Gleanings From The Journals: Who Was Our First Conservation Officer?

As the following article indicates there is much to be learnt from the old journals so much so that from time to time there will be a series of posts titled Gleanings from the Journals.

This first of the series was taken from Volume 36 No 10, November 2012 Journal of the Native Orchid of South Australia.

WHO WAS OUR FIRST CONSERVATION OFFICER?

Recently I’ve been looking over the old NOSSA Journals. I like (my husband says addictive!) reading history and even more reading original source material, so it’s not surprising that I’ve enjoyed this activity. There are some lovely gems in them. I like to read about the people, which brings me to the title of this article – Who was our first Conservation Officer?

Well if you ask Thelma Bridle, she’ll say that it was Karen Possingham but when I read in the April 1984 edition, I see that Margaret Fuller is said to be “the initiator of the Conservation Group” back in 1982. Margaret had a long involvement with the Bird Care and Conservation Group. She headed the NOSSA group who collaborated with the Education Department to produce Pic-a-Pac, an orchid teaching package for the schools.

Yet was Margaret the first? For I then read of two foundational members. Roy Hargreaves who is described as a “keen conservationist, ambassador and liaison person with numerous groups including SGAP, OCSA, Parks and Wildlife, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Black Hill Flora Research Centre, … an initiator of the R. S. Rogers Orchid House.” The other is Ron Robjohns who “drafted the Society’s Constitution and By-laws and formulated the Society’s Conservation Policy.” But ….. there is a third contender amongst the founding members – Peter Hornsby, the Society’s first editor and an organiser of field trips. Peter was always putting articles in the Journals relating to conservation. A keen conservationist and current member, he resigned his role as editor in 1981 to “concentrate on his study of the behaviour of the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby in the North Flinders Ranges.” And yet we could continue for there were other foundational members who took a keen interest in conservation.

So who was our first Conservation Officer? Well, Thelma is right. It was Karen Possingham. She was the first one to have the title Conservation Officer when she was appointed to the role in March 1992 – fifteen years after the founding of the Society, and remained in that role until May 1997 when she became a councillor with the Burnside City Council. Karen formalised many activities, organizing bi-monthly meetings, Conservation Booths at the various NOSSA shows, lobbying, weeding, etc

Below is her report of their first meeting.

CONSERVATION GROUP PRIORITIES SET                                       K. Possingham

The first meeting of the 1992 NOSSA Orchid Conservation Sub-Committee was held on Wednesday 15th April. The following priorities were set at the meeting:

1) Lobby politicians; resolution to write letters to the Minister of the Environment, to National Parks and Wildlife, Department of Environmental Planning, Woods and Forests and Leaders of the Opposition Parties, and request a meeting in July to discuss Orchid Conservation strategy.

Liaise with other Conservation groups such as the Conservation Council; join at first as an Association Member and find out about South Australia’s conservation concerns and needs.

3) Monitor Hills Zone development; – liaise with Mt. Lofty Ranges Conservation Association.

4) Prioritise high risk sites that are not managed properly and in danger of clearance, habitat degradation etc.

5) In short term adopt a Reserve such as Belair National Park in order to monitor known Orchid populations, raise Society profile and provide assistance in weeding and other such requirements. This will provide conservation experience for members. There is easy access to Belair from Adelaide and the park and conservation activities should appeal to younger members as well as older members: we’ll be doing something concrete!

6) Possibility to apply for funding from Endangered Species Program, World Wildlife Fund and Save the Bush, to work on endangered orchids.

7) Education: area at Warrawong to be fenced off from animals for native orchids to be established and protected.

Meetings are to be held bi-monthly: Next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10th June at 8

P.M. Anyone is welcome. Enquiries Karen Possingham, Conservation Officer, ph 364 0671.

Karen remained involved with the Conservation Group until the family moved to Queensland in 2000 where her husband Hugh took a chair in the departments of Mathematics and Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland. Prior to leaving Adelaide, Hugh had been President of the Nature Conservation Council, Professor of Environmental Science and Management at Adelaide University and instrumental in initiating biodiversity planning in South Australia. Hugh has made various trips back to Adelaide will be back here on 27th November to talk about Citizen Science prior to the Uni SA and ABC 891 Great Koala Count the next day.

I have wandered a bit from Karen as NOSSA’s first Conservation Officer but from what I can see in reading the Journals Hugh and Karen worked together in conservation and though no longer in South Australia are still actively involved in conservation. The objectives of that first meeting Karen left with NOSSA and continues to this day, albeit with changes to adapt to current issues and thinking.

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