Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Birdlife Australia (formerly Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union – RAOU)

ProjectPublication of "Atlas of Victorian Birds" and "The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds"

Amount$275,000 (total)

Date1983, 1986, 1989 and 1997

ProgramPast Programs | Environment

These grants were approved under our previous grants policy
Rural and regional Victoria Implement comprehensive and precise mapping and recording of Victoria’s bird species.
Building organisational capacity Provide equipment and capability to establish an accessible Victorian ornithological database.
Extending opportunity Enlarge Victoria’s knowledge pool and provide opportunities for all birdwatchers to contribute.
Collaboration and partnership Engage thousands of Victorian amateur and professional ornithologists.

Funding gives flight to globally significant Australian works

The vast database of almost 3,500,000 records of observations for the "Field Atlas of Australian Birds" was held only on the CSIRO's mainframe computer in Canberra until HMSTrust provided funding for newly introduced microcomputers in 1983.

Image The landmark first volume of HANZAB. Design: Jeff Davies

  • From 1977-1981, the RAOU’s ambitious project to map the distribution of all Australian birds relied on thousands of volunteer birdwatchers around the country. The 3,489,591 individual records of bird observations became one of the largest single biological computer databases in the nation.
  • HMSTrust funded computer and program costs to transfer Victorian data to the RAOU headquarters in Melbourne, then an additional grant gave flight to the inaugural Atlas of Victorian Birds. This in turn leveraged further funding for the award-winning and globally significant Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds.
  • Prepared over 20 years and published by Oxford University Press in seven volumes between 1990 and 2006, the handbook collated comprehensive information about 957 species. It remains the pre-eminent scientific reference on birds in the region.
  • HMSTrust was a key contributor to this extraordinary publication. One of its then largest-ever grants of $100,000 in 1989 was followed by a grant of $150,000 in 1997. This ongoing commitment provided essential support for the publication of six of the volumes.

Website: www.birdlife.org.au

“Your support in the early stages when you gave $100,000 over two years for Volume 1 was greatly appreciated. It showed faith in the ability of the RAOU to produce, and this has since been confirmed by both national and international acclaim.” The late Dr Norman Wettenhall AM, Chairman, RAOU Research Committee, in a letter to HMSTrust.