New Program for 2018

OFF Field Officer, Graham Fry and Program Officer Matt Allison have put together the program of activities for 2018. There is a mixture of easy excursions and some more demanding walks. Our monthly Monday meetings will feature environmental research, travel and tips on living sustainably.  CHECK OFF NEWS FOR DETAILS OF ACTIVITIES

Take a look at our 2018 Program- pdf copy can be printed or get a card at one of our talks or walks

2018 Program

MEETINGS: Held at 7.30 pm in Oatley RSL & Community Club, 23 Letitia Street, Oatley




26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

James Baxter-Gilbert examining eastern water dragons and their adaptability to urban habitat.


1st Thursday – Field day

Victoria Barracks – tour of precinct with its early colonial architecture. Leader: Julian Sheen

21st Wednesday – Field day

Walk from Edgecliff to Circular Quay via Royal Botanic Garden. Leader: Keith McRorie

26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Em Prof of Anthropology, Richard Wright OAM examines the Australian climate & environment of 10,000 years ago.


23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Julian Sheen on The Old Burma Road to Shangrila: travelling beyond expectations in Myanmar and China.

27/29th Weekend field trip

Stay in Capertee NP homestead surrounded by wildlife; explore the valley. Leader: Deb Andrew


28th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Ecologist Dr Rod Armistead from Eco Logical explains the Phytophthora Dieback in Myles D R.


3rd Sunday – Field day

Parramatta – further exploration of its heritage sites and parks. Leader: Vicki Bolling

25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Author Paul Irish revealing his recent book “Hidden in Plain View” exploring Aboriginal lives post 1788.


1st Sunday – Field Day

North Head – medium walk through rare heathland and wildflowers. Leader: Melina Amerasinghe

23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Bev Debrincat shows how easy it is to establish small bird habitat corridors in our own yards.

29th Sunday – Field Day

Nattai NP – medium to hard walk to Bonnum Pic, spectacular views. Leader Adrian Buzo


27th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Movie screening of “Secrets at Sunrise”: Western Australia’s rarest bird: the western ground parrot.


2nd Sunday – Field Day

Sydney Olympic Park – Heritage Railway tour, birds, wetlands. Leader: Liz Cameron

23rd Sunday – Field Day

Quarantine Station North Head – tour of heritage buildings, colonial history. Leader: Yvonne Penn

24th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Cliff Crane (The Banjo) reminisces on famous and little known Oatley Bushwalkers of Yesteryear.


22nd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm

Prof Ross Jeffree shows it is possible with the “Conservation success stories of Bhutan”.

27th Saturday – Field day

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden – cool climate Spring flowers. Leader: Graham Fry


18th Sunday – Field Day

Stony Range Botanical Garden, an oasis of native plants in Dee Why. Leader: Graham Lalchere

26th Monday Meeting & Social Supper – 7.30pm

PhD candidate, Reannan Honey brings us up to speed on the results of her “Homes in Hollows” study which OFF is helping to finance.


3rd Christmas Picnic in Oatley Park



4th AGM – 7.30pm

Followed by members’ photos & supper



Graham Lalchere 9580 3107

Vice Presidents

Alan Fairley 9570 8332

Julian Sheen 9594 4888


Liz Cameron 9580 6621


Rodger Robertson 9570 7471

Program & Publicity Officer

Matt Allison 0408 605 923

Field Officer

Graham Fry 9580 6621

Membership Officer

Robin Dickson 9580 5663

Website Officer

Melina Amerasinghe 0400 300 662

Grants Officer

Kim Wagstaff 9580 7919

Additional Officers

Vicki Bolling 9580 3107

Peter de Beuzeville 8068 6149

Ben Hope 0402 358 348

Peter Mahoney 0435 990 965

James Deli 0434 441 800

Appointed Positions

Public Officer

Julian Sheen 9594 4888

Editorial Committee

Conservation Advisor

Deb Andrew 9570 2695

Hospitality and Welcome

Beverley Watters 9534 1096

Vicki Bolling 9580 3107

Sue de Beuzeville 8068 6149

Sue Howard 9579 1718



Sheldon Forest Track – OFF Field day

OFF Field Day on Tuesday 15 August will be on Sheldon Forest Track, a 5-6 km walk from Turramurra Station through tall forest bordering Avon Creek and returning along Pymble streets.  This is not a long walk but includes steep streets and an uneven track with many stone steps descending to a running stream and back up again.  The track passes through majestic forest which transitions from Sydney Blue Gum through Blackbutt to Turpentine and thence Coachwood.  The main attractions are the changing vegetation, birdlife and peacefulness – it will be an opportunity for photography and ‘forest bathing’, so a leisurely pace is recommended.

Travel in 2nd last carriage departing Oatley Station at 8.45 am; 9.27 am train from Town Hall arriving Turramurra at 10.04 am.

Bring something for a late morning tea/early lunch along the track.  Back at Turramurra Station by about 2 pm.  Leader: Liz Cameron 9580 6621; 

For more information and map see – Ku-ring-gai Council – Sheldon Forest Track:

Forest bathing:

Holding Back the Concrete – Dorothy Luther


Inner Sydney is fast becoming a concrete jungle, with high rise apartments & shopping centres driving out the houses & corner shops that formed local communities. Even the remaining houses are being gentrified, with high walls hiding buxus hedges & garden furniture. Trees and gardens are disappearing because they’re untidy & take too much work.

But some intrepid souls are fighting back – a small but determined army of bush carers, community groups & feral gardeners are trying to stem the tide, with support from local governments – also under threat. They’re creating bush pockets, rain gardens, walking & cycle tracks that enable us to still keep in touch with nature & watch the antics of birds & lizards.
This is the story of some of those groups.

Dorothy Luther says she has been a member of APSoc for about 20 years, since buying an inner suburban house that needed a bush garden. She has been through the struggles of indigenous vs what will grow and has killed many plants in the process. This has led to many discussions with community gardening groups in the area. She is currently investigating rain forest plants since they seem to grow best in the much modified habitat. Her love of plants comes from growing up in the bush, not from any formal studies & botanical names are still confusing.


Living Rivers -Swimmable Urban Rivers

170227StuartKhanFor our first meeting of 2017, 60 members and guests welcomed Associate Professor Stuart Khan from UNSW School of Civil & Environmental Engineering to the podium. Stuart informed us of the current plan to ‘Make Parramatta River Swimmable Again by 2025’ which has been entrusted to the Parramatta River Catchment Group – an amalgam of River Councils, Sydney Water, Dept of Planning and the EPA.

There are currently swimming baths and beaches along the river that had been used historically (and still are) but, being a working river with a legacy of highly polluting industries along its shores, the quality of the water is dubious. Water testing over the years has revealed many and varied toxins suspended in the water column and, more worryingly, present in high densities in the sediment. Among many dirty industries Union Carbide had a large factory producing chemicals used during the Vietnam War and the resultant dioxins have entered the river and accumulated in the food chain. It is recommended that fish caught west of the Harbour Bridge not to be eaten. Industries generally do not discharge into the river anymore and there are heavy fines for doing so. However, some factories now discharge into the sewer and pay Sydney Water via a licence for the privilege.

Treatment of effluent is carried out at the ocean-end of the sewage carriers and that can prove problematic during a rain event. Stormwater enters the sewer and during heavy rain the overburdened pipes release untreated effluent directly into the creeks and river. In conclusion, swimming in the Parramatta River may well be feasible BUT unless a massive upgrade of the sewerage system is implemented then the current discharges of pollutants into the catchment during rain events will regretfully render the river risky for regular recreational revival.


Members were reminded that Oatley Swimming baths have a proud and long history, with the existence of the Oatley Swimming Club at Jewfish Bay Baths since 1927 The society will work to ensure that it remains safe in terms of water quality.


Penshurst Public School Project

P1000645Oatley Flora and Fauna Society was contacted in mid 2016 to help years 3 & 4 at Penshurst Public School, with a unit on Sustainability in Term 3. We were asked to talk about sustainability or endangered fauna and flora in the Georges River area and to suggest native plants suitable for an area of the playground to be planted by the children.

image2On 15 September four OFF members – Melina Amerasinghe, Vicki Bolling, Liz Cameron and Graham Fry – spoke to about 120 children. Melina presented a slide show on the historical forest on Forest Road, and the subsequent clearing and settlement of the area. The children listened with interest and participated actively, asking question throughout the presentation.         CLICK HERE FOR SLIDE SHOW

P1000652Some plants and birds were highlighted to show the structure and variety of plants and animals of the lost forest with some flowers passed around to the children. A small group of students planted some of the native shrubs we had brought with us. A list of plants suitable for the garden was suggested with an offer by the society to source some for the school.

P1070022There was some concern that with the onset of the warmer weather it may be best to wait till Autumn in 2017. However, as the children were enthusiastic to see the project completed and with the assurances that the caretaker was going to water the plants over the summer holiday, the society funded tube stock from the Menai Wildflower Group nursery. These were planted late in term 4.

InvitationVicki Bolling and Liz Cameron attended the Grand Opening of the Garden on 8 December with a program and refreshments organised by the students. The students sang a song about sustainability with the refrain “refuse, reuse, recycle” composed by one of the teachers and his daughter. We hope this has been a fulfilling project for the children that will instill in them an interest in local flora and fauna.


An Expedition to Spitzbergen in the Arctic

magdalena-fijordGary Schoer, OFF member and extensive Polar traveller joined us once again in November to share his photos and assessment of the beauties of and threats to the Arctic. Gary took us with him on a Aurora Expedition small group expedition to the Svalbard Archipaelego which includes its biggest Island, Spitzbergen, in between Northern Norway and Greenland. 

puffinsWhile Gary was fortunate to see and capture some great images of seabirds such as puffins, Northern Fulmars, Ivory Gulls and Guillemonts to name a few, he gave additional insights into their conservation status and particular threats which are causing many populations to plummet in the last 20 years or so.
calving-arcticThe smoking gun seems to be especially the rapid increase in average air temperatures, reduction in amount of sea ice especially thicker multi-year ice. In some areas average temperatures have increased by as much as 10 degrees celsius, causing the frozen soil of the tundra to melt and even creating additional pine forests where once there were no trees over many parts of the Arctic. 

Gary had to travel to 81 degrees North to see 6 of 7 polar bears sighted on the journey on sea ice, which was virtually absent further south…a big change over as little as 15 years since OFFS members Julian and Annette Sheen were there. One other bear was sighted on a small glacial moraine island where it may have had to swim quite a distance to get access to Arctic tern eggs…a pressure on a bird that has flown 15 000 km from Antarctica to breed there.    
flowersSo, as Gary emphasised, everything is connected. The changesd size of populations and average body length of the important bird-food fish  may be contributing to sea bird losses.
While we in Australia and more temperate worlds argue about how to effect behavioural and fuel use changes to keep average world temperatures below 2 degrees above recent historical levels, the animals, plants and indigenous people who live there are well past that target, and we can only hope that sensible and strong political efforts will stope what we are seeing in the Arctic creating a tipping point that will affect ecosystems well beyond the poles.

Oysters – Canaries of our Estuary

laurie-derwentLaurie Derwent spoke at our 24 October 2016 meeting on the rise, fall and eventual demise of the oyster industry along the Georges River.

The Derwent Family were involved in the oyster industry for the best part of 100 years. Lauries spoke from his personal experience as an oyster farmer in his youth and over 35 years experience working for various fisheries and maritime agencies until his retirement in 2013. During his lifetime, Laurie has seen the river change from an ideal oyster-growing environment to a “disaster”.


He spoke of the rich history of the estuarine areas around the Georges River – home of the world’s best oyster: Saccostrea glomerata (Sydney Rock Oyster).

He spoke of its cultivation from the early days in 1880’s: when stone was cut, and laid around the estuary to capture spat; and the rack method where oysters were suspended above the mud to avoid the mud worm.

As the production and the demand for oysters increased, this sustainable industry supported many farmers for generations. Then the troubles began with E. coli infection from water pollution; TBT (antifouling paint) influence on shellfish; introduction of rogue Pacific oyster; and the death knell itself – QX in 1994. This parasite ruined the oyster industry in the Georges River and the livelihood of many local farming families.

The humble oyster spends its entire life protected by its sharp shell feeding on the nutrient provided by the healthy River. But as our city continues to grow unabated, and our sewerage and drainage infrastructure buckles, our precious river engorges on a toxic cocktail and the humble oyster is stuck between a rock and a hard place.


neverfail-bay-oyster-lease-remnants Neverfail Bay Oyster Lease Remnants oysters-on-shell-bed Lime Kiln Bay Oyster Shell Bed tray-cultivation-oatley-pk Oatley Park Tray Bed Cultivation oyster-trays Pulling up Oyster Trays






Central Asia

105Talk on Central Asia on 26th September by Julian Sheen

This presentation grappled with the complex history of Central Asia, sometimes known as the five Stans (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan).

71Culture, mixing history and geography, dealt with the nomadic tribes of the steppe and the limited influence of China. Stories of such exotic peoples and places as the Sogdians, the Parthians, and the Saminids with Samarkand, Bukhara and Ashkhabad were traced along the great artery of central Asia: the Amu Darya (or Oxus River).

27The backdrop was the towering mountains of the Pamir and Tienshan and the parchment dry of the Karakum desert.
Alexander the Great made his mark here in 320BC, later came the Islamic invasion of the Arabs, the contest with China and the growth of Persian influence leading to the golden age of the Islamic enlightenment (about 900-1200AD).

57Much of this was swept away by the crushing impact of the Mongols in 1220AD followed by the destruction brought about by Tamerlane. Threading though this vivid historical tapestry of beauty, delicate artistry, violence and terror were the Silk Road caravan routes to and from China, India, Persia and Europe.


Finally, in the 19th century when the region was fragmented and in decay, the Imperial Russians moved in to face the British Empire active in India and Afghanistan; contestants in what became known as the Great Game. From Russian rule was spawned the Soviet Union which collapsed in 1991 bringing about the five republics we know today.

Flora and Fauna of Northern Alaska

BearsForestOn 22 August Rodger entertained us with another one of his adventures.

On this trip he travelled the notorious Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, Alaska.

This road featured on the TV programWorlds Most Dangerous Roads”.  See below for video played during talk. Before  1996 it was only open to trucks supplying the Alaskan oilfields. Despite the harsh environment, plants and animals manage to survive.

Rodger talked about their life on the edge of the Arctic Circle . Life in the extreme temperatures at 70 degrees north is tough.

Last treeMost memorable photo from the night was the Northern most spruce tree (now chopped down!)





Coal Mining & Water Pollution

River bed crackingAt the October meeting of Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society, Dr Ian Wright from the University of Western Sydney (UWS) presented startling evidence of environmental damage caused by coal mining in the Sydney Region. Dr Wright worked as a scientific officer with Sydney Water investigating the impact of human activities on creeks and rivers in the Sydney basin before taking up a research fellowship at UWS in freshwater ecology and water pollution.

Ian is now a full-time lecturer teaching students in water quality and management, environmental planning and environmental regulation areas. Conducting his research on a limited budget and often faced with a hostile reception from mining interests in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands, Dr Wright and his students have persevered, comparing water samples taken upstream of mining activity with those down stream. They have found significant deterioration in water quality attributable to waste water discharge from mining operations. Toxic levels of salt, bicarbonate, zinc, nickel and other minerals have impacted on aquatic life and degraded the waters flowing through prized wilderness areas and World Heritage sites. yshattered_river_bed

Long-wall mining, in particular, is responsible for subsidence in the bedrock of some creeks and streams feeding into Sydney’s water catchments. Dr Wright showed photographic evidence of streams simply disappearing into cracks, only to re-emerge further ‘downstream’ polluted by mining waste. Dr Wright was critical of the Environmental Protection Agency, responsible for regulating the discharge of wastewater from mines. Pollution licence conditions need to be tightened requiring mining companies to meet higher standards, although he conceded the regulator had lifted its game recently but only under pressure from the community and, in turn, government.

Asked how Oatley Flora & Fauna Conservation Society members could help to stop mining companies from causing environmental damage, Dr Wright suggested the best way would be to keep the pressure on our politicians to introduce more stringent rules on mining activities. Dr Wright gave an undertaking to keep the Society informed of future developments in the regulation of the coal industry.

Ian Wright-OFF-presentation-Short-8-nov-2015


Impact of a coal mine waste discharge on water quality and aquatic ecosystems in the Blue Mountains World Heritage area.


15 NOVEMBER 2015 – LEADER ARTICLE “Coal Mining Risk revealed at Conservation Society meeting”