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Australasian Plant Conservation

Originally published in Australasian Plant Conservation 17(3) December 2008 – February 2009, p 2

ANPC Annual General Meeting, 28 November 2008: President’s report

Bob Makinson
Centre for Plant Conservation, Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney.

Conferences and Workshops

The ANPC’s biggest event for 2008 was the 7th national conference, hosted by Mount Annan Botanic Garden and held in April at Mulgoa in western Sydney. Our theme, ‘Tackling the threats’ to plant species and communities, was addressed at species, eco-community and regional scales. This seems to have helped make the conference optimally accessible for the whole range of our constituency, from site-specific community practitioners through to policy people and researchers. About 220 people attended over the four days, with over 70 papers presented and a good selection of posters. Feedback from the conference has been excellent.

Over the last five years we have presented 25 training courses and workshops in six states and territories. This is a good track record for a small, largely volunteer organisation with only two part-time staff. But there have been some parts of Australia where we have had very little presence, so it was a big breakthrough when, in March this year, Helena Mills and Leonie Monks organised two well-attended workshops in regional WA on the topic ‘After the fence – wheat belt woodlands management and restoration’. Sustaining a greater level of activity in the west will be assisted by WA hosting the 8th ANPC National Conference in 2010.

Publications

One of ANPC’s key publications of the 1990s was the Germplasm Conservation Guidelines. Since its publication in 1997 there has been an explosion of seed research and conservation-oriented seed banking. Recognising this, in 2006 we began to develop a new, fully revised set of guidelines, in collaboration with Australian Seed Conservation and Research (AuSCaR), the consortium of Australian partners of the Millennium Seed Bank. For most of us, this has been bubbling along in the background, but for Cathy Offord (Mount Annan Botanic Garden), Tom North (AuSCaR coordinator) and the various expert contributors, it has been a major piece of work. This second edition of Germplasm Conservation Guidelines is scheduled for publication in the first half of 2009, aided by a generous donation of $10,000 from the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) towards final production costs. Our sincere thanks go to ANBG Director Anne Duncan for that help. The ANBG has a long tradition of promoting native plant knowledge and conservation and of ongoing support for ANPC, which includes hosting of our national office.

Our bulletin, Australasian Plant Conservation (APC), has benefited over several years now from excellent thematic planning and production by a succession of editors, including Tricia Hogbin, Tom May and currently Rosemary Purdie. We can be really proud of this publication. The range of articles is broad, the issue themes are relevant and timely, and quality of articles is high. The willingness of people to contribute articles is gratifying, especially authors from the science side of the business who are under a lot of pressure to give priority to papers for peer-reviewed journals. Within its circulation limits (and we do need to broaden those) APC is communicating effectively to the constituencies it is designed to reach.

People

This AGM marks the beginning of a transition process for the ANPC. Two Committee members, both of whom have provided much wise advice and expertise, are
not re-standing.

Jim Crennan, who has been Treasurer for three years, has done a tremendous amount to professionalise our financial systems, devoting far more time than we had any right to expect. The Committee has had much better information and forward projections, and has been able to take better decisions as a result. Treasurers are always hard to come by, and we’ve been lucky to have Jim’s expertise. In seeking a new Treasurer we need to stress to prospective candidates that they don’t actually need to do quite as much as Jim; he’s done many of the hard yards in developing systems, and the job should be a lot easier from now on.

Rosemary Purdie has been a Committee member since 2003, and has done much behind-the-scenes work to build up the organisation’s professionalism. Together with Judy West she was largely responsible for crafting our Strategic Plan, and she developed a PowerPoint promo that any of us can use. As APC editor, she has continued to maintain and develop the high quality of editorial coordination and production. We are delighted that even though she is leaving the Committee, she will be staying on as APC editor.

In the next few months we are also losing the services of our two staff members. Sally Stephens joined ANPC as project manager in 2004, bringing 30-odd years of experience in biodiversity management, conservation and communication. She seems to have gone to school or university with, or otherwise knows, just about everybody in the conservation scene. During her time in the Federal public service she organised key conservation conferences and networks, before joining us. That experience has been of enormous benefit over the last four and a half years, with course and event organisation being thoroughly professional (as the evaluation sheets from any of our events attest). It has been a great pleasure for me and the Committee to work with Sally. She has decided that she now wants to escape the desk and computer and get her hands dirty again (possibly volunteering on conservation properties initially), and will be leaving us around the end of February 2009 when we’ll be saying proper farewells.

Pam Strickland has been our office manager since 2004, initially at one day per week but growing to three days as she became more indispensable. Pam hasn’t set a departure date yet, but will be seeking a full-time job over the coming months. She has been responsible for much of the nitty gritty of the organisation, and has done a great job for us, maintaining smooth events registration and office systems, and handling a lot of member communication. Her energy and sense of humour have buoyed up us all, often when we were about to lose both at times of maximum stress.

The Future

So, over the coming months we will be recruiting staff. This coincides with a gap in our successful run of grant applications, and over the next four months we will have to pull out all stops in developing new funding applications. We currently only have a couple of processes in play, and if we are to sustain both our staffing and the high activity level of the last few years, we need a more or less continual stream of applications going up to funding bodies. All ANPC members can help with this, starting with canvassing the needs for ANPC-type courses (or other activity) in areas they know well, and then developing concept outlines for the type of event that might meet that need. You don’t have to be on the Committee to help with this! Please get in touch with any Committee member, or the office, with your ideas.

On behalf of the members I thank the whole 2008 Committee, especially the departing members, and I welcome the new members to be elected at this AGM.

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