A NEW partnership has been formed between Parks Victoria and the Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place which will see maintenance at Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve carried out by the facility’s low risk offenders for at least the next three months.
Minister for Corrections Edward O’Donohue visited Agnes Falls last Friday to announce the new partnership and to see for himself beauty of the reserve and to witness the work being undertaken by the group from Wulgunggo.
“Over the next few months, offenders will help carry out a range of tasks around the grounds, making the reserve more appealing to visitors and ensuring it remains a valuable community asset,” Mr O’Donohue said.
“It is important that we protect and maintain our state’s natural assets, so that visitors can continue to enjoy them for many years to come,” he said.
Maintenance of the reserve is already underway by a work crew, under the leadership of Shaun Braybrook – manager of Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place.
“Offenders have already started work on beautifying the reserve – generally tidying up and doing routine maintenance on a voluntary basis – giving back to the community while gaining some experience which hopefully may lead to employment once they’re out in the workplace,” Shaun said.
“We’ve tried to keep consistent with our work here at the reserve, but the hectic fire season and other urgent issues have meant that the reserve hasn’t been maintained as well as we would have liked,” said Gerard Delaney – Ranger in Charge at Parks Victoria.
“This partnership with the Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place is a fantastic solution and we are very grateful to Shaun and the group for their help,” he added.
Funding to the tune of $180,000 from the Victorian Regional Growth fund Grant via the West Gippsland Catchment management Authority has enabled the building of a new picnic shelter and new toilet block and construction is coming along well.
A geotechnical study was also financed by the grant and the results have made it clear that a cantilever lookout , which would provide a clear view of the whole extent of the falls, is absolutely feasible.
“This is a very exciting time, with maintenance provided by Shaun’s group, the building of the new picnic rotunda and toilet block, and the fabulous design concept for the cantilever lookout which would make such an amazing difference to the viewing of the falls,” said Kathy Whelan – secretary of the Friends of Agnes Falls Inc.
“It’s taken a few years and a lot of promotion of the falls, but it goes to show that the squeaky wheel gets the attention,” she added.
“We’d like to see Agnes Falls as one of Victoria’s top tourist attractions – maybe even beating the popularity of the Prom!” quipped Peter Lee, vice president of the Friends group.
“The recent fires throughout Gippsland, and particularly the Latrobe valley and Yarram area, have caused significant damage and created hardship for several small communities,” Mr O’Donohue said.
Mr O’Donohue explained that prisoners from Fulham have been removing fire-damaged fences and fencing wire, repairing fences where possible, and installing new fencing when it’s not.
“The community work crews have provided invaluable assistance to property owners by performing work that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible and helping communities in eastern Victoria to get back on their feet,” Mr O’Donohue said.
“Projects like these at Agnes Falls and in Yarram give offenders a real opportunity to make a difference to the community and turn their own lives around,” he added.
Community groups in Gippsland are expected to benefit from more than 49,000 hours of unpaid community work by offenders on orders this financial year along, while community assistance crews from Fulham provide more than 30,000 hours each year to help the local community.