David Phelps, ARS President and Director, DAF Office Landsborough Hwy Longreach Qld 4730.
Email: david.gphelps@bigpond.com

First of all I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of the members of the Australian Rangeland Society a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope that you are all able to share the holiday season with those closest to you, and sharing experiences that you enjoy.

We come to the end of the 40th Anniversary year of the ARS, and what a busy year it was. We had a terrific conference at Alice Springs, launched new on-line services and elected a new Council who have met to discuss the future of the Society on a number of occasions. All Council members are very approachable, and keen to hear your ideas on the ARS of the future.

We were saddened and shocked to hear of the passing of John Milne, who worked tirelessly as Editor of The Rangeland Journal.  We extend our sympathies and pay tribute through an obituary in this issue of the RMN.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chair (Ron Hacker) and members of the Publications Committee and my colleagues on the Council for their efforts and valuable contributions in 2015.

Rangelands Australia Working Group

After a motion was carried at the ARS General Meeting at the Kununurra conference, a committee was formed to investigate the (then) imminent demise of Rangelands Australia (RA) and identify options for its future.

The committee documented factors that lead to the cessation of the program and sought clarification from the University of Queensland (UQ) about whether it would re-open the courses. UQ advised that their priorities had changed and that they would not be offering the RA courses once all currently enrolled students had graduated.

The committee investigated the situation regarding intellectual property and copyright (held by UQ, MLA and the Australian Government) to determine how easily the program could be transferred to another institution. None of the IP holders ruled out the future delivery of the subjects by another institution, however, the committee found there are some “grey areas” regarding who rightfully owns the copyright to the subject materials. Legal advice would be required to clarify this situation and the committee learnt that a significant amount of the materials might need to be re-written in the event that IP and/or copyright issues could not be resolved.

The committee communicated with other tertiary institutions (particularly regional universities) to see if there was interest in adopting the program and/or offering RA-developed courses. It became obvious to the committee that a driven individual would need to champion RA with potential new institutions if any traction was to be gained with other institutions. Sadly, the complexity of the issues discovered by the committee and the difficulty of the current funding environment suggest that the opportunity to reinvigorate the RA program has passed for the time being.

Council thanks the committee for its work and acknowledges the legacy left by John Taylor as the Director of Rangelands Australia.

Australian Rangeland Society Membership Rates for 2016-17

The Australian Rangeland Society Council and Publications Committee have been working to provide our members with more services, and especially greater on-line access. These improvements include:

  • increasing the number of issues The Rangeland Journal by 50% i.e. from 4 to 6 issues each year
  • a substantial upgrade to the ARS website which includes integration with Facebook and Twitter, and readability on any device
  • the appointment of a Social Media Editor to manage the increase in on-line content
  • providing all Range Management Newsletter issues -current and past – in electronic format.

Whilst these services come at a greater cost, Council has decided to offer more options for members to access these services. There is now an electronic journal option and a concessional rate for our members over 65 years of age. The standard membership fee with e-TRJ and e-RMN is the same rate as the standard fee for the last four years, whilst the extra costs of printing has meant an increase in fees to receive the printed copy. Please see further details of these rates below.

We hope all of our members appreciate the new range of services, and also appreciate that to keep our Society financially sustainable, increases in fees will be required from time to time. Council will be closely tracking the ledger over the next 12 months to ensure this is achieved.