Gong with a pink slip

Landcarers left to sink or swim
BY JANE CANAWAY
16 Sep, 2009 04:00 AM

Land carer: After years of kicking environmental goals, John Robinson has been made redundant.

AS a show of defiance, the timing was impeccable; the day after John Robinson’s last day as the region’s Landcare co-ordinator – his position made redundant by cuts to government funding – he was declared the state winner of this year’s People’s Choice Landcare award.
“It was pretty ironic,” he said.

“Environment Minister Gavin Jennings told me he’d had a few people confront him about it at the awards, even though it wasn’t due to State Government cuts.”

Since 2003, Mr Robinson has been the main point of contact for about 24 Landcare and 100 ‘friends of’ groups across 10 municipalities, supporting volunteers in their efforts to improve the landscape of the Upper Maribyrnong and Werribee River catchments.

Many groups voiced their concern when the Federal Government introduced a new funding model in 2008, and their fears were realised in August when the money dried up for the region’s CatchmentCare program – and with it the wages of 80-90 co-ordinators across Victoria, including four employed by the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority. Along with Mr Robinson, Sunbury-based Sam Bayley also lost his job, while two colleagues elsewhere were given different duties.

Mr Bayley, who had been with the CMA for about two years, told the Werribee Banner he had “a few irons in the fire”, but Mr Robinson, 55, was not hopeful about finding a new job quickly.

Local groups were equally concerned about their future.

“Maribyrnong could not be without his services,” John Upsher of the Friends of Maribyrnong Valley said.

Wyndham Vale-based facilitator of the Western Melbourne Catchment Network Colleen Miller is one of the people who will try to fill the gap left by the co-ordinators but said she would feel their loss.

“Sam Bayley and I worked together really closely, combining our knowledge of local groups and available grants, but before that [Sam being hired] John was our main source of information,” she said.

“As well as linking groups together, showing groups what others were doing to inspire them, they also organised access to places you wouldn’t normally see outside of an organised tour, helped with grant applications and provided resources in terms of maps and information papers.

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Article by Jane Canaway

British-born, schooled in Holland and Wales, I worked my journalism cadetship in the Home Counties, escaped to London, then spent a couple of years travelling before settling in Melbourne, where I have written and edited for a range of publications, including Pacific Magazines [Your Garden, Home Beautiful, New Idea] and Fairfax Community Newspapers. Now a mother of two wonderful teenagers, I write about gardening, sustainability and people, when I can drag myself away from the vegie patch and my saxophone.
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