Photograph by Robert Lee.
Since a major pollution event hit Dandenong Creek in 2017, FFDC has sought to tell the story of the short-finned eels that rely on a healthy environment to survive. Our short film, ‘The Eels of Dandenong Creek’ creates awareness of how pollution has eliminated a large portion of the local short-finned eel population.
This species, with its incredible lifecycle and important place in Indigenous knowledge, deserves a place in our local stories. With funding from the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation and Living Links, we engaged experts who advised on key the messages to include in our film.
This film is but a starting point for discussions around the inappropriate use of insecticides and other toxic pollution, which find their way into our waterways and end the lives of their precious residents.
'The Eels of Dandenong Creek' was recognised in 2021 as the winning initiative in the Premier's Sustainability Awards 2021 – Healthy environment category. The Premier’s Sustainability Awards recognise and celebrate Victorians who are leading the way to a sustainable future.
FFDC thanks the following passionate experts for their profound contributions:
Uncle Dave Wandin from Wurundjeri
Dr Dave Sharley and Steve Marshall at Bio2labs
Wayne Koster at Arthur Rylah Institute
Knox Environment Society
Kirsty Heiner's animation work
Michael Portway, Remember the Wild Melbourne
Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation
Annually, FFDC co-hosts events that enhance the Dandenong Creek catchment area. These events welcome the expertise and enthusiasm of many local individuals and groups. Our highest priority is planting, and we dedicate time to initiating, organising and carrying out planting events. We also assist with litter reduction efforts, environmental education and increasing awareness of the rich indigenous flora and fauna in our area.
Some of the highlights of the FFDC year include:
World Environment Day (March)
Clean up Australia Day (March)
National Tree Day (August)
Workshops (throughout the year)
KES Spring Fair (October)
Save our Skinks (SoS)
In Melbourne's East, the Swamp Skink (Lissolepis coventryi) and the Glossy Grass Skink (Pseudemoia rawlinsoni) are under significant threat due to the impacts on their habitat through rapid urbanisation, the draining of wetlands, and the pollution of waterways and changes in climate. Over the last few decades, survey efforts have recorded declining numbers of these skinks.
SoS is a focused approach to lizard conservation, dedicated to population monitoring, and habitat creation and enhancement. This program is made possible through community and government funding.
There are two main components to the SoS program, habitat creation and development, and population surveys. To conduct the surveys, citizen scientists visit bushland along Dandenong Creek from Bayswater to Vermont, through spring and early summer.
Habitat creation and development
Connolly's Reserve Lizard Lounge
Creation enabled through a Federal Grant in 2019
Key areas of interest include:
Bayswater Retarding Basin
The Mornington Peninsula
Read more about SoS here.
Heathmont’s remaining sugar gliders need help, and you can be part of the solution. This project invites residents to become stewards for wildlife.
It wasn’t that long ago Sugar Gliders were a common sight in Heathmont, emerging at dusk and flying past you to their supper. With wildlife corridors critical for our native fauna to survive and thrive, yet due to urban pressures many are disappearing unnoticed.
Sugar gliders are a keystone species that will help us map remaining wildlife corridors. This project, spearheaded by First Friends of Dandenong Creek, and supported by Maroondah Council and Abzeco, records glider occupancy in specially designed, strategically placed nesting boxes. The boxes will be installed in reserves, schools and gardens. Trained experts will check their occupancy regularly and document the findings. Findings will inform a corridor strategy for the Heathmont area that First Friends of Dandenong Creek and Maroondah Council can use to protect, maintain and enhance our corridors. With increasing urban development, the unseen corridors they live and travel in are disappearing.
Residents can join a monitoring group or host a 'nest box' tree home for gliders in their garden. There are 100 new nest boxes to be placed. Monitors will connect with like-minded others in a biannual audit (depending upon COVID restrictions) of gliders in boxes. Furthermore, they will know that their findings will help inform a dynamic corridor development strategy.
If you are interested in supporting this work and can host a nest box in your garden or school, the please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note, you must fall within the Sugar Glider survey zone, which is the area bordered by Canterbury Road, Heathmont Road, Dandenong Creek and Wantirna Road.
Wish to thank Hon. Michael Sukkar MP for supporting our application to the Federal Government’s Communities Environment Program.
Photograph by Nalina Scarfe.
Pollution monitoring and reporting
The FFDC has its eye on pollution issues in the Dandenong Creek through the use of real-time sensors in the water between Vermont and Bayswater. We are one of the first Australian community groups to fund and organise a solution of this kind.
In recent years, pollution events caused by toxic substances in stormwater have caused mass deaths of fish and other aquatic creatures. With repeated events, the ecology of the Dandenong Creek is under threat.
The data is publicly available, with the sensors constantly streaming water quality information to an online portal. In the event of a pollution issue, the FFDC receives notifications that enable us to respond immediately. This ongoing monitoring also supports the EPA and council authorities in their response to polluters.
The data also helps community members respond to ongoing pollution issues that affect the wildlife in our creek, including the incredible eels, which travel thousands of kilometres through their life cycle. You can learn about the important role of eels in Dandenong Creek and the wider Australian ecosystems in our video.
We know that good stormwater practices significantly impact the health of our waterways. You can use the data in the portal to raise awareness in your area around the connection between stormwater management and the health of our creeks.
This project is delivered in collaboration with Dr Dave Sharley and Steve Marshall from the Melbourne-based Bio2Lab. Bio2Lab install, maintain and calibrate the sensors, while also ensuring high-quality data is available in the online portal. Read their report “Pollution profiling of Upper Dandenong catchments to inform stormwater education strategies and policy”.
This project is made possible through the Federal Government’s Communities Environment Program. With thanks to Knox Council, including Marcia Timmers-Leitch.
How can I get involved?
This is data created by the community, for the community. Tune into your favourite section of the creek at a scientific level, and use your learnings for good.
You can subscribe to the portal to receive alerts when pollution events take place. You can also visit the portal and observe the trends, to support your own observations of potential pollution events. The more community members using the platform, the greater our ability to respond swiftly and reduce deadly pollution events.
The FFDC provides subscribers with access to training on how to read water data and the steps to take when responding.
We’d love to hear about your creative uses of this data. For example, Committee member, John, has been mapping the data onto ebird checklists in the Bayswater area. He is able to research questions such as the relationship between bird activity in certain areas and pollution levels. You can see John’s checklist for the Dandenong Creek in Bayswater North here. Tell us about your creative use of the data by emailing email@example.com.
Visit the portal and subscribe here.
What signs are we looking for?
Biological growth and activity in waterways is significantly influenced by water temperature. Changes to temperature determine whether or not wildlife can live in the area.
Water quality can be in part determined by electrical conductivity, as conductivity increases based on the level of dissolved salts in the water. Conductivity goes down when it rains.
The pH of water, that is its acidity or alkalinity, impacts the health of aquatic life, as it determines the availability of chemicals including nutrients.
Oxidation-reduction potential (ORP)
The ORP represents a waterbody’s ability to cleanse itself of contaminants. A value of around 200 or higher is desirable. You will see that the ORP goes up when it rains.
Enhancing our Dandenong Creek
A program of work dedicated to improving the health and function of Dandenong Creek. Phase 1 was completed between 2013 and 2018, and involved transforming piped-waterways into creeks, pollution monitoring and removal, the development of billabongs and wetlands through planting, animal surveys, and community engagement. Learn more here.
Phase 2 is currently underway and focuses on further enhancing billabongs, wetlands, parks and floodplains, habitat, community awareness, and pollution reduction. As the project continues, we will see the reinstatement of the creek’s natural water flows and the encouragement of native fish. See more here.
This project is a collaboration between Melbourne Water, EPA Victoria, Knox City Council, Maroondah City Council, City of Monash, City of Whitehorse, First Friends of Dandenong Creek, Heathmont Bushcare, Knox Environment Society, Heathmont History Group, Wurundjeri Tribe Council, Bunurong Land Council, Parks Victoria, Living Links, South East Water, and Yarra Valley Water.
The ‘Learning Journey’ protocol is a central aspect of Phase 2. A Learning Journey orientates and immerses the individual in a place. It encourages disciplined observation of one’s surroundings and thus deeper understandings of the challenges and opportunities that they provide (See Enhancing our Dandenong Creek 2 Parklands, Floodplains, Billabongs & Wetlands: Learning Journey Harvest Report for more).
When visiting reserves in your area, consider recording your own learning journey!
Transforming the Dandenong Creek is a current Living Links project. This project received $1M funding from the Victorian Government’s Out Catchments, Our Communities initiative and combines the efforts of numerous organisations. It is anticipated that by mid 2020, the project will have completed works at 38 sites along 22 kilometres of the creek.
Educational events, working bees, and citizen science monitoring equally add to the success of this program. Learn more here.
FFDC is proud to represent the interests of the Dandenong Creek catchment and wider biodiversity matters through advocacy, petitioning, communications, education, and research. Some examples include:
Assisting community members as they engage in state and federal policy making
Attending local and state government events on behalf of the community, for example in relation to the Healthy Waterways Strategy 2018-2028 and the Enhancing our Dandenong Creek program
Working with local Friends' groups to achieve a united voice in support of environmental matters
Co-hosting educational workshops for all ages
As part of Sustainability Victoria’s TAKE2, Friends of Dandenong Creek has taken the pledge to invest in low carbon tools and technologies, in order to contribute to a greener and cleaner future for Victoria. We have taken this pledge for its motivating capacity and symbolic importance. It enables the group to focus on one of the key issues for Australia and the world: climate change. With this pledge, we play our part by:
Inspiring and engaging others
Providing culture and leadership
Using equipment strategically
Enhancing natural environments
Engaging in responsible purchasing
Actively reducing waste
See more and take your own pledge here.