Posted on 09/03/2018 by Phillip Island Nature Parks
Locals Love Discovering Their Island Home
Over 2,500 Bass Coast Shire community members enjoyed discovering their Island Home at Phillip Island Nature Parks’ eighth Community Open Day held on Sunday 4 March.
Locals flocked to the Nature Parks to enjoy free entry to all attractions including Churchill Island, Koala Conservation Centre, Penguin Parade and Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre with numbers up from last year across all sites.
The community also took up the invitation of going behind the scenes with Nature Parks rangers and volunteers to discover more about their island home which is also home for wildlife such as penguins, koalas, seals and more. Across the day, the Nature Parks’ team of dedicated staff and volunteers presented a sample of the Nature Parks’ wide range of conservation and community programs.
First off was the Dog’s Breakfast which gave locals an insight into the lives of the tiny, threatened shorebirds, the Hooded Plovers. Residents were invited to bring their dogs along to learn how we can live alongside wildlife through responsible pet ownership. Ranger Daniel Lees told the group how Phillip Island is now a stronghold for this vulnerable species thanks to a collaborative conservation effort by the community, volunteers, BirdLife Bass Coast, Bass Coast Shire Council and the Nature Parks.
A large cohort of locals was keen for the Churchill Island farm gates to open at 10am for a special program of sheep shearing, working dog demonstrations, wagon rides, old time games and chores and face painting. Curator Christine Grayden and Friends of Churchill Island Society volunteers delighted visitors with a talk about one of Churchill Island’s most colourful owners, Harry Jenkins.
The ‘Antarctic Journey’ at the Nobbies Centre was busy from the moment it opened with locals experiencing the exciting exhibition that leads visitors on a virtual tour to Antarctica. Ross Holmberg from the Nature Parks’ Conservation team presented a ‘Science for Seals’ talk about our seal research programs and the dangers of plastics in the marine environment and how we can all help to be a part of reducing this environmental threat.
The Koala Conservation Centre was once again a hub of activity throughout the day with visitors enjoying the ‘My Island Home Mini Expo’ of community groups including the CFA, Landcare, Phillip Island National Surfing Reserve, Boomerang Bags and Westernport Water. Nature Parks volunteers provided stalls with information about living with wildlife and their Reconciliation Action Plan 2015-18 which demonstrates a strong commitment to reconciliation, relationships, respect and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Hammers were ringing out as the Nature Parks Education team and volunteers assisted visitors of all ages to make penguin boxes before fox rangers Stu and Craig gave an interactive demonstration of the incredible sense of smell that fox dogs Sam and Jazz use to sniff out foxes in the environment. Phillip Island has now been declared fox-free, but the canine pair remains vigilant, running over 1,700km each year in their search to ensure this status is maintained.
In the afternoon, a crowd gathered for a moving Welcome to Country ceremony and cultural walk to Swan Lake led by Steve Parker. Steve also showcased a range of artefacts that had been found in the area.
In the early evening little penguin expert Dr Andre Chiaradia from the Nature Parks’ Conservation team led ‘The Private Lives of Penguins’ tour. Locals learned about the lives of little penguins and the important world-leading research programs run by the Nature Parks 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 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.
Competition for places on the sunset walk to meet the island’s critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots was fierce with the activity booking out quickly. Those lucky enough to attend were delighted to learn how the population is thriving and to see these tiny nocturnal creatures feeding and scurrying around.
“I am very proud to showcase the Nature Parks to our community each year,” said Catherine Basterfield, Phillip Island Nature Parks CEO who attended the day with her family.
“Our staff and volunteers work very hard towards the conservation of Phillip Island’s wildlife and its habitat and on days like this we can all join together to learn how to live with wildlife and create solutions to environmental challenges such as plastics in our oceans.”
The Community Open Day is held on the first Sunday in March each year - mark it on your calendar for 2019 now!