - not just game birds.
Volunteer conservationists, such as hunters, contribute much to the active management of State Game Reserves. Yet these same volunteers have been locked out from the land they wish to conserve and protect, with neglected or non-existent access roads and tracks; and hunters are barred from pest animal removal – anathema for land set aside specifically for the purpose of providing quarry and habitat for hunting.
Without active management, the role of State Game Reserves in the conservation of native waterfowl and other species is diminished.
The reasons behind State Game Reserves has not altered since 1959. The biggest cause of reduced game bird species populations is still habitat loss. An expanding population has resulted in bigger cities, more land used for housing and urban developments, and the deprioritisation of water for wetland habitats. Now, more than ever, these pockets of amazing wetland are invaluable.
Today we recognise the importance of wetland habitats, such as those preserved by the Victorian State Game Reserve system. A 2015 Deakin University study has indicated that wetland ecosystems may be 50 times more effective at carbon capture than rainforest, and these habitats make vital contributions to biodiversity, water quality, and flood mitigation.
State Game Reserves are part of Victoria’s historic tradition of hunting and conservation. Field & Game Australia will continue to push for access to these habitats for hunters and the wider public to perform the maintenance and conservation necessary to ensure that our State Game Reserves continue acting as the powerhouses they were intended to be.
For more information on Sate Game Reserves, including maps please visit the GMA website: