It is not often community groups are credited with being industry-wide agents of change, however, formerVictorianState Wild Dog Program Manager Andrew Crocos says Australian Wool Innovation’s wild dog control groups have delivered exactly that.
“I think they provided the impetus, the light-bulb moment, that brought a group of sometimes adversarial people together to work in a collaborative manner for a common goal,” he said.
Andrew believes these groups were the linchpin of success for the present collaborative, grassroots approach to wild dog control now being undertaken in many areas of Victoria.
“They were established from2010 following pilot exercises to implement the community-led approach to wild dog control promoted through theNational Wild Dog Action Plan,”he said.
“The reason why they were so successful was that they didn’t actually operate like the usual onerous, formal, rural groups; there were no regular meetings, no minutes and no office bearers.
“They were formed on a district or valley basis and kept local.
“They had professional facilitators supporting them and the groups met for practical purposes such as training to become accredited to use 1080, for the regular collection of1080 baits and to learn how to set traps.”
Despite the emphasis on developing practical skills, Andrew said farmers would also use these sessions to share experiences and knowledge as well as to give and receive emotional support.
“One of the most insidious elements and devastating aspects of wild dog attacks for farmers is an encroaching sense of powerlessness that often develops into a feeling of being helpless,” he said.
“Being part of a group helped impacted farmers understand they were not alone, that the dog problem was best approached at a landscape scale and, by being part of a community-wide effort, they could achieve better results than they would have by acting individually.”
Victoria now has more than 20 wild dog management groups involving about 200 producers from across East Gippsland and the North East.