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The lawless nature of Australia

Life on land

“If it is not bad enough that they leave the guts, heads, hands and feet of the Kangaroos at their pop up abattoirs all over the bush for tourists to find, now they are actually shooting these poor little Kangaroos right there in front of the tourists".

Peter Hylands

October 23, 2022

This is a diary of a wildlife crime unfolding. It is indeed a wildlife crime, but not in the State of Victoria, where its government actively promotes, funds and enables this kind of behaviour, it is no crime at all. This account from 2022.

Where and when you may use firearms (Firearm safety code 2011)

  • Before you do any shooting, whether with a firearm or air gun, you need to know when and where it can be safely and lawfully used.
  • You should take steps to ensure that your shooting does not endanger property or frighten, annoy or put neighbours at risk. Telling your neighbours about what you are doing is always a good first step. 
“The Code is a vital tool that has been developed in the interests of community safety and recreational shooting. I strongly encourage Victorian shooters to recognise the Code’s importance and actively practice the ten basic rules. In this regard, shooters will be able to continue enjoying their sport safely while avoiding endangering the welfare of others”. The Honourable Peter Ryan MLA’ Deputy Premier of Victoria

They come without warning

Andrea and I had been filming wildlife for  several days in this location, adjacent to a major National Park and right next to a tourist trail, where walkers enjoy (or try to) the wonderful nature of Australia. Our friend’s international yoga retreat is right here too. It was also in this place that Victorian Government staff photographed and filmed us as we went about our business.

Australia Day, 26 January 2022

7.20 am – Game Management Authority (GMA) vehicle parked in Cemetery Road, Dunkeld, the occupant searching for Kangaroos through binoculars. Andrea Hylands approached the vehicle, she was walking a dog on this road, to ask what was occurring. The vehicle drove off. The owners of the property in which we are staying and across the road from where there have been frequent Kangaroo shooting incidents, which they had written to the Environment Minister about on a number of occasions and without resolution, were distressed by the presence of the GMA. Particularly so on a public holiday when tourists are likely to be present.

Later on that morning, around 8 am, Peter Hylands saw the same GMA vehicle in the township of Dunkeld.

"I stopped to ask the government employee what their intention was, but the driver drove off again before I could speak to him, I thought that was dangerous".

Australia Day was a day of tension and anxiety. These vehicles have an intimidating appearance and do precisely that, particularly if the GMA are nearby a property that is trying to protect its wildlife. The logo itself is intimidating, as are the uniforms being worn by the individuals in the vehicles. We have the vehicle registration number.

"I have had a previous complaint from a property owner in Central Victoria who is a prominent protector of Australian birdlife, who said she was being harassed by the GMA who were sitting by her gate in their vehicle and leaving GMA material wedged in her gate".

January 27

9.13 pm – I receive a call from Jane asking for help. Jane, the owner of the property we are staying at, which is a yoga retreat of international repute. Jane was taking her dog for a walk, she was in Cemetery Road, which is where we all do our daily walks.

Jane was already in the road when the GMA arrived for a second time, along with a Kangaroo shooter, the shooter and the GMA arrived together, in separate vehicles and parked on the side of the road by the gate which opens into the paddock adjoining Jane’s property. I was at Jane’s property and also just about to go for a walk, when I received her phone call asking for help – we had recently finished dinner.

Jane was clearly distressed and later said she was frightened as she did not feel she could come past the GMA and the shooter, who were between her and her property, without being accused of disrupting the nights shooting. Jane told us that the GMA male person said to the shooter,:

"You have a call to make".

Jane took that to mean he should call the police. Jane could be subject to a two year prison sentence if accused of disrupting the shooting. She was very frightened and hiding in the cemetery. So we went to help her by walking to the cemetery so that I could accompany her back to her home and business.

Here is the conversation that unfolded between Peter and Andrea and the GMA and the shooter, who were on first name terms and this appears to be common in relation to these matters. The GMA recorded the conversation and I informed them I was also recording it. Here is the transcript. I had my mobile phone – Andrea and her small video camera which she uses constantly.

January 27 evening around 9.45 pm

Here is the transcript of the interaction between the GMA / shooter / Hylands – I (Peter Hylands) was spoken over by the male GMA officer every time I tried to say something. This is the same transcript as given to three government ministers (by courier), including the Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, who denies knowledge of what was occurring here.

Andrea: I am going for a walk with my friend, where is my friend?

GMA female: My name is Jacinta and I work for the Game Management….

Andrea: I am looking for my friend, I am going for a walk with my friend.

Shooter: You have no right to be here you will get a $16,000 fine if you going to interfere….

Peter: Pardon. 

Shooter: It’s already been to court.

GMA female: This is the Game Management Authority.

Andrea: What are you talking about?

Shooter: Are you Mr Jesse’s friends?

GMA male: Guys, guys please.

GMA male: We are just here …

Andrea: A $1000 fine?

GMA male: Excuse me look….

Andrea: I’m going for a walk.

GMA male: That’s fine, that’s fine, we are just saying…

GMA female: Have got any identification there at all?

Peter: No, because I am going for a walk in the evening.

Andrea: We have been stopped to.

GMA female: We have not stopped you, you are welcome to keep walking. 

Andrea: I don't know what you are talking about?

Peter: Asking for our identification?

GMA female: Absolutely I can.

Andrea: We are living in Nazi Germany, are we?

Peter: Andrea … 

Andrea: This is fascism?

GMA male: You are more than welcome to walk down the street. 

Andrea: I am, I am going for a walk with my friend and her dog. 

Peter: And we were told we were going to get a $16,000 fine?

Shooter: I am just saying.

GMA male: The history is he has been harassed before (shooter: twice) if you're here just to walk down the street, fine. Going down the street, we have no problem.

Andrea: That's what I am doing.

GMA male: Okay, you obviously have got a video camera so I mean.

Andrea: I am a film maker.

Peter: We spend.....

Andrea: That’s what I do.

GMA male: Nobody is being aggressive towards you, please keep your voice down (referring to Andrea) just keep your voice down to the normal amount.

Shooter: Friends of Mr Jesse (the Yogi), you should not be here, simple as that.

Peter: Okay we are….

GMA male: Look everything we say is going to be recorded. 

Andrea: I hope so.

Andrea: Okay, (walks off calling out for Jane).

GMA male: if you want to walk down the street, walk down the street. We are just here with the shooter on a legal basis, he is here to......

Peter: Why is the Game Management Authority here with him?

GMA male: We do compliance with the shooter, we make sure.

Peter: Ok, we just want to understand what is going on.

GMA male: We do compliance with the shooter with his shooting, okay, we are here to make sure he does everything correctly and that's what we do.

Peter: You (meaning GMA) were here the other morning (GMA male: no we weren’t) when we were walking up the street.

GMA male: I certainly wasn’t.

Andrea: Peter it might not have been him. 

Peter: No I am not saying that.

Shooter: It was National Parks.

Peter: No it was the same car (GMA vehicle with logo of shooters) and they were filming, looking at Kangaroos through binoculars. I am just telling you that.

GMA male: Ok I got that……we are a small organisation and I reckon I would know that.

Peter:  I am a business person, we come here for peace and quiet, we are just saying that this a terrible experience.

GMA male: Okay.

Peter: And we won’t ever come back here (we did, to give Frank and Jane support).

GMA male: Okay that’s fine, that’s up to you.

Shooter: The judge went right off because Mr Jesse brings a lot of people up from Melbourne to be here and he gets them to walk around while I am shooting. It is dangerous and you people got to realise that it is dangerous, walking around filming me with the cameras or whatever. 

Peter: Well isn’t this supposed to be a tourist precinct?

Shooter: No it’s not.

GMA male: This is public land you are entitled to be here, we are going to continue on with what we have to do here so please go ahead if you want to walk.

Peter: All I am trying to say ……

GMA male: The shooter is a professional in what he does and he wants to be safe in what he does.

Peter: We come and stay here with people.

GMA male: Okay, that’s fine, what you do in your own time is up to you, that's fine. 

Shooter: You are not supposed to be here.

Andrea: No one has told us we cannot be here.

GMA male: Like we said this is a public road, you are allowed to be here.

Shooter: It’s dangerous while I am shooting.

Peter: What I am promising you guys, yes, I am sorry we are not wearing masks, we did not expect to meet anyone.

GMA female: yes, I was about to say to maintain the safety. 

Peter: What we can promise you we will never come back to this place again and you can expect me, and my name is Peter Hylands, you can expect from me international criticism.

GMA male: That’s fine Peter, have a good night.

Peter: Well we will not be doing that.

The shooting begins

There are gunshots, these start at around 10.00 pm as we are walking back down Cemetery Road. We are in pitch black darkness.

As the Kangaroo shooting commenced, other wildlife panic and animals rush to escape, colliding with fences and other obstacles in their plight. The Emu we had been filming and have known since she was a young bird, located us and rushed towards us, clearing the ancient and low fence (very poor quality) that surrounds the paddock – there is no farming and there are no cattle or sheep on this property – (just long grass).

The Emu sheltered between Andrea and I as we walked back along Cemetery Road, the bird was extremely distressed as we tried to comfort it.

All our lives were put in danger that night. We were told we should not be there, would be subject to a $16,000 fine and told it was too dangerous for us to be there, yet this horrid place is promoted as a tourist location and is close by the walking track now being promoted by Lily D’Ambrosio, the Environment Minister, who had just visited the new walking track. The fact that this was a tourism precinct adjacent to the national park was also denied.

"So people who live in a place, run businesses in a place. Have customers and guests staying at a place they own and have developed, have no rights to be there (nor have their guests), and in the process are criminalised when they are a very long way from criminals, leading gentle and productive lives".

It was also suggested that we were from the city and that somehow meant we should not be there. We have owned two regional properties in Australia, one in Central Victoria, our international home from the 1970s (destroyed by government activism and complicity with yobs at vast cost to us, these crimes have never been resolved) and a tropical rainforest on Cape York. We have done more to bring city and country together than most people in Australia would ever dream of. So these claims are deeply insulting to us.

“So my question to you Minister is simply this, why are people travelling such long distances to come to this particular and adjoining paddock to shoot Kangaroos with your staff accompanying them in evident support, the aim of which is to justify this conduct? Doing so when the owners of the adjoining property to where the shooting is occurring are clearly distressed and have clearly been treated in a prejudicial manner by all the 'authorities' with whom they have engaged, and why then, continue to allow and attempt to justify the shooting, month after month, knowingly humiliating, demeaning and attempting to criminalise these business owners?”

My view is that these are enduring human rights abuses of the worst kind, knowingly committed by a government that should know a great deal better.

To the Environment Minister:

"My view is also that under these circumstances the yoga retreat business in Dunkeld is so badly impacted by the behaviours described here that it cannot continue to operate undercurrent circumstances. The events of the last few days have clearly demonstrated that your government’s intent is to continue the abuse of both people and animals in this location, so the matter needs to be properly resolved and an honest assessment of compensation for damages and suffering needs to be applied. The alternative is to leave this immediate region in peace so that Frank and Jane can continue their knowledge based business activities, far more valuable and safer than the abusive killing of native animals for the personal gain of a few individuals, and at a great cost to the rest of us".

Aftermath of the shooting

You need to understand what happens in the aftermath of the shooting. The checking to see no animals were injured on the property we are staying at, dealing with the distress of pets, the utter feeling of disempowerment and depression of all present as the collateral damage from the nights activities is dealt with, continued until 4 am. The next day is ruined in terms of any possibility of working and so the damage continues.

January 28 

Midday – GMA back in Cemetery Road checking on where the shooters vehicle had been and where he had discarded the viscera and limbs (shooters appear to be taking heads with them to hide them). The pattern being investigated by the GMA, ie locations of shooting and dumping of body parts appears different to the usual pattern because the GMA were present when the shooter commenced his nights work and likely instructed him in how to behave because he was undergoing a compliance check.

No doubt the result of all this GMA activity, a glowing report on just how good all this is. Nothing to worry about here.

Summary notes on the consequences of this conduct

NOTE 1: Impact on tourism / visitor economy - As we understand it, Jane and Frank have an intervention order placed on them by Victoria Police on behalf of the same shooter, they say this order is based on falsehoods and we see no reason why we should not believe what they have told us. (Jane has made a complaint to the Police Conduct Unit regarding failure of police to take witness statement and failure to attend and has never received a response to that complaint, which is in itself shocking).  

The same shooter that arrived on this occasion comes to the paddock adjoining the yoga retreat on two or more occasions each month, despite knowing the great deal of distress and business disruption he is causing. There is of course no warning of his arrival, he can arrive at anytime during the night and on any nights when he can access a Kangaroo meat processing plant. The tension and anxiety caused by this uncertainty, coupled with the certainty that the shooter will come again, the concern about the visitors attending yoga retreats, safety and experience, is overwhelming.

The restraining order was applied after Jane and Frank and Samantha Sharpe had ask the police for help to stop the shooting of Kangaroos adjoining their properties. Samantha (these matters have been raised in parliament) who was suffering terribly from frequent shooting in close proximity to her now dormant, bed and breakfast business. Samantha has now left Dunkeld, forced out, business opportunities destroyed by the shooting and associated abuse. The abuse, including Kangaroo body parts (including a penis) thrown in her property. The property, which as we understand it, was a bed and breakfast establishment for twenty years, was sold, and currently stands empty.

NOTE 2: Carbon footprint and government expenditures. I have publicly expressed my deep concern about the carbon intensity (footprint) of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos. The event discussed in this document describes just how intense that carbon footprint is per dollar value (it is far worse in other larger states). It is nonsense economics and makes nonsense of claims that the Victorian Government is working responsibly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Here is likely to be what happened. The shooter drove 49.6 km from Lake Bolac, where he lives, to this location to shoot Kangaroos. He then drives to the meat processing plant in Hamilton or Camperdown (latter 110 kms) to deliver the Kangaroo carcasses and then drives back home (80 kms). That is a maximum round trip of 240 kms at a cost of around $250 (not including carbon cost).

The GMA have made three separate trips to Cemetery Road in three days involving 4 or 5 public servants, on one occasion, doing so on a public holiday. This involves hundreds of kilometres of driving by these individuals. All of these trips were using large vehicles, all of which were consuming (and inefficiently) large amounts of fuel (diesel) at a running cost per kilometer of around $1.20. So we are talking about costs here and carbon intensity likely to be running into thousands of dollars when wage costs and overtime are included.

The shooter shot three Kangaroos in the adjoining paddock that night at an approximate total value of $60.

The carbon intensity of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos also includes extensive long haul trips as interstate trade increases due to the growing scarcity of Kangaroos across the continent, lengthy periods of cold storage in remote chiller boxes (diesel) and increasingly long distances, are now required for shooters to find and kill Kangaroos. This needs proper investigation by the Victorian Auditor or other government body.

NOTE 3: 2022 Shooting Zone closure, given the intensity of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos, at the time of writing in the last quarter of 2022, it appears that the Lower Wimmera Shooting Zone has been closed because the dramatic decline in the Kangaroo population in this region or zone.