Wildlife Rehabilitation in Victoria

victoriaTo understand the Victorian system, the parties involved need to be introduced and defined.


DSE – The Department of Sustainability and Environment
    • Equivalent to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
    • Responsible for licensing and compliance within the area of wildlife rehabilitation in Victoria.
    • Gives out substantial grants to rehabilitators.
Wildlife Victoria
    • A charity put together by volunteers to assist those working with injured and ill wildlife.
    • The largest and best known wildlife rehabilitation group in Victoria.
    • Has no responsibility for licensing or compliance.
    • Is not a shelter and not directly responsible for animal care.
Shelter Operators
    • Authorised / licensed individually by DSE.
    • A person who has demonstrated skills, knowledge, experience and facilities to take animals direct from the public for assessment and treatment.
    • Responsible for assessment of injury / illness and decisions about appropriate treatment (a bit like a senior coordinator in WIRES except they are approved directly by the DSE, not appointed by local commttees).
    • They take responsibility for difficult cases requiring intensive management and care.
    • Once a Shelter Operator has been licensed for 12 months they can apply to supervise up to 3 authorised Foster Carers under their licence.
    • They must keep all records, including those of Foster Carers under their supervision.
    • All animal registrations are in their name.
    • DSE can inspect the Shelter for compliance in the areas of record keeping, condition of facilities and treatment of wildlife in care.
    • There are approximately 350 Shelter Operators licensed in Victoria.
Foster Carers
    • Authorized individually by DSE to operate under the supervision of an authorised Shelter Operator.
    • Can care for non-life-threatening cases as directed by a Shelter Operator - provide basic care and housing – easy cases.
    • All decisions relating to the animal’s care are up to the Shelter Operator to which the Foster Carer is assigned.
    • The animal is always registered in the name of the shelter, not in the name of the Foster Carer. It is the Shelter Operator that has full say in everything to do with that animal.
    • Foster Carers do not report directly to DSE: They are responsible to the Shelter.
    • DSE can inspect the Foster Carer for compliance with standards and instructions. The result of inspections reflects on both the Foster Carer and the Shelter to which they are affiliated.
    • There are approximately 350 Foster Carers authorised in Victoria.

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    How it works

    The best way to describe the Victorian system is to use the description given by commentators to rw.com: It is an “apprenticeship system” which develops skills and experience in formalised stages.

    The “helper”

    At any age, even as a teenager, one can volunteer to assist at a Shelter without any need of a DSE authority. These people are under the direct supervision of the Shelter Operator and are the Shelter’s responsibility. These “helpers”, as they are sometimes known, can become involved with general duties. These include collecting food and food preparation, building enclosures and cleaning them, animal transport and assisting on rescues. This gives the helper a chance to experience the reality of wildlife care with close oversight and personal mentorship. This also gives the Shelter an opportunity to gauge the skills, commitment and aptitude of the helper. This can be the first step for those seeking to undertake a career in volunteer wildlife rehabilitation.

    The Foster Carer

    One can apply to a Shelter to become a Foster Carer and if approved by the DSE they will be given an authority to possess native animals for the purposes of basic care. Anyone over the age of 16 can apply, with those under 18 requiring a guardian’s permission. Foster Carers are authorised to give basic care and rehabilitation as directed by their Shelter Operator. They cannot take animals direct from the public or assess them for treatment. Foster Carers are still required to help out with Shelter duties like cleaning enclosures, food preparation and rescues. Through this direct contact with the Shelter Operator the Foster Carer’s skills and knowledge are developed. Foster Carers do not have to progress to becoming Shelter Operators and many remain permanently as Foster Carers by choice.

    The Shelter

    One can apply directly to become a Shelter Operator, but it is usual that a person starts as a Foster Carer before applying to the DSE to become a Shelter Operator in their own right. To become a Shelter Operator one must have the skills, facilities and knowledge needed to work without supervision and manage advanced husbandry. Proof of service with an already licensed Shelter Operator assists with an application. Once licensed as a Shelter Operator, one can take animals directly from the public and assess the condition of the animal to decide on its treatment. Shelters Operators are individuals and their recommendation is personal. This is where the Victorian system has a significant advantage of quality over quantity. If a Shelter Operator recommends a poor carer, it is the Shelter’s reputation on the line, so the applicant is more likely to have proven demonstrated abilities when gaining a Shelter Operator’s authority.

    Code of Practice for the Welfare of Wildlife During Rehabilitation

    DSE Website (Rehabilitation)




    The first thing to note about the Victorian model is the number of rehabilitors. In NSW there are around 2300 in WIRES alone (although this number is dropping). In Victoria there are roughly 700 all told. This is a case of quality over quantity.

    To become a WIRES carer one need only pay a fee and spend two days in front of a power-point presentation. There is no test and, although very rare, any rejections are based on the subjective opinions of those running the workshop. Once someone has sat through a WIRES RICC seminar they can immediately go off to rescue and care for just about anything. In some other groups there are even less requirements placed on applicants.

    The follow-up training and development of standards in WIRES is wholly dependant on the branch to which the carer is assigned. This is in most cases non-existent and dependant on the Animal Coordinators within the branch. These Animal Coordinators are appointed by the local Committee who are elected by those members who bother to show at an AGM. The personal feelings and political considerations of the Animal Coordinator can have a direct effect on the allocation of animals and the quality of training provided. There are training courses in WIRES, each based around a specific species, but again, these are short courses of usually 1-2 days in length with no ongoing practical supervision.

    The Victorian system has more direct supervision built into the system. A shelter Operator is limited in the number of Foster Carers they can have under their licence. It is not in their best interest to carry Foster Carers who are not actively undertaking duties or working to a standard because this only places extra work on the Shelter Operator. It may also place their licence in jeopardy if Foster Carers under their licence behave in an unsatisfactory manner. Also, the reputation of the Shelter Operator suffers if they do not adequately train and mentor those under their supervision.

    In WIRES, where branches stretch over large areas with hundreds of members, one can disappear into the background having little contact with the Animal Coordinators or the branch management. In WIRES, the standards of care, and even the reporting of animal rescues and fates, are commonly unknown or unverifiable. This situation is limited under the Victorian model where proximity makes it difficult to hide poor standards or operate in unlawful ways. It affords little excuse to the Shelter Operator, unlike as happens in WIRES where those responsible for monitoring standards and compliance side-step responsibility with the excuse of too many members over too large an area.

    Another clear difference of the Victorian system is individual licensing for both Foster Carers and Shelter Operators. A Shelter Operator’s licence is issued by the DSE and only the DSE can remove it. This comes with all the due process one would expect from government including recourse to appeal.

    In Victoria, membership of a group like Wildlife Victoria, for example, is purely voluntary and it is well known that in recent times many have quit this organisation in disgust. With decisions affecting carers’ licences beyond the control of the organisation, in Victoria members can afford to quit an organisation behaving unethically or irresponsibly. In NSW, where quitting a group means losing the authority to care for wildlife, the dynamic is different. The NSW system almost guarantees that any corruption or mismanagement will stay hidden for longer because carers have no option other than to stay in the organisation and keep quiet if they wish to maintain their licence.

    It is true that a Foster Carer in Victoria is under the direct supervision of an individual Shelter Operator and their ongoing recommendation is required to maintain an authority. This relationship has the possibility of being abused. However, to be under the supervision of this Shelter Operator in the first place, there would have been mutual agreement and acceptance of this arrangement. The more likely result is both parties being confident of the other’s abilities and personal qualities before entering into the arrangement. Also, should personal issues come between a Shelter Operator and a Foster Carer, the Foster Carer can apply to another Shelter to continue as a Foster Carer or apply to become a Shelter Operator themselves.

    Lastly, any politics and exploitation are constrained by this localised model. The building of large political power bases that might impede a rehabilitor from undertaking their duties is prevented and the effects from political manoeuvrings in local branches or head office structures are removed. In NSW the political interests of wildlife groups has a detrimental effect on the care of wildlife because it is those political concerns that are put ahead of the needs of the animals in care. In the Victorian model, potential abuse is contained, thirst for power is limited, and this leads to overall better treatment of carers and a tighter focus on the care of wildlife.



    Government – DSE

    In Victoria the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) is responsible for wildlife and wildlife rehabilitation. The DSE, due to many factors, offers far more in direct assistance through grants than does its NSW counterpart. According to the DSE’s website, in 2008 the Victorian government granted $500,000 for new facilities and equipment to individual wildlife rehabilitators doing the front-line work. Approximately $600,000 was put aside by the DSE for grants over recent years for its 350 registered Shelters. WIRES in comparison, only spends approximately $35,000 a year on direct assistance to its 2300 rehabilitators. One-off initiatives are also well funded by the DSE with generous support after recent bushfires and the construction of a $6 million Australian Wildlife Health Centre. Shamefully, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) offers almost no support to carers interested in the needs of wildlife, throwing all responsibility for costs onto groups such as WIRES. OEH focuses themselves almost exclusively on the needs of shooters and the killing of native animals. NSW spends next to nothing on wildlife rehabilitation. If money is a good indicator of how seriously a government takes any issue, and I think it is, then the Victorian Government should be lauded for the level of support it has given to rehabilitors in Victoria.

    DSE Wildlife Rehabilitation Grants Program

    The DSE also has a staff of inspectors and seem to take compliance in the area of wildlife rehabilitation seriously. From the inquiries made by rw.com, DSE officers inspect shelters and carers with regularity and take complaints seriously. In contrast, the NSW OEH and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) seem only to inspect those that WIRES asks them to hassle or those critical of the government’s careless attitude towards wildlife. Even though repeated and gross breaches of WIRES’ licence have been reported to OEH/NPWS over the years, not once have they been investigated or reprimanded. Usually, the only response from OEH is to let WIRES know, via back channels, that there is a complaint, and the identity of the person complaining.



    WILDLIFE VICTORIA – If its rash, rub on some Gel.

    Don't be scaredThe once patron, now president, of Wildlife Victoria is Rob Gell. He was once a local Melbourne celebrity having been a TV weatherman for many years (I’m not making that up. Stop laughing!). He doesn’t seem to have grasped the idea of what wildlife rehabilitation is about. This was demonstrated by an article published in The Herald Sun on 27 January 2012.

    A corella had gotten its leg stuck while on an awning in a busy suburban shopping area. Of course it was rescued – that’s what Wildlife Victoria’s members do, right? Well not according to Mr Gel. He called the corella “stupid” and described the rescue as “crazy”. He seemed most upset when the “stupid” bird grabbed a rope that was thrown down nearby and managed to free itself, rather than intelligently waiting about to be rescued and then pose for a photo opportunity. Rob offers no alternative to rescuing the bird but maybe the most obvious one is to leave it there to die a slow and agonising death while the public looks on. That would make a great segment to end the news each night wouldn’t it?

    ... and light showers in the west, with Melbourne expecting drizzle for the next two thousand years. Being Friday we cross now to Corella-cam and the stupid bird is still there dying, as you can see its leg seems to have rotted off but its now too weak to fly, its condition has deteriorated quite a bit since last week, so here’s hoping... but with the cold front moving in from the Tasman over the weekend I’m sure it will freeze to death before Monday. [Fake laugh] Stupid bird! Back to you Brian

    [this quote is a serving suggestion only
    not attributable to anyone]

    Such is the condition of the once laudable Wildlife Victoria that now its President is a man who thinks rescuing native animals is a waste of time.

    They have pretty much cleared Wildlife Victoria of volunteer involvement in management with paid managerialists now running the show. Rob comments on the rescue: "This is the kind of stupidity compassionate people get distracted with and we don't get paid for". "For the first time we are going to get proper governance." he added. The “extravagant luxuries” the new management are axing include a 24hr vet service, and reimbursement of volunteers’ fuel costs for rescues and feeding costs during rehabilitation. They are now spending the money on staffing a business-hours only call centre that used to be run 24hrs for free by volunteers. What a savings! Are these services not exactly what donors to Wildlife Victoria expect their contributions to be spent on? The rescue and rehabilitation of injured wildlife? And how does it make any financial sense to replace a free 24hr volunteer phone service with a business hours one operated by paid telephonists? Wildlife Victoria has lost its way.

    Mr Gell alleges in this public newspaper article that members’ “grocery bills” were found in the accounts at Wildlife Victoria. Firstly, it is an association owned by its members to help them pay for the costs of rehabilitation, so finding these receipts in the accounts is not unexpected. Secondly, according to our sources, reimbursement for food items purchased for feeding animals was always legitimate and if they were bought at a supermarket they may appear to be “groceries”. Mr Gell is making direct allegations of fraud, in the mainstream media, against the members of the organisation he now presides over; allegations for which he provided no evidence at all.

    The volunteers are being pushed-out and demonised. Why? There’s gold in them there hills! Bushfires money!!! $4.3 million donated to Wildlife Victoria has attracted the managerialists always on the lookout for an organisation to “professionalise” (and pay them to do so). The problem with the managerialists is that they will, if allowed inside, turn an association dedicated to assisting volunteer members doing noble deeds, into a business bringing in cash to print reports, making work for risk-averse mangers, giving good PR to corporate cronies, turning members into customers, and paying others to do the work once volunteered. They never understand the fundamental reason for member run associations; that being the support of the members. And where in heaven’s name would Wildlife Victoria have gotten the idea that this was an acceptable model?

    Before this rot began, several trips north were made by Wildlife Victoria's management... to the offices of... WIRES NSW. The parallels between what is happening in Wildlife Victoria and what has already happened in WIRES NSW are uncanny. The only thing saving the wildlife rehabilitators in Victoria is the individual licensing system and the localised delivery model. Imagine the situation they would be in if the managerialists in Wildlife Victoria had control of licensing too. You don’t have to imagine it: just look at WIRES NSW.

    Melbourne Herald Sun - "Wildlife Crippled by Crazy Rescues"

    Coming Soon...

    How did outside interests get control of Wildlife Victoria? Strange goings on indeed...


# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaMaggie 2013-12-13 22:59
This story is so on the mark and is prophetic. News getting around ATM is Wildlife Victoria has applied to the Vic Dept of Environment & Primary Industry to take over all licensing and to run the only call centre. Its a power grab using the WIRES model. WV is trying to get rid of individual licenses just like WIRES did in NSW. What a disaster that will be for everyone in Vic.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaBowerbird 2013-12-14 10:24
Bet Stan Wood and the famous 5 on the WIRES Board told WV how to do it.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaWoodwork 2013-12-16 17:17
Don't you mean infamous! Yes I heard that WIRES had meetings with WV.
Reality Check
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaReality Check 2013-12-18 23:10
I believe Stan Wood is no longer a
member and spends a lot of his time
in Darwin. Seems he's started a new
life phase
Realty Cheque
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaRealty Cheque 2013-12-19 05:45
I believe Stan has a mobile and internet access. He's still involved.
More incompetance
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaMore incompetance 2013-12-19 09:46
Well Stan Wood is still on the WIRES database as a member and as a employee at SRO! So who would really know.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaProtest 2013-12-16 17:20
Start protesting now before its too late. Government will like the idea as they will only have to deal with one group instead of many individuals.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in Victoriaguest 2013-12-18 14:16
Reformwildlifevictoria - rwv for short -no doubt will appear soon.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaKerri 2013-04-15 22:40
An accurate account of the change that has occurred with WLV.
Rob Gel u r a disgrace as are all the other upper management.
Wildlife out west
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaWildlife out west 2012-07-23 07:20
We run in the western suburbs of Melbourne and personally our wildlife shelter operator cares for over 600 native animals a year. we currently do not have any foster carers but we do have a great support team of helpers/rescuers and transporters..
please have a look at our website
Guets 1
# Wildlife Rehab in VicGuets 1 2012-07-19 12:51
Oh and another note most (including ourselves) shelters that we work with will recieve and treat between 100 and 200 animals per year. And the wildfe hospital purpose built for wildlife is a fasc. Yes it was built but don't think that its easy to have an animal seen. You usually have to jump up and down and even when you say the animal is in critical need of attention, they ask if an appointment in three days would be ok. Luckly most of us have fantastic local vets and other experienced rehabilitators we can turn to
# ThanksSpartacus 2012-07-19 14:20
I am really glad to hear from a Victorian about your first hand experience of the system.
No system is 100% but I think the Vic approach to wildlife rehabilitation is more thorough and just overall better.
Thanks very much for your comments.
Guets 1
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaGuets 1 2012-07-19 12:44
As a wildlife rehabilitator in Victoria, although our system has flaws I certainly prefer it over the NSW system. Our state government although does provide some financial system through grants, do not be led to believe that we are funded in any other way. The grants are hard to get and few and far between but at least we are acknowledged. If we have concerns over a shelter or foster carer (a foster carer is under the supervision of a wildlife shelter for a minimum of two years before they can apply for a license) we go directly to DSE who will follow up with a shelter visit etc. To receive animals you usually have to belong to WV etc so that your name is on the database however I think non members providing they are registered can also apply to go on the database.
Harry V Durci
# A wake up call.Harry V Durci 2012-07-16 11:04
Since being discriminated against by the Board because the manager did not allow for my disability I have saved $31.000.00 and influenced donors to redirect their money to other wildlife organisations.I estimate it to be up towards $170.000.00. the board and Management have never spoken to me or met me. My disability was never considered to be a problem with animal care. when i joined.Unfortunately I was not allowed the opportunity to state my case.
in fact I was ignored. Fortunately it is a big world and somebody always want's hard worker especially when they pay their way and make donations as well as being skilled and innovative. My Grand Father Taught me To not hang around where you are not appreciated.
I am Pleased to see this site. It allows me the opportunity to publicly tell the board that when they awake in the middle of the night they can think about what they have done. They Might also consider that they might be next victim and how they will defend themselves against a system that they endorsed.
white ant
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in Victoriawhite ant 2012-07-15 12:11
"Quality over quantity" It depends on the amount of animals coming into care and how overloaded a shelter could possibly get to the quality they would provide. It would be interseting to know how many animals come into care with in Victoria on a yearly basis?
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaApache 2012-07-15 14:14
Well since they actually get financial support from gov. to build facilities unlike WIRES and NSW gov. where carers get nothing, and they get close supervised training unlike WIRES where you get a boring weekend course and are let loose with no follow up, and they don't have to deal with petty internal politics that drives out good people for personal reasons, and they can pass the animals on to other shelters unlike WIRES who freaks out if another group is used, and the VIC government built a $6 [million] hospital just for wildlife so theres a place for the overload, I reckon they probably have a good chance of supplying adequate care. What's your solution? WIRES? Where no one knows anything about what goes on and nasty personal politics come before animals? You know its true.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in Victoriabrushtail 2012-07-15 20:42
WIRES Board does not see the need to do anything.Almost another AGM and what have they done this last year? No attempt to improve governance, deal with outstanding grievances against the board, some more than 2 yrs old, no review of the constitution, no encouragement of the general membership to consider standing for the board,no opportunities opened up for non board members like being allowed to stand to represent wires on the wildlife council,
no changes to give members more financial assistance from the millions received in donations and bequest and not much productive work poduced by mostof those management teams that cost money to run. Come on Barry, you know you have a problem, so take a trip to Victoria and learn how volunteers and the wildlife should be treated.
# The answerSpartacus 2012-07-15 14:36
According to the DSE website (the link is in the article)
Around 7,000 native animals are treated in Victorian shelters each year
That is 20 per shelter per year but of course some shelters are busier than others. Also note, these figures are much more accurate than WIRES' figures (they'd have to be). Also, NSW is larger in area than Victoria (3.5 times bigger) and the figures are for "treatment" and might not include those animals relocated etc. which WIRES counts in its statistics which no one is allowed to see.
# RE The answerpodargus 2012-07-19 09:32
In one year I (just one person) recorded over 800 animals rescued and/or cared for. Admittedly that was a busy year, but to have only 20 animals to care for in a year would be wonderful! (Can't understand how there would be so few though). That Vic carers get so much financial support to look after such a relatively small number of rescued wildlife is a marvelous boon for them. Yet in NSW we get no support or help; it's cost me many thousands personally just to buy facilities; the food/medical costs are horrendous. To then have to put up with all the nasty politics that exist in some groups, & be forced to be stuck in an abusive group, simply to remain licensed, is just wrong. If you leave, all your many years of experience, knowledge, & your costly facilities are wasted, because they won't issue licenses. We've lost so many already because of this; especially in areas where the groups are feral. I hope that the changes in NSW will signal the end of this dreadful situation with wildlife care licensing, which seems to be more about protecting the profits of groups, rather than protecting the welfare of wildlife in care.
# RE: RE The answerSpartacus 2012-07-19 11:00
Please remember that the 20 per year is only an average - some carers in Vic are as busy as you.
One reason there are so few has to do with land area - Victoria is less than a third the size of NSW and that means less animals assuming they have roughly the same number of animals per square kilometre.
Your experiences inside wildlife groups in NSW is typical, unfortunately. Here's hoping the government will take some action to assist wildlife carers even if it is just to remove the unnecessary and often pointless interference from wildlife groups. One would think the Liberals, with their emphasis on self-determination and reward for individual effort, would support removing the impediments the groups create for talented and dedicated people.
meal worm
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in Victoriameal worm 2012-07-15 11:01
I would be interested to know how efficient and how well the DSE is in checking their authorised shelters for compliance.
If shelter operators are cowboys/girls and teaching incorrect and sloppy methods would this be picked up.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaApache 2012-07-15 14:17
Far better than in NSW thats for sure. i think you miss thepoint that the way they are trained over a long period helps weed out the dodgy ones.
Magnum P.I.
# I've seen itMagnum P.I. 2012-07-15 16:38
I have friends in Victoria who are volunteer carers and from what I saw first hand their standards were terrific and the system really worked.

DSE does inspect and earlier this year I know for sure that one shelter was closed by the DSE. Inspectors turned up one day with police and confiscated all the animals and the licence of the shelter was cancelled awaiting appeal. That is proper procedure delivered by trained and authorised officers with proper paperwork and authority, with transparency and due process, not the result of some witch hunt like as happens in WIRES - not that WIRES ever inspect anyone anyway. And when did the OEH do anything about all the breaches WIRES has had complaints about over many years?

Victoria's system is much better in my experience and it takes care of its volunteers and animals first. I'd love to see it in NSW.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in VictoriaJoey 2012-07-15 10:07
I am so glad someone is publishing this information so we can actually see what is happening. I feel sick to the stomach when i think of all that money being wasted and carers on pensions are up to their eyeballs in bills such as electricity as they spend money on food, medication and vet care for their animals in care first.
# RE: Wildlife Rehabilitation in Victoriaguest 2012-07-15 07:46
Very interesting reformwires. I wonder if volunteers in Vic are in the same situation as those in NSW who have no government agency to go to for help if they have complaints at the way they are being treated by their organisation and the management refuses to deal with them ie bullying, discrimination and unfair treatment.

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