A public meeting was called for May 23rd 1989 when the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater (the Friends) was born. It was due to the determination of the late Steve Craig that the public answered his call to do something about the plight of the Helmeted Honeyeater. Prior to Steve Craig rallying the public to become involved in conservation of the state bird, Bird Observation & Conservation Australia formerly Bird Observer's Club of Australia (BOCA) had worked for many years to save the Helmeted Honeyeater.
BOCA was responsible for influencing the State Government to proclaim the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (YNCR) and to have the Helmeted Honeyeater recognised as the State Avifaunal Emblem. Survey Cassidix was organised by BOC (as it was known then) in 1953 and lasted for ten years. The data from this long term survey provided the evidence to persuade the Government to take action.
The Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater recognise the work of both Steve Craig and BOCA.
From the beginning, the Friends realised that there were two important functions for the group to perform. Maintaining and increasing the habitat was the main aim which became known as Revegetation, and telling the story became known as Community Education.
In the first years the Friends were not required to work in YNCR. With two Rangers and a Works Crew for Yellingbo, the Friends began revegetation on private land. The Friends revegetated pasture land on sections of sixteen private properties that were close to the reserve. During that time the Friends developed a nursery complex at Healesville Sanctuary and YNCR. Eventually the nursery at Yellingbo remained, where the indigenous species of the area are propagated for Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water, Yarra Ranges Council, community groups and private landholders. The work was carried out by volunteers only at first, but the appointment of a Nursery Manager has improved efficiency and provided funds for the employment of a Friends Coordinator for Community Education. In the meantime, the Friends had to transfer their revegetation efforts to YNCR as there was just one Ranger for the total work force. The Friends collect from some 150 local species and currently produce about 80,000 plants for the year.
The position of Coordinator was recognised as so important that the Friends worked to obtain funds from government programs. After three years the position was totally funded by nursery operations. The Friends became heavily involved in Community Education as there was no interpretative material available. Over the years the Friends have produced posters, a school curriculum package, display material, two picture story books, a book of the flora and fauna of Yellingbo, a book of the first 20 years of the Friends and this website. Materials are sent to schools upon request, displays have been
held in the city, at the Royal Melbourne Show and at local festivals. The Coordinator provides talks in YNCR and in the wider community to schools and community groups. The labour for revegetation programs generally comes from the enthusiasm sparked by talks to the school groups.
The Friends have volunteered over the years for bird surveys, bird studies and supplementary feeding programs. In recent years the Friends have carried out frog and nocturnal fauna surveys within YNCR and in neighbouring properties.
Over the years Macclesfield Landcare Group and the Friends have cooperated on a number of programs. The Department of Sustainability & Environment (DSE) chose the two groups to produce a plan for improving habitat on private land. In February 2006 the Woori Yallock Creek Sub-Catchment Biodiversity Local Area Plan was launched by former Premier Joan Kirner. As funds become available this important plan is being put into action.
The Friends group is one part of a team that works closely together. The Parks Victoria Ranger, the DSE Field Ornithologist, Healesville Sanctuary Keepers and the Friends work as a team at the practical level to improve the critically endangered status of the Helmeted Honeyeater. The overall planning is the responsibility of the Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Team. The Friends have representatives on that body. Robert Anderson, President (1990-1998, 2002-2010, 2013-present)
- In 2015 the Friends were awarded Zoos Victoria's Hall of Fame Honorary Life Achievement Award for the group’s tireless work in the recovery of the iconic Victorian species
- In 2009 the Friends were nominated for the State & Territory Landcare Awards and were highly commended in the Landcare Community Group Award
- In 2008 the Friends were nominated for the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) Peter Rawlinson Conservation Award and were highly commended
- In 2008 the Friends were nominated for the PPWCMA Landcare Awards and received The Community Group Caring For Public Land Award
- In 2006 the Friends were nominated for the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority (PPWCMA) Landcare Awards and received The Caring For Nature Award
- In 2005 the Friends were nominated for the Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria Awards and received the Protection of the Environment Award.
Put a price on that! In 12 months:
- In 2014, 24 groups, totalling 691 people contributed 2,566 volunteer hours planting habitat
- In the last 6 months of 2013, nursery volunteers contributed 1,570 volunteer hours
- In the first 6 months of 2014, 31 different volunteers attended nursery days; 25 of these regularly attended once a week, sometimes two
- 70 regular
supplementary feeding volunteers contributed 5,400 volunteer hours to supporting the reintroduction of Helmeted
Honeyeaters into Yellingbo NCR
- Plus... many, many other volunteer hours in talks, meetings...
In the four year period (2007-2010) the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater:
- Presented 131 talks in the community with a focus on threatened species & the importance of habitat
- Engaged 9,019 people in our education program
- Developed and delivered a successful extension program for children with a special interest in the environment who attend our neighbouring schools, Yellingbo & Macclesfield Primary School's
- Produced 271,725 indigenous tubestock specifically for habitat plantings
- Hosted 105 revegetation days at Yellingbo with primary & secondary schools, TAFE, community & corporate groups
- Planted 52,577 habitat plants along Woori Yallock Creek
- Applied for 45 grants of which 33 applications were successful. The true value of which are at least twice that of the funds received when you take into account the matching volunteer contributions
- Through nursery sales and grant applications the Friends employed 2x 24hr paid positions
- Volunteers contributed more than:
- 5,990 volunteer hours to nursery activities
- 720 volunteer hours to specialist works within YNCR
- 7,566 volunteer hours to revegetation
- 1,080 volunteer hours to meetings
- 7,280 volunteer hours to supplementary feeding at YNCR
Total 22,636 hrs or $679,080 to in-kind works (based on Melbourne Water's Community Grant volunteer rate of $30 p/hr)
This is an amazing community effort, but there's more to do.
It's not too late to act but the time to act is now.