As one door closes, another one opens. The day Gould League came to town…
by Anne-Maree McInerney, Director of the Gould League
Although the closing of the Forest Discovery Centre in 2012 was a massive blow to the community of Toolangi, it didn’t see the demise of Forest Education, as Australia’s oldest registered environmental charity Gould League, (originally known as “The Gould League of Bird Lovers” established in 1909), was handed the batten and program content originally developed by the Department of Sustainability and Environment to continue where it had left off.
By the beginning of 2013 Gould League educators had been trained with new facilities in hand at the Discovery Tree (opposite the Discovery Centre), to run existing programs. Over the years as curriculum changed, so too have the programs. Today Gould League delivers over a dozen programs for schools students in years 3 to 12. All programs are linked to the Victoria Curriculum and cover a wide array of topics. These include: Forest Discovery, Adaptations and Changes in the Forest, Bush Biodiversity, Water, Bushfires and the Environment, Biomes and Food Security, Hazards and Disasters in the Forest, Wood as a Resource, Leadbeaters Possums and Relationships with Forests to mention but a few.
Programs not only give many young Victorians the opportunity to experience the forest environment for the first time, they also provide essential field work.
With Victoria experiencing increased extreme climatic events, it’s no surprise that the most popular program is Hazards and Disasters in the Forest which explores the magnificent forest ecosystems of the Victorian Central Highlands, and investigates the hydro-meteorological hazards and disasters that characterise the region. We visit sites with contrasting ecological functions and response to bushfire, and that are at varying stages of recovery from such disaster. We also discuss human responses to the region’s bushfire hazards and disasters, including prediction of risk and vulnerability, planning protection and mitigation, recovery and reconstruction.
Gould League was originally devoted to bird protection, prevention of egg theft, promoting education about birds, and campaigning for the formation of bird sanctuaries. It published educational materials and provided activities including field days to introduce the public to birdlife.
According to a 2011 Sydney Morning Herald report of those early years, ‘Members—mostly school children, who joined for life for a penny—signed the Gould League Pledge, ‘to protect all birds except those that are noxious, and to refrain from the unnecessary collection of wild bird eggs’. The movement spread rapidly. Within a year branches had been formed in more than 1000 schools. At the league’s peak in the late 1950s, membership had reached about 155,000.’
Time Brings a Broader Focus: After the 1960s, the league focused more on overall environmental education, and the more general name Gould League was adopted, without specific reference to birds. The league basically blazed the trail for environmental education in Australia, promoting its teaching in schools, publishing material, establishing field study centres and organising excursions. It’s historic and educational posters are as popular today as there were back in the 50’s and 60’s featuring bush treasures, insects, frogs, birds, fungus, native wildlife including Toolangi’s very own Leadbeater Possum.
More than a million people over the years have become members of Gould League, with many original members now signing up their Grandchildren to carry over their legacy to protect native flora and fauna.
Discover more about Gould League and the role they played and continue in Toolangi as they participate in the Toolangi-Castella historical exhibition and open day. Gould League will be part of the exhibition in the hall, and will open the Discovery Tree (opposite the Discovery Centre) Sunday February 20th 2022 from 10am – 4pm.