It is with much sadness that I pass on the news that Bernie Fox has passed
away. Bernie was a great friend to the "Friends Groups" of Victoria, a man
that contributed much to various conservation organisations around Victoria.
Perhaps Bernie's most well-known contribution was that he campaigned
tirelessly to have more than 1200 hectares of land added to the Brisbane
Ranges National Park in Victoria. I am sure that others that are familiar
with his achievements can do better justice than I can.
Bernie and his wife, Sue, uprooted and moved to Yanac, just south of the Big
Desert National Park around 2011 after his successful campaign to have the
Brisbane Ranges National Park extended. Bernie and Sue "built" their own
house on their property, Mali Dunes, in Yanac. I say "built", because
"excavated" is perhaps a better term. Their house was mostly underground, or
at least covered with earth to keep it cool.
Bernie and Sue devoted much of their time to rehabilitating Mali Dunes - a
property that was once a sheep station. With time and care, mallee
re-established itself and the undergrowth came back too. Bernie delighted in
the fact that they had several working Malleefowl mounds on the property.
Over the (all too few) years that Bernie lived at Mali Dunes, he and Sue
hosted many different groups - groups conducting surveys, groups camping out
on the extensive property, and groups helping Bernie and Sue with their
rehabilitation of the property. He will always be remembered as someone that
gave his all to the projects that he was passionate about.
Ruth and I met Bernie and Sue through our work with, as it was then, Birds
Australia - Victoria Group. In addition, Bernie knew Ruth because of his
involvement with the National Parks Association.
In 2010 Ruth and I set out to break the record for the most bird species
seen in Victoria in a year (we did break the record, and continue to hold
that record). We spent many, many hours in 2010 searching for Bustards in
Victoria, using historical sightings and concentrating our efforts in the
Yanac and Telopea Downs areas. I forget how many times we drove Millers Road
from Yanac to the South Australian border and back again, searching the
paddocks for our quarry. Unfortunately we never did record Bustard in
Victoria in 2010.
Bernie read details of our exploits and remembered that we had failed to
find Bustards in Victoria. But once he and Sue were in Yanac, he got to know
his neighbours, and, as it turns out, one of them had Bustards that were
semi-resident on the property. Through Bernie we established trust with the
landholder and, on one glorious Saturday in 2012, we set out in the early
hours of the morning from Melbourne, arriving at Yanac just on dawn. The
landholder and his wife, after plying us, and Bernie and Sue, with toast and
coffee, took us onto their property and eventually found us about 12
Bustards - an amazing, and truly emotional experience! After we had our
Bustard encounter over about two hours or so, we went back to Bernie and
Sue's property and had a thorough tour of the place before they gave us
lunch and set us on our way back to Melbourne that afternoon! I will be
forever grateful to Bernie and to Sue for that day.
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