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Posted on 04/03/2019 by Phillip Island Nature Parks


Community Open Day is a Conservation Celebration

Bass Coast Shire residents flocked to Phillip Island Nature Parks to enjoy their annual Community Open Day despite the hot conditions on Sunday 3 March. 

The day offered free entry to all Nature Parks attractions as well as a program of activities with rangers and volunteers to allow the community to experience and learn more about the Nature Parks’ environmental programs and community involvement.

The event also provided the occasion to launch the Nature Parks’ new 30-Year Conservation Vision - Beyond the Horizon.

The day began with an early morning dog walk on the beach at the ‘Dogs’ Breakfast’ activity.  Held at the Colonnades at Cape Woolamai, residents walked with their dogs and Nature Parks’ rangers and Hooded Plover Watch volunteers to view the resident Hooded plovers. Visitors learned about the tiny threatened shorebirds and how responsible dog owners and wildlife can live together successfully. Each dog was given a ‘follow my lead’ bandana made by Boomerang Bags as well as a treat, while human participants enjoyed breakfast on the beach.

Churchill Island then opened its doors with a special program of farming activities, old time games, face painting and fun. Children were invited to try their hand at old time chores such as butter churning, and visitor experience volunteers in costume enthralled visitors with the amazing stories of this historic island farm.

The ‘Antarctic Journey’ at the Nobbies Centre was busy from the moment it opened with locals experiencing the exciting exhibition. Dr Rebecca McIntosh was also on hand to talk to visitors about the problems of plastic in our oceans and how everyone can help to reduce this danger to wildlife, and gave an overview of the Nature Parks’ Seal Spotter Citizen Science program.

The Koala Reserve was the centre of activity throughout the day with the ‘Koala Experience’ walk before the Conservation Celebration at 1.30pm. This featured an expo with stalls and giveaways from the Nature Parks’ team and community volunteers, groups and supporters including Bandicoot Banter, Threatened Species, Barb Martin Bushbank, Bass Coast Shire, Blue Tree Honey Farm, Boomerang Bags, CFA demonstrations, education team building penguin boxes and making conservation pledges, House on the Hill Olive Grove, Karingal Berries, Landcare activities, music by Nic Huigs, Phillip Island National Surfing Reserve, reconciliation art activities and fun, Totally Renewable Phillip Island, Westernport Water, and the Nature Parks’ wildlife rescue team.

The CFA also made a surprise appearance at the event despite many of their team battling blazes in Gippsland, delighting adults and children alike with their firefighting displays.

30-Year Conservation Vision Launched

At 2pm, the crowd and invited guests gathered for a moving Welcome to Country ceremony led by Uncle Shane Clarke to mark the commencement of the launch of the Nature Parks 30-Year Conservation Vision - Beyond the Horizon which was developed in consultation with key experts including Traditional Custodians, Greening Australia and the local community. 

Phillip Island Nature Parks Conservation Manager Jessica McKelson MC’ed the launch event. The first speaker Alistair Phillips from Greening Australia noted the importance of partnerships in tackling conservation challenges such as climate change. Farmer and conservationist Anne Davie and Matt Ryan, founder of Island surfboards in 1969, then spoke of their longterm connection with Phillip Island and their support for the future vision outlined in the document. These community elders then passed the microphone onto Year 12 student, Alex Wilde who said:

“Phillip Island (Millowl) already has a rich history of the community taking part and volunteering, and as a future custodian of the land, I hope for there to be something worth preserving. We do not own the land. We are a part of it, and we must give to the land for the land to give to us. Thirty years in the future, I have hope that my children can see the Little penguins come home from the ocean…”

Liz Stinson, Phillip Island Nature Parks’ Board Chair then declared the plans launched and guests were invited to enjoy the stalls and a sustainable grazing table featuring local produce.

The conservation vision outlined in the document is in line with Victorian Government’s Biodiversity 2037 Plan and Living with Wildlife Plan. The Vision demonstrates the important role Phillip Island Nature Parks plays in protecting Victoria’s biodiversity and providing a haven for unique wildlife and important threatened animal and plant species.

The document details major future challenges including adapting to climate change, controlling the effects of a growing population and maintaining the wild populations of land and marine animals and plants amidst increased development pressure and the effects of pollution.

“This plan expresses our bold conservation aspiration for Phillip Island Nature Parks as a place offering an enhanced, authentic and diverse visitor experience founded on the highest conservation principles and informed by scientific research and is supported by our 5-Year Conservation Plan 2019-2023.”

“We take this responsibility seriously and look forward to working together towards a better future for Phillip Island (Millowl) where conservation and ecotourism excellence inspire people to actively protect the natural environment.”

Both plans can now be read at  

Fox rangers Stu and Craig then gave an interactive demonstration of the incredible sense of smell that fox detection dogs Sam and Jazz use to assist the Nature Parks in trying to find any last remaining foxes on Phillip Island. The pair runs over 1,700km each year in their search.

In the early evening, Little penguin experts Dr Andre Chiaradia and Marjolein van Polanan Petel from the Nature Parks’ research department led ‘The Private Lives of Penguins’ tour. Locals learned about the lives of little penguins and the important world-leading scientific research programs run by the Nature Parks’ Conservation Team which are supported by the work of the Phillip Island Penguin Foundation. On the day, Westernport Water donated the funds they raised at their stall to the work of this important charity.

As the sun faded in the sky, locals then settled in to enjoy the evening Penguin Parade where they marvelled at the little penguins coming ashore after a day’s fishing and returning to their burrows.

The Nature Parks team thanks everyone for being a part of the day to mark the annual event in their diary for the first Sunday in March next year. See you there!


Media Contact: Sally O’Neill | Community Engagement Officer | 0408 101 976 |

Catherine Basterfield Matt Ryan Anne Davie Alex Wilde Jessican McKelson Alistair Phillips and Liz Stinson Anthony and Di Egan from South Dudley at Churchill Island
Private Lives of Penguins Tour Cr Brett Tessari with Phillip Island National Surfing Reserve Eleanor McKay and Graeme Clauscen and Matt Ryan from Island Surfboards at Conser