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Angair Inc was delighted to learn that Margaret MacDonald has been honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for her service to conservation in the Eastern Otway region. Margaret’s award was announced on Australia Day. While Margaret’s enthusiasm for the local environment and her tireless work and strong leadership in local conservation issues are well-known to Angair members, it is especially pleasing that her contribution to the environment has now received public recognition.

Following her retirement from teaching in 1993, Margaret was able to more actively pursue her interest in the local environment. Her initial interest in the Moggs Creek area developed during the 1960’s through involvement with the Girl Guides Association, when she took many camps at “Tallawalla”. However her real and ongoing involvement began in 1989, when she took up residence at Moggs Creek. Together, Margaret and her sister Kath eagerly explored the Anglesea/Aireys Inlet/Moggs Creek area, taking a special interest in the terrestrial orchids and the Sugar Gliders and Yellow-bellied Gliders at Moggs Creek.

Angair Inc: In 1991, Margaret and her sister joined the Angair Committee. Through her membership of Angair, Margaret met local conservation identity Mary D White, who aroused her interest in the local indigenous flora and fauna. Margaret’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge was matched by Mary’s willingness to impart her knowledge and share her expertise, so Margaret soon became a regular on field trips with Mary. An enthusiastic student, Margaret learned quickly, seizing every opportunity to accompany Mary, and take advantage of Mary’s own passion for the local flora and fauna, and so Mary became her mentor. When Margaret’s sister died from cancer in 1994, Margaret dedicated her continuing involvement in the local environment to Kath, whose enthusiasm and spirit of discovery had influenced Margaret so profoundly.

Wildflower walk in Great Otway National ParkFrom that starting point, and despite lacking formal botanical training, Margaret has become the most regularly consulted and respected local authority on the indigenous flora of the Anglesea and Aireys Inlet district. She was quick to appreciate the fragile nature and special environmental values of the area, and has also become one of its most impassioned and fearless advocates.

Margaret was elected as President of Angair Inc from 1994-1996 and also served as a Vice-President from 2000-2002. Since then, she has continued to be one of the most active members of the Committee, always ready to assist with or support Angair projects, and often shouldering the major responsibility for them.  Margaret regularly prepares educational display boards for Angair events and activities. Recognising the importance of the ongoing formal documentation of the local flora, she has overseen the preparation, regular updating and maintenance of Angair’s Indigenous Plant List, as well as plant lists for the many nature reserves in the local district.

Margaret played a key role in having the Mary D White Heathland Reserve named as a lasting tribute to Mary, who had fought against all odds to have this land acquired and returned to public ownership and incorporated into the Angahook-Lorne State Park (now part of the Great Otway National Park).

Through Angair, Margaret has sought grants from Botanic Guardians to fund surveys and the preparation and regular updating of reports on the state of rare/endangered species such as Olearia pannosa subsp. cardiophylla and Grevillea infecunda (a species endemic to the district). She has also liaised with academic staff and postgraduate students from Victorian universities to facilitate their research projects and help see them through to completion.

Margaret coordinates Angair’s Flora & Fauna Interest Group which is responsible for a range of activities including the programming of the monthly Get to Know our Tracks bushwalks, nature rambles, and newsletter articles on the local flora and fauna.

Book launch April 2009In 2009, Angair published Flowers of Anglesea & Aireys Inlet, a field guide to the local flora. Margaret (as editor) was also the coordinator, principal author, photographer and driving force behind the new book. It is proving to be an invaluable guide to the flora of the district for both professionals and amateurs and will also educate the wider community about the local flora – a critical prerequisite for the conservation of biodiversity in the area.

While Margaret remains a stalwart of Angair, her conservation activities have by no means been restricted to this group. There is a long list of other activities, projects and organizations and bodies to which she has contributed – either as a leader or a willing team member. Although much of Margaret’s time is spent in an organisational and coordination capacity, she is also an enthusiastic and energetic participant at working bees – pulling, cutting and spraying weeds, planting, and mulching alongside other volunteers.

Orchids: Margaret has developed a particular love of the terrestrial orchids of the district – she is now recognised as an expert on this subject. She is an active member of the Australasian Native Orchid Society (Victoria and Geelong Groups), and collaborated with fellow member and orchid enthusiast Everett Foster to jointly author A Field Guide to the Orchids of the Anglesea District – now in its third edition. This is a reference respected by amateurs and professionals alike. With her keen eye and attention to detail, Margaret (with her sister Kath) has been responsible for the rediscovery at Moggs Creek and Fairhaven of Merran’s Sun Orchid (Thelymitra x merraniae) thought for 63 years to be extinct in the area. Margaret also discovered the Angahook Caladenia (Caladenia maritima) – a new and endangered species endemic to Anglesea. She has conducted annual surveys of these species, has been instrumental in having their sites protected, and has lobbied to have them listed under the  Flora & Fauna Guarantee Act. In 2008, Margaret recorded the first observation of the Striped Greenhood (Pterostylis chlorogramma) at Moggs Creek.  At the Annual Angair Wildflower Show Margaret’s terrestrial orchid display is always a highlight, and her orchid excursions are quickly booked out. She particularly enjoys speaking to orchid groups and leading field trips to see the local species in their natural habitat. Recently, Margaret negotiated with the landowner of a new Anglesea development to enable her and a group of orchid enthusiasts to rescue some threatened orchid species and relocate them to a nearby nature reserve before the bulldozers moved in.

Friends of Eastern Otways: In 1991, Margaret was a founding member of Friends of Angahook-Lorne State Park (renamed Friends of Eastern Otways, with the proclamation of the new Great Otway National Park in 2005). As Honorary Secretary of this group since 1998, Margaret is the driving force and chief organiser of its many and varied activities, including working bees, mammal surveys, nocturnal spotlighting walks, wildflower walks, bush walks, excursions to institutions undertaking conservation work, newsletter production and preparation of submissions on important environmental issues. For many years Margaret prepared a seasonal display on the notice board at the Moggs Creek Picnic Ground, identifying flora and fauna that can be seen in the National Park. By developing links with the Aireys Inlet Primary School, Margaret regularly includes local school students in Friends’ planting activities, patiently encouraging their interest in, and appreciation of, the local environment.

In 2004, the Friends group, under Margaret’s leadership, prepared a booklet with descriptions and colour photographs of 28 popular short walks in the Park, to help the wider community safely explore and enjoy the natural environment of the area.

Margaret was involved in having Teds Ridge Track at Aireys Inlet named in recognition of Ted Faggetter, who established the Friends group.

Friends of Moggs Creek: Margaret marshalled and inspired a small group of local residents, known as the Friends of Moggs Creek, to work on the nearby coastal heathland and dunes to remove the impenetrable thickets of environmental weeds that became established near the settlement following the 1983 bush-fires. This project has been most rewarding, and has resulted in the recovery of the indigenous heathland vegetation in the area, and the residents have a new appreciation of their local environment, and a better understanding of their own responsibility towards its sustainability.

Anglesea Community Indigenous Garden: At Margaret’s instigation, Angair became a partner in establishing the Anglesea Community Indigenous Garden in the Anglesea Community Precinct. Margaret suggested rehabilitating an unsightly and neglected area that had been overgrown by environmental weeds, by planting indigenous species, to demonstrate to the wider community how indigenous species can be grown successfully in local gardens. With funding from Alcoa and the Surf Coast Shire, and by working regularly with Green Corps and Conservation Volunteers as well as Angair members, Margaret has seen this idea become a reality, and the area has been transformed.

Submissions and Consultations: Over the years, there have been many instances in which Margaret has been heavily involved in the preparation of submissions to the State & Local Governments and their specialist committees and panels, and to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal – particularly in relation to planning issues that threaten the local flora and fauna and its biodiversity, or the natural beauty of the landscape. With her understanding of fire ecology and her knowledge of the local flora and the locations of terrestrial orchids in particular, Margaret’s input to the appropriate planning of prescribed burns in the district has been critical.

On many occasions, Margaret has represented Angair or Friends of Eastern Otways at forums and on numerous consultative committees. Two particularly important cases stand out. One was her involvement in the compilation of the Management Plan for the Anglesea Heath – a special and floristically diverse area classified on the Register of the National Estate. The other was her participation as an invited member of the Community Reference Group that advised the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council that undertook the Angahook-Otway Investigation, which ultimately led to the Proclamation of the Great Otway National Park in 2005.

Anglesea Kangaroo Action Group: Margaret was a key player in the establishment of the Anglesea Kangaroo Action Group, which has resulted in a partnership between the local community and schools and the Department of Sustainability & Environment, Parks Victoria and the Anglesea Golf Club, with the principal objective of helping the community to live harmoniously with kangaroos. Once again Margaret encouraged collaboration with the University of Melbourne, and this has led to a number of postgraduate zoology students undertaking research on the Anglesea Eastern Grey Kangaroo population.

Surf Coast Shire’s Environmental Weed Booklet: Recognising that one of the greatest threats to the survival of the local indigenous flora and biodiversity is the invasion of environmental weeds, Margaret was instrumental in the preparation of the first edition of the Environmental Weeds:  Invaders of our Surf Coast – assisting with the text and taking the photographs.  She has since revised the booklet, and it is now in its second edition. War on Weeds – a series that has appeared as a regular feature in the local free press uses text and photographs from this publication.

Special Reserves: Margaret has negotiated with the relevant agencies and instrumentalities eg Surf Coast Shire, Barwon Water, Department of Sustainability & Environment, Parks Victoria and VicRoads to ensure that areas with special environmental values are appropriately managed. For instance, due to her efforts, Snow Gum Reserve near Anglesea, Greenhood Reserve at Aireys Inlet and Merrans Reserve at Fairhaven have been formally recognised and protected.

Flora & Fauna Action Unit: As Chair of the Surf Coast Shire’s Flora & Fauna Action Unit, Margaret has fostered a good working relationship with personnel representing various agencies including Surf Coast Shire, Parks Victoria, Department of Sustainability & Environment, Great Ocean Road Coast Committee, Barwon Water, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and VicRoads. Through her involvement in this group, and by being constantly vigilant, Margaret has on numerous occasions been able to draw the attention of the agencies and authorities to inappropriate site works or management practices that threaten the local environment, and work with them for a better outcome.

National Bitou Bush & Boneseed Management Group: In 2006, Margaret was invited to be a community representative on the National Bitou Bush & Boneseed Management Group. The group meets several times each year and is responsible for the development of a National Strategy for the management of these Weeds of National Significance.

Margaret remains modest about her achievements, but her personal qualities of optimism, belief in ideals, persistence, determination, readiness to take on a new challenge, willingness to share her knowledge, and her ability to keep sight of the bigger picture have made her an outstanding and inspirational leader and champion of the environment. All Margaret’s conservation work has been on an unpaid, voluntary basis. There is little doubt that her efforts and contributions to the wellbeing of the local environment and its biodiversity are exceptional and their value inestimable.

Celebratory Afternoon Tea
More than eighty friends celebrated Margaret MacDonald’s Order of Australia award at afternoon tea on Sunday, 20 February 2011. Surf Coast councillor Libby Meares, Frances Northeast from the Department of Sustainability, John Butler, a Fairhaven resident and a former senior manager with ALCOA, and John Dangerfield from Friends Moggs Creek, all spoke about Margaret’s influence on their areas, and her great strength of character and will.