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Original sin

Life in the air

“Human rights concerns have been front and centre during our research regarding wildlife abuse and violence in Australia. The latest duck shooting debacle in Victoria is an exemplar of that”. Peter Hylands

Peter and Andrea Hylands

May 17, 2024

An activity that not even politicians in the Victorian Government wanted, a government inquiry recommended against duck shooting and the public also overwhelmingly does not want it either. Yet this terrible activity continues so that a few can lock up Victoria’s wetlands, including Ramsar sites for weeks on end.

The fox in charge of the hen’s house

In an atmosphere of triumphalism, action by the Victorian Government, even importing DPI hunting staff from NSW to assist Victoria’s various government agencies, including Victoria’s Game Management Authority (GMA) to focus their attention, which should be about compliance matters in relation to the shooters, on the small teams of people rescuing wounded and protected birdlife, some species of which are endangered or threatened.

This year physical violence is being employed against the rescuers and shockingly by these government agencies in an evidentially prejudicial manner.


“Some residents have described living in a “war zone”, with reports of gunfire blasting early morning, into the darkness of night (outside legal times) and authorities nowhere to be seen. It seems authorities have been more focused on arresting members of the public trying to rescue injured birds, than on monitoring hunters' compliance”. Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting

Budget measures

The tally for Labor's funding for hunting / shooting in Victoria since being elected in 2014 is already circa $100 million”. Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting

And then:

In its recent budget the Victorian Government have allocated even more money to duck and quail shooting while denying funding to Wildlife Victoria, the state’s wildlife rescue organisation.

“While the government could fund the continuation of duck hunting with a $11.6 million investment, the state’s wildlife emergency response service remains critically underfunded. The funding request reflected the significant increase in demand for our services from the Victorian public and would have represented an acknowledgement from the Allan Government that wildlife emergency services are crucial to the protection of our native species.” Wildlife Victoria

You are not welcome here

A warning to the curious, you are not welcome here, like something out of an M. R. James horror story, increasingly the public places and spaces in Victoria resonate with a sense of foreboding. Whether National Park or Ramsar Wetland – you should not be here when I am here – what are you doing here – can I see your identification – it is dangerous to be here and on it goes, threatening and sinister.

The question we should all ask is how can a small number of, mostly men, with guns dominate and lock up public lands in Victoria in this way? If you think visiting Ramsar sites and other wetlands in Victoria is grim and dangerous then what is yet to come from January 2025, when commercial exploitation of native Australian wildlife will be allowed on public lands in Victoria, will be even more grotesque.

Apart from the danger, the unpleasantness of visiting these places, which will include National and State Parks, will be the experience waiting for the visitors who don’t have guns in their hands.


No chance of justice

There is a direct correlation between violence to animals and violence to people, particularly so domestic violence. In Victoria the government supports and even encourages children above the age of 12 years to shoot Australian wildlife – this is even, in the poorest of taste, a feature of a government logo, displayed on the vehicles driven by public servants working for the GMA.

As we have seen over a very long period in Victoria there is little chance of justice for those caught up in the carnage of Australian wildlife in Victoria. Whether it is that they are interested in Australian wildlife and want to ensure that wildlife is treated with respect and conserved, or whether they just end up in the firing line with commercial shooters or recreational shooters on their fence line, killing the animals they know and love.

The Magistrates’ Court in Victoria is telling victims of the shooting that if they live in regional Victoria, they should expect to have spotlights shone into their properties and be able to tolerate gunshots during the night. Not the greatest thing for tourism or knowledge based businesses to hear.

The police also play their role in the sometimes extreme difficulties experienced by residents in regional Victoria. Recently in Dunkeld one business owner was told by the police that the shooter was:

"Doing his duty."

While what he was actually doing was putting their important regional business and customers at risk. There are many bad stories.


What the numbers tell us

Here is a rough estimate of what went on in Victoria during its 2024 duck shooting season. On the opening days there were 130 public servants employed from Victoria and interstate, to manage ‘compliance’ with duck shooting regulations. On an average season there are about 100 active bird rescuers, their role to rescue wounded birds (the wounding rate is very high) including protected and endangered species.

By mid-May around 25 per cent of the bird rescuers had received banning orders (banning them from the wetlands, including Ramsar sites) and fines significantly reducing the rescue effort for wounded birds.

According to the GMA, in the first five days they had issued 14 banning notices, with ten infringement notices to be issued, six briefs or investigations to be conducted. The shooters appear exemplary with none of the checked ‘over bagging’ and all licences were in order. Note there is no mention of the public servants from interstate, hunting inspectors from NSW, assisting the GMA during the opening period. It appears that equipment and other belongings were seized from the wounded bird rescuers.

“With the 2024 duck season opening last Wednesday, Authorised Officers from the GMA and partner agencies, including Victoria Police, are patrolling wetlands, creeks, rivers and lakes on private and public land across Victoria. From 10 April – 14 April 2024, more than 130 Authorised Officers conducted 226 wetland and waterway patrols. Authorised Officers checked 1,079 Game and Firearm Licences and inspected 792 hunters’ bags. Of the hunters’ bags checked by Authorised Officers, no hunters had over bagged. Over the first five days of the 2024 duck season, a number of breaches to game hunting and public safety laws were detected”. GMA