Matthew 11:28 didn’t say: “Give me your poor and dispossessed, your marginalised and abused…and we will put them in prison.”  But that is precisely what we do.

Prison populations all around Australia are jumping.  We have more people in prison now than at any time in the last twenty years, and have leapt 40% in the last 5 years.  That’s shameful. But there is more.

The latest ABS stats, released today, say that if you are a black man in Australia, you are ten times more likely to be incarcerated than a white man.

Over a quarter of the prison population is indigenous.  And yet only 0.6% of our population in Victoria is indigenous people.  In my part of Victoria, Gippsland, it is now a rite of passage for young indigenous men to go through the prison system: this is where they meet their tribe.  This is where they become men.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Corrective Services, June Quarter, 2017

Vocational Education Betrayed

I love TAFE.

I love the practical stuff that TAFE represents.  Training that means that your job is right there at the forefront of your industry.

My story is not unusual.  TAFE took me from the community sector through horticulture and into disability.  I did further tertiary study in theses areas to add value to my TAFE qualifications.  But TAFE was the entry-point, the thing that enabled all the further study.

Because of TAFE I was able to move from traditional female-dominated sector (community work) to a non-traditional one, male-dominated one (horticulture).  Iit wasn’t just about breaking down gender stereotypes, it recognised that women have a lot to offer in the trades – we are patient, have good fine motor skills, and are reliable employees.  We turn up and do the job.

The best thing about TAFE in the 90s was how integrated it was with industry.  When I did my first course in 1992, I got a job in the industry straight away.  The teacher had chatted to an employer who said ‘give us a call’ and I walked into a job in a production nursery.

Then when my career changed again I was back in TAFE in 1997, my fellow students were all workers from local disability services.  Most had come to disability ‘the long way round’, through caring or volunteering, or a career change.  There were a fair few blokes – more than you would normally get if you simply advertised for staff.

Study after study shows that this kind of peer-educator group-work is the way that people really learn.  Not ‘quickie’ online certificates, but the development of real, hardwired, professional practices and standards.

Victoria’s vocational education used to be the envy of the world – it was connected to, and responsive to, the needs of a changing workforce and the changing nature of work.  Vocational education was the driver for our economy.  Not any more.

What a mess successive Labor and Conservative Governments have left.

Strezlecki Forest Agreement

Key sections of the Strezlecki Forests in South Gippsland are about to be handed back into public ownership.  

These beautiful, diverse, old growth forests were privatised by a Liberal Government twenty-five years ago.  They are only just being handed back to the public after being logged.  Their deep valleys contain significant stands of rainforest.

These forests are highly biodiverse, equivalent to tall, wet forests found in the Central Highlands and proposed Great Forest National Park but with a unique mix of warm and cool-temperate species found only in the Strezleckis.

These forests should now be protected within an expanded Tarra Bulga National Park, to be permanently reserved and safe from further logging.  

The Cores and Links Agreement is flawed and key links, and highly significant rainforest is not even in the Agreement.  It’s time to do better, Daniel Andrews!

The ‘Cores and Links’ Agreement

The ‘Cores and Links’ agreement was negotiated by the Bracks-Brumby Labor Government with Hancocks Victoria Plantations and signed in 2008.

Under the agreement, forests designated for timber harvesting in the Strezleckis could be handed back into public ownership after being logged (“once-off logging”) and re-forested.

The 2017 Hand-back areas

The area covered by the first hand-back includes three areas adjacent to Gunyah Gunyah Forest Reserve, an area in the Ryton Link, and College Creek.  This includes areas already technically handed back by HPV as well as those designated to be handed back in 2017.

(For more detail on these handback areas, see the map and article at

The gaps in the Agreement – Rainforest & the link to Tarra Bulga

Gunyah Half of the rainforest site of significance in the upper Agnes is outside the handback area, and the ridges above this rainforest are being logged in this current logging season.

Ryton The rainforest site of significance known as ‘Grey Gum’ should have been covered by the agreement but is not.  Its in the Morwell River catchment, immediately north of the Ryton Link and is not in the current handback, despite being significant.  A tiny coupe of planted Shining Gum within this block, at the junction of Radburns Track and Grand Ridge Rd, prevents it being protected until 2028, when the timber is due to be harvested.

College Creek The adjacent catchment, to the north of College Creek, is Middle Creek.  Middle Creek is a key ‘Link’ to Tarra Bulga National Park, of which only the middle catchment is proposed to be eventually protected under the Cores and Links Agreement.  It is not proposed to be handed back for some years.



Its time to stand up for the forests!

In 2017 debate has raged about forest policy in Gippsland, centred around the prospect of the closure of a mill in Hayfield because of reduced contracts.

The facts are that logging of Victorian forests has always been at an unsustainable rate. And bushfires have further reduced the amount of timber for logging.

The PR machine for the mill is working hard to convince decision-makers and the public that there is a resource out there that they are being ‘locked out of’ – there isn’t.  Here are the facts.

The trees aren’t there to log

  • When VicForests was created in 2004, the allocation order granting it access to the forests over the 15-year period from 2004 to 2019 assumed there would be 80,400 hectares of harvestable ash forest available.
  • In 2007, of this harvestable area, 19,600ha had been killed in the 2006-07 fires and 1,200ha killed in the 2003 fires.
  • A further 7000ha was incinerated in the 2009 (‘Black Saturday’) fires, reducing the total area of harvestable living ash forest to 52,600ha.
  • 20,800 ha of ash forest has been logged between June 2004 and June last year, including salvage logging of fire-killed stands (4000ha), and 1400ha is being logged this season.
  • There is now just 34,400ha of ash forest remaining for logging.
  • Of this 3,000ha is now in buffers to protect colonies of Leadbeater’s possum.  This is equivalent to two years logging at current rates.
  • Much of the remaining area —31,400 ha —is now uneconomic to log.

(Source: Nick Legge, Forest advisor, The Weekly Times, 3 April 2017,

Don’t be conned about arguments that millable timber is ‘locked up’ in national parks.  The national park boundaries have always been carefully drawn to exclude the coupes that the loggers wanted.  Thats why Erinundra National park outline looks like a donut – the boundaries were drawn around prime logging areas.

The logs aren’t there.  So its time to back off the forests!  They are more than just tree farms.  They are needed to help us survive climate change because they give us water, and retain our biodiversity.


The photo above is people learning about the values of intact old growth forests at the 2017 Forests Forever Camp in East Gippsland.

No More Deaths

In February 2014, in one of our small communities just outside Melbourne, an 11 year old boy died at the hands of his father.  Since then, we have had to come to terms with the reality that we have a horrendous problem in Victoria: family violence (

Luke Batty’s mum Rosie now campaigns to prevent more deaths, and was named ‘Victorian of the Year’ ( and ‘Australian of the Year’ in 2015.

Her determination, through her grief, to make the issue public has lead to the ‘No More Deaths’ campaign by an alliance of community legal, women’s services, and family violence services.  This has meant that that it has been a community-lead conversation about how we, collectively, respond to this, very serious issue facing our community.  The starting point for this has been that violence can be prevented, and promoting respect.

The No More Deaths election platform:

  • Keep women and children safe and housed.
  • Make the justice system safe and supportive.
  • Hold violent perpetrators to account.
  • Break down the service silos that endanger women and children.
  • Prevent violence against women and children.

In August 2014 the No More Deaths campaign released ’25 Key Asks’: a comprehensive reform plan (

On on Friday (21 November, 2014) they released the Family Violence score-card (  The score-card shows that Greens clearly understand the issue and were prepared to act on it.

If you look closely at the score-card, neither Labor nor Liberal have demonstrated to the electorate that they have a comprehensive set of policies to prevent Family violence.

The 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence produced more than 200 recommendations which apply across government and the community.  The Andrews Government accepted them all.  These have only just started to be implemented, so barely anything has changed.  The community response is still underfunded, and women and kids are still vulnerable.

On White Ribbon Day, November 25 you will probably see politicians from Labor and Liberal proudly wearing a white ribbon.

Ask them why they can’t better fund the community’s response to ending family violence – if they really mean it, why aren’t they prepared to do it?


Do you want to live in a gas-field or a coal mine?

I live in Gippsland, a region which up until recently has been covered in a patchwork of exploration licences for coal bed methane, brown and black coal reserves, and petroleum reserves.  This is one of the most fertile and beautiful places in Victoria.

The Andrews Labor Government passed legislation to ban Fracking in early 2017, but there is only a three-year moratorium on onshore conventional gas development.  I wrote this blog in 2014, but the threat of new coal and gas developments remains current.

The photo above is from North Seaspray, near Sale, behind the 90 Mile Beach.

The Minerals Council of Australia has said that ‘there is enormous potential for Coal Seam Methane (CSG) industry in Victoria’. The industry’s focus is on two main gas basins – one extends right throughout Gippsland, and to the west the Otway Basin extends all the way to the South Australian border.

The Government has strongly promoted the establishment of an onshore unconventional gas industry.  The community has forced them to pull back from giving the ‘green light’ time and time again.  Gippsland’s communities strongly oppose establishing onshore gas fields for unconventional gas reserves such as coal seam, tight and shale gas.

In 2012 the Victorian Parliament’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee (EDIC) tabled the report (22 May) into greenfields mineral exploration in Victoria.  The Committee Chair, Neale Burgess MP said: ‘one of the key recommendations of the report is for the Victorian Government to adopt a ’one-stop-shop’ approach to regulation of the exploration, mining and extractives industries’. The Government established a moratorium on 24 August 2012, saying that they were waiting for a national approach on the issue to be developed. The government then commissioned Victorian Gas Market Taskforce Report 2013 (led by Peter Reith) which recommended that an onshore gas industry be established. After a community outcry, the government extended the moratorium on 21 Nov 2013, ostensibly to provide for a community consultation process.  It expanded it in 28 May 2014 to include all new works approvals.  The moratorium is due to expire in July 2015.

While the moratorium is in place, companies can continue to prepare their plans to start an onshore gas industry.  All it takes is a works approval once the moratorium expires.

We need a permanent ban on all onshore coal and gasfield development.