Can you name any two parcels of land of conservation significance that ANGAIR successfully lobbied to have returned to public ownership? Who founded ANGAIR?

Where would you find a mosaic containing a Rufous Bristlebird, the Angahook Caladenia and the Common Heath? Did you know that the Anglesea River once had a weir across it? Can you name any two ANGAIR publications? In what year did the annual Wildflower & Art Weekend win the Surf Coast Shire’s Community Event of the Year Award?

The answers to these questions and many others about ANGAIR’s achievements in its first half century can be found in Ros Gibson’s ANGAIR: the first 50 years which will be launched by one of the society’s foundation committee members, botanist Geoff Carr, at the 50th Anniversary dinner this month.

50 years

More than eight years ago Ros, who has been an ANGAIR member since 1986 and president from 2000–2002, realised that more and more people were asking her about ANGAIR and what it did. A history was the answer. ‘I thought it was time...there was something missing.’

Helen Tutt encouraged Ros to apply for a small grant and the Victorian Public Records Office awarded one to ANGAIR in 2012. Initially, Ros envisaged a modest spiral bound volume, to be finished in three years and printed on the ANGAIR printer.

After a slow start and several extensions of the deadline, a butterfly of a book has emerged—meticulously researched, lavishly illustrated with historic and contemporary photos, sketches by Kaye Traynor, cleanly designed by Margie Morgan of Inverted Logic, and printed by Adams Print who have both worked on earlier ANGAIR publications.

Ros’s painstaking research included trawling through five decades of committee minutes, annual reports, correspondence, newsletters and news clippings. She used the yearbooks that had recorded ANGAIR’s annual activities in photos before the advent of digital cameras made photo prints obsolete. She found few surprises in the material as her long ANGAIR membership meant she was aware of the outlines but there was a mass of interesting detail to uncover.

The words on paper recorded the actions and campaigns that are testimony to ANGAIR’s founding principles of protecting and preserving the district’s rich natural environment. The words also documented the gradual expansion of ANGAIR’s activities into research, special interest groups, documentation of local species, education and indigenous plant propagation.

But people, too, are part of the history. Ros has written a short biography of each of ANGAIR’s honorary life members, based on interviews, family reminiscences and documentary sources. Ros notes that ANGAIR’s greatest resource is all its members who volunteer time and effort to keep the organisation strong. She could not include everyone.

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