| July 2003 marked a major milestone for wildlife care in Australia, with the first ever national conference for wildlife rehabilitators.|
There were more than forty presentations and workshops over the three days, held in the grounds of the Victoria University (Werribee) from June 30 to July 2. The speakers were of an outstanding quality, and every session was informative and thought provoking. Some sessions were controversial prompting lively debate - perhaps none more so than the forum on whether we need to create a national body. Eventually, there was a unanimous vote in favour of the concept. Delegates agreed to discuss within their own organisations, and to keep the discussion going over the next twelve months. NSW offered to host a second conference next year. There was a strong view expressed that we should work towards more concrete decisions at next year's conference. It was also agreed that Queensland would host the 2005 conference.
In addition to these discussions, there were a number of presentations on wildlife regulations, and what it takes to run successful wildlife care groups. Andrew Tribe presented an educational and entertaining paper on monitoring rehabilitated Koalas. Doctor Hugh Wirth (RSPCA) gave a forceful presentation on wildlife as pet (the reasons this is not a good idea), followed by two very different papers on the human aspects of wildlife care, firstly by Dr Kelly Miller, and then by Peter Brown (and Andrew Tribe). These were though provoking pieces which went to the heart of what motivates us to care for animals.
Over three days, Curt Clumpner from the US spoke on rehabilitation, and presented an insight into the rescue efforts of oiled birds during the Prestige oil spill. The quality of speakers was universally acclaimed as was the range and depth of topics covered. A highlight was a talk and video on 'Bilby Magic' by June Butcher from Kanyana in WA, followed by a presentation of an on-line wildlife rehabilitation course being offered by Victoria University, Wildlife rehabilitation in Barwon Prison, and a stirring and emotive presentation 'Helping Hands' by Tehree Gordon from Jirrahlingah (Vic).
There were so many good presentations from carers all over the continent, it is a pity we don't have room to mention them all. Likewise the forums were all of exceptionally high standard. In discussions at the end of the last day, every person I spoke to enthusiastically praised the speakers, organisers and even the venue!! Well done to Peter, Greg and their organising committee who have started something significant for wildlife rehabilitation in Australia.
(Updated July 5 2003)