Posted on 14/03/2014 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Over 1000 Bass Coast Shire locals loved Phillip Island Nature Parks’ fourth annual Community Open Day held on Sunday 2 March.

Each year, the Nature Parks opens its doors to Bass Coast Shire residents to offer free entry to all attractions as well as giving people the opportunity to come behind the scenes to discover more about the important work of Nature Parks staff and volunteers.

The day’s events started with a gathering of residents and their dogs for a ‘Dogs’ Breakfast’. The group walked with rangers from the Nature Parks and Bass Coast Shire Council and Hooded Plover Watch community volunteers to view the resident hooded plovers. Rangers explained the importance of responsible dog ownership in protecting these vulnerable birds and Phillip Island’s wildlife. They also advised how residents can become involved in the ‘Hooded Plover Watch’ volunteer program.

The day’s action then moved to Churchill Island with a walk and talk through the historic house and gardens along with fun farming activities such as the ever-popular horse and cart rides with resident Clydesdale horses. Churchill Island’s dedicated volunteer guides also helped visitors on the day including Margaret and Hagen who have been guides at Churchill Island since 2001. “We volunteer twice a month and meet so many interesting people,” said Margaret who handmade the spectacular costume she wears - which is always a hit for photographs with visitors. 

The Koala Conservation Centre was a hub of activity throughout the day with over 80 people enjoying the walk led by ranger Ashley Reed with the support of Friends of Koalas volunteers. Visitors were also treated to water-wise giveaways from Geoff Russell from Westernport Water. 

The Barbara Martin Bushbank located at the Koala Conservation Centre was open all day for plant sales and a guided tour gave locals an insight into the work of staff and volunteers at the facility. Bushbank Coordinator Jenny Toy explained that the facility was established in memory of the inspiring local conservationist Barbara Martin over 15 years ago. Jenny and her team collect seeds and process over 80 species. She demonstrated the painstaking process of seed collection through to plant sales. The Bushbank is open to the public every Wednesday from 9.30am – 12.30pm, and on the first Saturday of each month from 10am – 1pm. Volunteers are always welcome to help the Bush Bank with their important work and Jenny said there are always great morning teas.

Throughout the day the community flocked to activities held at venues across Phillip Island Nature Parks including ‘Project Penguin Homes’ where participants worked with rangers to build timber penguin homes, ‘Bush Tucker and Birds’ held with BirdLife BassCoast volunteers and a ‘Shearwater Sunset’. 

Locals loved the ‘Wildlife Rescue’ activity where they learned about how the Nature Parks cares for sick and injured wildlife, gained tips for living with wildlife and learnt what to do if you find injured wildlife on Phillip Island.

Once again John Jansson, President of Phillip Island and District Historical Society, presented a very popular talk showcasing spectacular early images of Phillip Island and the fascinating stories behind them.

In the late afternoon, residents were treated to a fascinating walk and talk with penguin expert Dr André Chiaradia at the Penguin Parade. André enthralled the group with information about the lives of little penguins and the important world-leading research programs run by the Nature Parks which are supported by the work of the Penguin Foundation.

As the sun began to fall, a special Indigenous ceremony was held outside the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre. Boon Wurrung elder Caroline Briggs and Indigenous performer Jacob Boehme enthralled the crowd by asking locals to join in with the moving smoking ceremony and singing and dance performance.

The day concluded with a special Indigenous welcome message delivered by Caroline Briggs to the crowds waiting for the little penguins to arrive at Summerland Beach.

“We are very proud of our staff and dedicated volunteers and are delighted to showcase them to our community each year,” said Matthew Jackson, Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Chief Executive Officer.

“We would like to thank everyone involved in the Community Open Day 2014 and invite the community to consider joining one of the many wonderful volunteer groups who work with the Nature Parks to care for Phillip Island’s environment, culture and wildlife.”

“For those who may have missed the day or want to visit again, don’t forget that locals can visit the Nature Parks at any time throughout the year for the cost of one 3 Parks Pass with our special Locals Pass. You can find out more at www.penguins.org.au or by calling 5951 2800,” said Mr Jackson.

“Everyone is encouraged to mark the annual event in their diary for next year. Our Community Open Day is held on the first Sunday in March. Look out for advertisements and information in local papers and on our website.”