Book celebrates environmental activism

April 07, 2018

Esther Costa, GVEG history book author Pat Patt, Louise Costa and Melissa Stagg.

CAPTION: Terry Court and John Pettigrew from the Goulburn Valley Environment Group.

(aaron/kim): lower goulburn river to become national park, Louise Costa- president of GV Environment Group, Doug Robinson- past president Historic decision: Goulburn Valley Environment Group president Louise Costa and past president Doug Robinson are celebrating the Victorian Government's decision to establish four national parks in the region, including Barmah. Picture: Aaron Sawall

It was the late 1980s and environmental activism was taking place across the globe.

One of Australia’s most significant environmental campaigns against the proposed Franklin Dam in Tasmania had taken place and thousands of people were turning out to anti-logging protests.

And in late 1989 in the Goulburn Valley, Barbara Leavesley took her own steps towards creating action.

Ms Leavesley contacted then-editor of the Shepparton News Robert McLean to see if there were other people in the GV concerned about the environment.

By May 1990 the Goulburn Valley Environment Group had officially formed.

Its rich history has recently been captured in a book titled Joining the Dots ... A History of the Goulburn Valley Environment Group, written by Pat Patt, which will be launched on April 15.

‘‘Robert (McLean) wrote about Barbara’s visit in the Shepp News calling for interested people to contact him so he could pass their details on,’’ Ms Patt said.

‘‘A group of about 13 people met at the Shepparton Library and discussed how to proceed.

‘‘The first public meeting was held on March 8, 1990, at the Alex Rigg Theatrette on Welsford St and more than 170 people attended.’’

Louise Costa, a two-time past president of GVEG, said the group’s role was to make the community aware of environmental issues, to help educate the community and to be a voice for the environment.

‘‘It’s always been our big thing to protect remnant vegetation,’’ she said.

‘‘Twenty years ago the big thing was salinity; group members spent a lot of time and energy working with other agencies to understand the salinity problem and what it was doing to the landscape.’’

It its more than 25-year history, Ms Costa said one of the group’s biggest achievements was its collaboration with Yorta Yorta nations and Parks Victoria to campaign for a jointly managed Barmah National Park.

‘‘It took over 10 years to achieve,’’ she said.

‘‘A dedicated group of committed people saw the process all the way through to the declaration of the Barmah National Park along with the Gunbower National Park, Lower Goulburn River National Park and the Warby Range-Ovens River National Parks in 2010.

‘‘GVEG gave people with a great care for the environment a place to be and a voice.’’

Since its early days Ms Costa said there had been a shift in attitudes towards less activism.

‘‘Concern about the environment has declined,’’ she said.

‘‘There has been a shift since the 1990s in better policy in some degrees with local government to help people do the right thing.

‘‘(But) the whole attitude towards activism has changed; people don’t see a need for activism any more.’’

Ms Costa said the publication, however, would celebrate the group’s victories and the work they have done.

Melissa Stagg, who completed the book’s layout, said the publication would also be a way to get the broader public to re-engage with GVEG.

‘‘It can be a tool to help people to see how much has happened over the last 25 years and also to highlight how much still needs to be done,’’ she said.

Joining the Dots ... A History of the Goulburn Valley Environment Group will be launched on Sunday, April 15 from 2pm at Victoria Park Lake’s Western Park (behind Aquamoves).

Afternoon tea will be provided and the chief executive of Environment Victoria Mark Wakeham will be guest speaker at the event.

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