Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

For centuries, red gums have dotted the landscape in south-west Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. A few community members from the small town of Cavendish in south-west Victoria understand the importance of these trees to the local natural environment. But they wanted to share their passion more widely and put the spotlight on these fantastic trees.

A creative approach

In 2017, this small group set up the Red Gum Festival Development Group Incorporated (RGFDG). One of their first projects was an arts festival, designed to explore and celebrate all aspects of the red gum species and hopefully, increase community understanding and willingness to protect the local environment. They also hoped that it would help to attract more tourists who already come to see the famous trees, and in turn support the local economy.

Red Gum Festival, Cavendish – photo by Julie Millowick

A $3,410 grant from FRRR was the initial funding for the inaugural Cavendish Red Gum Festival.

A committee of 12 and a team of 57 volunteers launched the inaugural Festival in April 2018. They worked hard to establish strong relationships with numerous local groups, including the Cavendish Recreation Reserve Committee, primary school, Lions Club and Men’s Shed, to ensure the project had extensive support.

To spread the word and build momentum in the lead up to the Festival, the RGFDG hosted sculpture, photography and writing competitions, with winners announced during the Festival. On the day, there was a wide range of activities, including markets, food stalls, exhibitions of wood-turning and musical performances.

Other core elements of the Festival were the science-based exhibits and a symposium featuring experts in forestry, conservation and tree science, and a bus tour of notable tree specimens and new plantations. These contributed to a document that is being shared with local Landcare groups, farmers and other interested parties to help preserve the trees. There is also a plan to generate a map of red gums, as a way of monitoring their size and health.

Sustainable solution

A second festival is planned for 2020, and it’s hoped it will become a regular community celebration. The growth of this arts festival has the potential to build community pride, attract tourists and significantly contribute to the local economy. Plus, by raising awareness of the importance of the trees and knowledge of their needs, the community, including landowners, will be better positioned to care for and protect them.

Art drew the crowd, and data and awareness will preserve the red gums. The Red Gum Festival was chosen to participate in the Art Resides Here project as the community is using the appeal of arts and cultural activities to raise awareness about the local environment.

They will tell their story at Artlands Victoria in Castlemaine and Bendigo in October 2018.

Greening Australia (Tas) is a leading environmental restoration organisation, restoring and conserving natural landscapes, producing clear, practical plans that allow people and wildlife to coexist. Their aim is to optimise greater understanding and involvement of Tasmania’s biodiversity hot spot through the running of conservation and artistic workshops for the community.

They received a $4,000 grant from the Small Grants for Rural Communities program, funded by the Yulgilbar Foundation for their ‘Hot Spot Snapshot’ program, which saw Greening Australia (Tas) run two activity field days at Cressy and Campbell Town, south of Launceston in Tasmania.

University researchers, restoration ecologists, artists and the school community came together to share their skills and knowledge with students from Oatlands and Campbell Town. More than 200 people participated in the Biodiversity Day at Oatlands; 70 people attended the Big Biodiversity Night Out at Merton Vale in Campbell Town, and this was followed by a BIG Day Out on 8 September at Ross with 30 Campbell Town Students working with 70 Architecture and Design Students from the University of Tasmania to build ‘Species hotels’, sculptural works to highlight the planted habitats for the threatened species in the Midlands Biodiversity Hot Spot. These will be established as a sculpture trail at Ross. Campbell Town students also planted 200 trees on a site next to the proposed Sculpture Park.

The grant was used to fund the purchase of wildlife cameras, video production, workshop materials, and travel for students as part of this collaborative community project.

A summer hotspot

Bruny Island is one of those places that people tell you to visit in Tasmania – the population of this spectacular island, only accessible by car ferry,  swells from 700 to around 4,500 over the summer months. The local economy has made the move from a mixture of farming, orchards and timber harvesting to one based on ecotourism, niche food production, acquaculture and sheep grazing.

There’s more to this festival than feathers

The Bruny Island Environment Network (BIEN) was formed in 2009, and membership stands at 107. Its aim is to promote the biodiversity, cultural heritage and scenic values of the island, generate resources and support for their protection, support sustainable economic activity, provide information to landholders and the wider community about environmental and conservation issues, work together to address these issues and provide a framework for action regarding timber harvesting.

One of the group’s activities is the Bruny Island Bird Festival. The young festival, which held its inaugural event in 2010, required some infrastructure and equipment to help it gain momentum and achieve its educational aims.

The group was awarded a Small Grant of $1,093 for funding to purchase a 3m x 4.5m marquee that would be used as the key festival and visitor information booth.

Everyone joined in

The festival is a focal point for longer term education, art and conservation projects with local school children and various other community groups, including a photography and art competition that drew many participants. The Men’s Shed blokes built nesting boxes to sell, the CWA groups organised the market day, and catering and tourism operators and boutique food operators offered special guided tours, tastings and accommodation packages.

Not only would the festival be a boost to economic activity in an otherwise quiet period (late October) but it would help to fund the conservation activities of the BIEN and demonstrate the wonderful array of bird life and the potential for alternative uses of the South Bruny Forests to provide ecologically, economic and socially sustainable benefit for all.

Year round benefits

The event was a great success with around 400 registered attendees and accommodation on the island was nearly fully booked. Mr Graham said that they have seen a subsequent increase in the niche sector of bird related tourism. “The beauty is of course that the birds are here all year round, so once awareness is increased by events such as the festival, the benefits continue beyond that time.”

The marquee proved extremely handy – and was ‘invaluable in the smooth running of the festival’. Volunteers and businesses could direct people to the marquee for any assistance if they were not able to answer queries, and it was a point for patrons seeking last minute details of their booked tours. It has been used multiple times since the event and has proved a useful addition to the island’s community equipment.