Delegates from the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently visited our department’s facilities as part of a week-long tour hosted by Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith’s office. Dr Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer and Deputy Director for plant and bee health, and her colleague Sam Bishop, Head of International plant health policy and risk co-ordination, took part in a “biosecurity system snapshot” in Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney.
The tour began at the Melbourne gateway facility, where the delegates met detector dogs and saw how mail items are inspected. They continued to the Mickleham Plant Entry Quarantine facility to tour glasshouses and plant laboratories. At La Trobe University, they visited Agribio to discuss new diagnostic techniques and biological control with researchers.
The following day Professor Tim Entwisle, outgoing Director of the Royal Victorian Botanic Gardens, described the ongoing biosecurity work at the gardens and their planning for climate change. Professor David Cantrell, Chief Botanist at the gardens and Director of the National Herbarium of Victoria showed the delegation around the herbarium, providing insight on significant specimens to Australia and the UK. On the delegation’s final Melbourne stop at the department’s new regional office at Moonee Ponds, staff explained Australia’s biosecurity continuum, from onshore surveillance and border interceptions, through to identification and treatment.
The tour continued in Canberra with visits to Plant Health Australia, the National Arboretum and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. The delegates also stopped by ‘Agriculture House’ for a morning tea hosted by the ACPPO office and key staff. On the final leg of the trip, they visited the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney to meet with Brett Summerell, Director of Science, Education and Conservation; Mila Bristow, General Manager of Trade and Biosecurity Research and Development at Hort Innovation; and Jo Luck, Program Director of the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative. At the end of the tour, the guests expressed their appreciation and reflected that they’d seen many common priorities between our two countries and opportunities to work together.