PRESIDENTS REPORT (1982 to) 2012
This report aims to summarise events over the past 30 years under three headings
i. Communication with members
ii. Funding for grants and administration
iii. Impact of our grants
1. Communication with our members
Over the past 30 years the Council has used a number of methods to communicate with members.
A. Annual Reports. Initially Annual Reports were produced, probably under the guidance of Bill Payne.
1982: The 1982 Annual Report announced that in April 1982 the Foundation was recognised as an ’approved research institute’ for the purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act: donations became tax deductable on condition that grant applications were reviewed by an external Research Committee approved by the CSIRO.
1983: The good news in 1983 was that the organisation was formally incorporated.
1984: In 1984 it was decided to switch from invited members, to accepting membership from anyone who supported the aims of the Foundation, and 143 members are listed in the 1984 Annual Report. However, the President’s Report asks more members to pay their membership fee ($5).
1986: A similar problem of people not meeting their commitments was made in the Board of Directors report in 1986, there apparently being no President at the time this Annual Report was produced. However in 1986 grant applications were called for for the first time, and grants to begin in 1987 were awarded. Grants have been awarded every year since.
B. Newsheets and Annual Reports. The problem with the type A Annual Reports was that they were very expensive to produce, and the Foundation has very limited funds for administration, so none were produced after 1986. In 1988 Malcolm Reed became Vice President of the Foundation, and produced a new type of report, which he called a Newsheet, typed on A4 paper, and readily photocopied and distributed. In 1988 the first final reports were received, and the results made available to members via a Newsheet. This evolved into an Annual Report, starting in 1990, and produced in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1996. In early 1998 Malcolm became ill, and had to drop out of Foundation activities.C. Newsletters. Beginning in 2003 Ian Cox took on the responsibility of producing a Newsletter, initially one per year, but since 2007 two per year. This is emailed or posted to all members of the Foundation. It provides information on grants, the findings from research supported by the Foundation, and research of interest to people interested in Australian native plants.
Website. In 2004 a site developed by Peter Goodwin, with the assistance of Val Williams was launched. The website lists all grants and their Final Reports since the inception of the Foundation. It contains a brief history of the establishment of the Foundation, and much else as well.
The Foundation’s research funding ability, as measured by its level of assets, has gone through three phases, the first what could be called the pre-bequest era, lasting 11 years from 1982 to 1992. Funds came from membership subscriptions (about 30%) and donations (about 70%) and of course interest on these amounts. For the first four years the Foundation was unable to offer research grants, but at the fourth AGM (1986), with over $10,000 in total assets, the decision was made to call for applications for grants, and after review of the applications by the Research Committee, three grants were awarded. By 1992 the Foundation had reserve funds exceeding $20,000, and had given grants totalling $30,000, on average two grants totalling $4,000 per year.
The next era could be called the major early bequest era. Between 1993 and 1999 the Foundation received the Bowden bequest, the Carver bequest and the Armitage bequest, totalling over $500,000. These greatly increased the ability of the Foundation to fund research on Australian plants, and as well over these years, due to the initiative of the President, Malcolm Reed, funding for grants was received from the RIRDC ($34,450) and the Lord Mayor’s Bush Fire Appeal ($56,336).
This brings us to what could be called the present era. Since 2000 the Foundation has given grants totalling over $500,000, on average three and a half grants totalling just under $40,000 per year, ten times the research grants in the early years. This year we awarded the 101st grant.
Membership fees: The auditing of our accounts between 1986 and 2009 was carried out by Peter Kellaway on an honorary basis. The Foundation is in his debt. This service was important in enabling the build up of funds in the pre-bequest era, and enabled the administration expenses of the Foundation to be met from membership subscriptions until Peter retired. Since then, due to audit costs, this is no longer the case: subscriptions (at $25 unchanged since 1988) meet only half the cost. Accordingly the membership subscription has had to be increased to $30.
3. Impact of the research you have funded.
A. Publications arising from grants:Excluding grants made in the past 5 years; a total of 64 publications have resulted from grants. Looking at it another way, over 56% of grants have led to publications, usually in refereed scientific journals. All grantees have produced Final Reports, and only 12 of the 82 grants failed to achieve their objectives.
Highly profile publication: The most noted publication has to be that following the grant to Bruce Webber (2002) onRyparosa javanica. The publication is: ‘Cassowary frugivory, seed defleshing and fruit fly infestation influence the transition from seed to seedling in the rare Australian rainforest tree,Ryparosasp. (Achariaceae) by Bruce L. Webber and Ian E. Woodrow in Functional Plant Biology, 2004, 31: 505-516. This has been cited in scientific papers 18 times, was commented on in New Scientist and also included in a recent BBC TV program on the world of plants.
B. Major contribution to new industry: The work by Sandra Lacey on the grant ‘Investigation of the cultural requirements for the development of Helichrysum diosmifolium [now Ozothamnus diosmifolius] (Native Paper Daisy)’ in 1987 laid the basis for the Rice Flower industry. The grant was for $1,500, but enabled her to collect the material, and provided the basis for larger grants from RIRDC to develop it as a cut flower crop. In 1996 500,000 blooms were exported to Japan. This work possibly helped trigger the RIRDC to make a major investment in research on native Australian plants.
C. Supporting the development of scientists working on the Australian flora: Virtually all grants have been directly or indirectly used to fund young scientists to carry out research on Australian plants. Most of these people continue in this area, as is seen by perusing their publications in succeeding years, for example Ms Elizabeth James was given a grant of $4,050 in 1999 to work on the breeding systems of Grevillea. No papers came from this project, but she has gone on to produce four papers on the genetics of Grevillea, and at least twelve papers on the genetics of native Australian plants. Bill Loneragan was given a grant of $2,750 in 1997 for a project on conserving Banksia woodlands. One publication came from the project, and he has since published three more papers on Banksia woodlands, and at least twelve other papers on conservation of Australian plants.
D. Aiding the conservation of Australian plant diversity: a series of grants has been made for projects examining the sensitivity of seed germination to the higher temperatures to be expected with global warming, eg Amelia Martyn (2010) with support from the APS Canberra studied the germination requirements of twenty Australian alpine species. These studies have identified species particularly vulnerable to climatic change.
Other grants have examined the threats to particular ecosystems, eg Carolyn Ireland (1992) showed that regeneration of Western Myall (Acacia papyrocarpaBenth.) requires a combination of a number of relatively rare events: seed shed coinciding with the co-occurrence of inundation with its consequent overland sheet flow of water, scarification of seeds by the tumbling action of soil and water and the burial of the seeds away from harvester ants.
This President’s Report is getting long, but note that development of Australian plants for horticultural use has been the subject of forty four Final Reports, and the role of mycorrhiza in native plants has been the subject of fifteen. You can find out what these or any of the other 88 Final Reports say by looking them up on the Australian Flora Foundation’s website: http://www.aff.org.au/
What for the future? Over the next thirty years we will strive to better communicate with our members and the wider public; to welcome more members, and to increase our ability to fund grants. We need your help for this and are currently exploring the potential of social networking.Finally it is my pleasure to thank all who have been members, donors or made bequests to the Foundation over the past 30 years. Without you there would have been no Australian Flora Foundation. Thanks to three groups which have been critical to the functioning of the Foundation: the Australian Plants Society, whose members played a key role in the establishment of the Foundation, and who provide ongoing support; to members of the Research Committee, past and present, and to the research workers who have made good and faithful use of the funds the Foundation has provided.
Particular thanks to those who have done the work of the Foundation: the members of Council, and particularly members of the executive over the years. A special thanks to three people who have made very valuable contributions. Firstly Bill Payne, a major force in the establishment of the Foundation, and a member of the Council from 1981 till his death in 2005. Secondly: Malcolm Reed, Vice-President from 1988 to 1990, and President from 1991 to 1997. He came to a Foundation that appeared to be in terminal decline, and left one in a good financial and functioning state. Finally, Richard Williams, a founder member, Chair of the Research Committee since its formation and President for eight years.
In conclusion, my thanks to all present for attending the 30th AGM of the Australian Flora Foundation, and to Caz McCallum for enabling us to meet at the Royal Botanic Gardens Mt Annan.
26th November 2012