Another successful year has passed for the Australian Flora Foundation. We have continued to fund new projects, have received another special donation to the Research Fund, and have updated our operating procedures.
In August the Board approved two projects for funding in 2001 with a third applicant being requested to provide additional information. Those awarded grants were Professor Acram Taji of University of New England for a postgraduate student project to investigate ‘Why is Hakea pulvinifera at the brink of extinction?’, and Ms. Tanya Lorens, a graduate students in the Australian Flora Research Centre at The University of Wollongong, for the project ‘The importance of soil-stored seed bank as a reservoir on genetic diversity in the endangered plant Grevillea cayleyi'.
This year the AFF student’s Prize went to Victoria Evans of Melbourne
University. (See the report later in this Newsletter.)
The Grevillea Study Group has donated $5000 to the Foundation to be used to support research on ‘the life, ecology, propagation or taxonomy of Grevillea, particularly the evaluation of rootstocks’.
This year saw the introduction of a new category of Research Grant to encourage commercial partners and researchers to seek funding from SPIRT and industry R&D bodies for development of Australian plants. The Board (through the efforts of Malcolm Reed) has previously obtained block funding from such bodies. The AFF aims to provide a small cash contribution which is necessary to qualify for these industry R&D funds. Applications are already being received.
Changes to government legislation, including introduction of the GST, imposed additional administrative burdens. Our Research Trust portfolio is also expanding. There is always work to be done preparing Newsletters and pursuing publicity and funding opportunities. All this on top of running the research grants program. Our dedicated and voluntary Board members continue to give of their time. I wish to thank you all for you support of the Foundation.
Of course we are always looking for new volunteers. We would particularly like to hear from someone who would be prepared to set-up and manage our web page! We could also use some secretarial/administrative support from someone in the Sydney area who could attend the 3-4 meeting a year.
For those who missed it in the last Newsletter, I have suggested that the time might be right for the formation of local support groups around the states. For practical reasons, the Board operates from the northeastern states, but we our always mindful that the Foundation is a national body. The distribution of grants around the states certainly reflects this. Various Australian Plants Society branches and Study Groups have been very supportive. The Queensland Branch recently invited the AFF President to address their meeting to keep members informed. Maybe other groups (not only ASGAP) could get together and support the Foundation by providing local publicity and seeking contributions to the Research Trust Fund.
We are very conscious of the need to communicate better with our supporters. It is always a challenge given our limited voluntary workforce. High on our wish list is an effective web site. This increasing accessible medium could be used to make available Research Reports; we now require grantees to submit reports in electronic form. We would also like to receive coloured picture files for publicity purposes. We still do not have a manageable way of supplying reports on request.
While the Research Trust Fund is now on a sound footing, we still fall far short of the funds needed to support the many quality applications we receive, and we will never fill all the gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the diverse Australian flora. You can do your part by ‘spreading the word’. The higher the public profile of the Foundation, the better the chances of attracting more corporate financial support.
Professor Richard Williams