Throughout the Victorian landscape, weeds such as blackberry, gorse and serrated tussock are highly problematic. Together with the detrimental impacts caused by European rabbits, these present a huge task that is impossible to conquer without collaboration. So, the Victorian Weeds and Rabbits Project was born.
The project brought together four existing Community Pest Management Groups, who joined forces to tackle both weeds and rabbits. These were the Victorian Gorse Taskforce, the Victorian Rabbit Action Network, the Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party and the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce. In April 2023, the project received national recognition at the 2022 Australian Biosecurity Awards for improving coordination, communication, resource sharing and delivery of community-based pest and weed management.
The Australian Government’s Established Pest Animals and Weeds program funded the $4.3 million project, which was delivered in partnership with the Victorian Government. Over its lifetime, the project ran 254 events and engaged with over 6,000 people, raising awareness and providing advice on best-practice control techniques.
The project was delivered in two phases. The first sought to understand the established weed and rabbit systems in Victoria. Project officers engaged with a diverse range of stakeholders across the state to explore how they were managing weeds and rabbits, the challenges they faced and who they were working with. This effort produced a series of ‘system maps’. Officers then used these maps in a workshop with over 100 participants to identify where intervention could best support community-led action on weeds and rabbits. The second phase of the project used insights from the system maps to collaboratively develop community-based projects. These projects helped communities to take on-ground action against widely established species and included a community-grants program, research, and leadership programs.
The Chairs of the four volunteer groups travelled to Canberra to receive the award. “We are honoured to share the Australian Biosecurity Award with our partner groups,” said Lyn Coulston, Victorian Blackberry Taskforce Chair. Ron Cosgrave, Chair of the Victorian Gorse Taskforce, agreed. “We are elated to have received the community award for our work in the Weeds and Rabbits project. It also acknowledges that our cause, our work, and the many volunteers who dedicated their time was seen and valued,” he said.
The achievements of the Weeds and Rabbits project reiterate that pest and weed management requires a coordinated, landscape-scale approach across land tenures, involving a variety of stakeholders. Speaking about the recognition, the Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party Chair, Lance Jennison stated, “I’m proud of what our group has achieved, and the party expects to build on this success through continued collaboration”.
The project’s success emphasises that we all have a role to play in pest management and, for long-term success, neither governments nor individual landholders should tackle these issues alone. As Gerald Leech, Victorian Rabbit Action Network (VRAN) Chair, commented “VRAN isn’t just about rabbits. VRAN is very much about people and about bringing people and ideas together and learning from each other. This award is recognition of participation from thousands of people in rabbit management across the landscape.”