A history of IFFA

In the 1970’s the idea of using Australian native plants in gardens and landscaping became popular. Australian plants attracted native birds an allowed us to escape the cultural cringe and impracticality of the green European garden.The importance of conservation was recognised, and Groups like the Conservation Council of Victoria (now Environment Victoria), Victorian National Parks Association, and the Tasmanian Wilderness Society (now The Wilderness Society) were being successful in lobbying for areas of the best indigenous habitat to be set aside as National Parks.

The Native Plants Preservation Society had hundreds of smaller areas set aside around Melbourne as Wildflower Reserves. But was also very clear was that in our everyday surroundings the natural vegetation and local animals were disappearing fast. The native vegetation just wasn’t valued.

Governments, utilities and individuals had no compunction about bulldozing native vegetation, even so that they could replace it with native plants. What was also clear was that environmental weeds would destroy the remaining bits, even National Parks, if they weren’t actively managed.

What was needed was a program to raise the profile of native vegetation and habitat, protect it from removal and degradation, and even start to reverse the trend by restoration and revegetation.

The Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association was formed in 1986 by individuals who were concerned about these issues. It aimed to: “Promote awareness and conservation of indigenous flora and fauna (particularly in the Melbourne Region)”. IFFA brought together people already doing this work and others interested for support, exchange of ideas, and to begin the task of convincing people that protecting and restoring remnant vegetation and planting indigenous plants should be basic management requirements.

One of the first activities of the group was to publish a series of pamphlets under the banner “Melbourne’s Indigenous Gardens”. The pamphlets encouraged the conservation of remnant vegetation and the use of indigenous plants in rehabilitation and landscaping, and gave local contact information for interested people who wanted to take it further. IFFA started publishing a newsletter Indigenotes, which soon became a well-respected source of information about managing remnant vegetation and about revegetation.

IFFA’s membership swelled to around 1000 in the early nineties. A NSW branch was set up.IFFA saw many successes. Protection of remnant vegetation became enshrined in law. The importance of managing environmental weeds was recognised. Native vegetation management became an industry, with expertise developing rapidly. Many local indigenous nurseries were set up and promoted the use of indigenous plants. Greening Australia set up a training program. A journal (Ecological Management and Restoration) was established to exchange information about technical matters.

In the early in the decade the entirely volunteer office-bearers of IFFA wearied. They wondered if IFFA was still needed. A meeting was held in 2004 to consider this question, and rather than going extinct it was decided to rebuild IFFA. After all, remnant vegetation was still being removed, there was another generation to educate, lots still to learn about indigenous plants and animals and techniques for management and restoration. Questions were raised about the quality of restoration work that was sometimes done. IFFA’s aims were reformulated as:

To promote the appreciation, study, conservation and management of indigenous flora and fauna through research and discussion, networking and advocacy, and information exchange

IFFA started publishing its newsletter and running activities for its members again, and revamped its website. Its membership is growing again.

IFFA still needs new blood however. Enthusiastic volunteers are needed to organise and run activities, let people know about IFFA, generate articles for the newsletter and website etc. There is still a lot of work to do, and potential for IFFA to contribute.