Field and Game Australia
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Field and Game Australia (FGA), based in Seymour, Victoria is Australia's leading hunting and shotgun target shooting organisation. It also has a background in wetland conservation and preservation.
FGA's Mission Statement is:
- Field & Game Australia is a voluntary organisation formed by hunters. We partner with government and the community in the management and sustainable utilisation of Australia's wetlands for future generations by protecting game habitats through conservation. We promote responsible firearm ownership, ethical hunting and clay target shooting.
FGA has always been an advocate of "sustainable utilisation" as the best way to conserve the native flora and fauna of Australia. They believe that as hunters they understand the need for sustainable hunting. FGA volunteers undertake waterfowl counts each year to assist government wildlife managers obtain waterfowl population numbers and locations. These figures are not published but reported to the Hunting Advisory Committee.
Over the years its members have built and organised the construction of thousands of nest boxes across Australia. They are monitored regularly, nesting numbers are recorded, and introduced species are removed. This work has been very successful in breeding birds and educating the wider community of the importance of wetlands and their native inhabitants.
The Victorian Field and Game Association was established in 1958 at Sale. The name comes from "field sportsmen" and "game management' abbreviated to "Field and Game'. Field and Game was formed by hunters who were concerned at the loss of wetland habitat for the game birds they loved to observe and hunt.
Other resolutions adopted at that first meeting in 1958 were:
- To develop Victorian facilities for game bird hunting by the promotion of game bird conservation and management projects.
- To develop a greater public appreciation of the pleasures and values of game bird hunting.
- To organise a deputation to the Chief Secretary seeking the establishment of a shooter's license to fund game conservation.
FGA’s guiding principles and purposes as established more than 50 years ago are even more important and more relevant today.
Principles and Purposes Field and Game Australia (formerly the Victorian Field & Game Association) was pioneered by recreational Waterfowl Hunters who recognised that development of farmland after the Second World War was seriously encroaching on important wetlands, causing a rapid decline in waterfowl populations through the state of Victoria. The first Field and Game branch was established as a direct response to these concerns.
At its first meeting the Association adopted the following motto which, up until recent times, appeared on all its letterheads:
"The wildlife of today is not ours to dispose of as we please. We have it in trust. We must account for it to those who come after". ~ King George Vl ~
Initially the Association concentrated its efforts on three wetlands of significance: Winton Swamp near Benalla (now Lake Mokoan) Tower Hill in Western Victoria and Jack Smith's Lake in Gippsland
In those early days the Association appeared as radical in its aims as many contemporary conservation groups do today. This was because hunters placed a value on swampland, which because of its unsuitability for agriculture was otherwise regarded as being useless. Many in the community thought the FGA members odd in the 1950s when they proposed that regulated water from irrigation systems should be available to wetlands.
Building Assets for all Australians
Members of the Association lobbied strongly for the introduction of a shooter’s license system that would make funds available for the protection of wetland habitats. Under Sir Henry Bolte’s watchful eye, the Shooter's License was established in 1959 and provided Victoria’s first ever funds for game and wildlife management. Important areas of waterfowl habitat were purchased and the Game Research Station at Serindip near Lara was established – now a popular wetland education centre. The shooters license raises over $4 million annually. A new Game License introduced in 1990 raises another $1 million annually.
Recognition F&GA's efforts came in 1978 when the Association won the Conservation Council of Victoria's prestigious prize for the organisation that had contributed the most to conservation over a 5-year period.
FGA has over 15,000 members, over 60 branches and 51 simulated field clay target shooting grounds throughout Australia. FGA volunteers spend many thousands of hours on a variety of activities, including wetland rehabilitation and management, shooter education, waterfowl identification courses ("WIT tests"), firearm safety and training, pest and vermin eradication, and organised duck hunts and fox drives.
The individual branches are the members of the National Body. The branches' delegates vote at National meetings. Each branch is an incorporated association, with individual members being entitled to vote at Branch meetings.
The current chairman of Field and Game Australia (National body) is Russell Bate.
Its current Patrons include The Hon Malcolm Fraser (former Prime Minister), the Hon David Hawker (former Speaker of the House of Representatives) and scientist Dr Grahame Webb. Former the late Sir Henry Bolte, former Victorian Governor the late Sir Rohan Delacombe.
In 2009, Sale Field and Game spokesperson Gary Howard was found guilty in Sale Magistrates Court on the charges of taking and using water without authority, and with interfering with the flow in a waterway. Mr Howard was fined $1500 and ordered to pay costs of $1500. The Heart Morass adjoins Lake Wellington and water taken from the river was beneficial to the environment and did not deprive any other land users or downstream environments. The actions were uncovered by the Coalition Against Duck Shooting who monitored Heart Morass after learning that 100 Field and Game members had paid to hunt on the opening weekend. The police investigation showed that Mr Howard, who is on the committee of management for Heart Morass, had released water onto the property, owned by the Field and Game Association, just prior to the opening of the duck-hunting season, to attract ducks for better shooting conditions for paying members.
In Victoria, following the 2011 duck season where an illegal protester was shot in the face by a shooter and in 2012 when other illegal protesters were charged and prosecuted, regulations were changed to increase public safety. New regulations were adopted in September 2012 and will be in place for the 2013 season. They incorporate what is known as "human safety regulations".
Advocacy of shooter's rights
Field and Game Australia represents members interests with government and legal submissions from time to time.
In 2002, FGA gave evidence to the High Court in relation to the Yorta Yorta Native Title claim over areas in the Goulburn and Murray Valleys. The Yorta Yorta claim was over 200,000 km2 of land. The Yorta Yorta people gave evidence that they traditionally used the land to camp, hunt and fish. FGA gave evidence that they also traditionally use the land to camp hunt and fish.
In 2005–06, the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council proposed five new national parks (Barmah, Gunbower, Lower Goulburn, Warby Range-Ovens River, Leaghur-Koorangie and a significant addition to Murray-Sunset) and five new regional or other parks. This would have significantly reduced public access to public land currently used for camping, fishing and hunting. The proposal would have restricted boat access to rivers enjoyed by Victorians. VEAC's proposals were based on economic assumptions that were shown to be flawed. FGA engaged consultants to challenge the economic assumptions and VEAC's propsals were subsequently rejected by the Victorian Government.
Members of Field and Game are included in an insurance scheme that provides them with $20 million public liability insurance and gun insurance.
From 1963 to 1965, the VFGA vigorously opposed a proposal by the Victorian Government to drain the Hird and Johnson Wetlands near Kerang. Subsequent to their political victory, the organisation has worked to preserve these wetlands.
In 1978, the VFGA won the Victorian Conservation Prize for "the defence of Victoria's wetlands, the preservation of wildlife habitat and development of public awareness". The prize is awarded annually to an organisation who has shown outstanding contributions to conservation over the previous five years. The prize was awarded by the Minister for Conservation, but since the 1980s that prize has been replaced by LandCare Awards.
Research by the VFGA in Victoria during 1992–1993 showed that lead levels in Pacific black duck at Lake Buloke had reached internationally recognised levels dangerous to waterfowl (waterfowl ingest lead pellets with gravel – the gravel aid their digestion of food). This prompted the VFGA to work with government and take a lead role the phase-out of lead shot for waterfowl hunting, which was completed in 2002.
In 2001, FGA founded the Wetland Environmental Taskforce Public Fund (WET) to raise money to protect wetlands. WET has purchased the remaining Heart Morass wetlands from a private farm. Much of the wetland had been drained to create pastures. WET's purchase of the Heart Morass will protect it.
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