The FOTB Committee are looking for input from FOTB members to help us finalise our draft Strategic Plan to ensure that our goals and actions are achievable and relevant to both the needs of our river system and the aspirations of our members. We ask that you take a moment to read through the draft below and offer any ideas or feedback you may have by 23rd July:

Friends of the BarwonDRAFT Strategic Plan

Friends of the Barwon have developed this Strategic Plan to help guide our vision and goals for five years from 2024 to 2029. This Strategic Plan prioritises our work and engagement with our community and will be publicly available on our website as a statement of our mission and goals to the wider community.


Friends of the Barwon (FOTB) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands on which the Barwon River flows, the Wadawurrung and Eastern Maar, where FOTB operates and its members work and live. We pay our respects to elders past and present and recognise the continuing connection to land, water, sky and community of these peoples.

Who we are

Friends of the Barwon is an incorporated, catchment-wide network of groups and individuals working to protect and restore the long-term health of the Barwon River, its tributaries and catchments (‘Barwon River system’), through building partnerships and empowering communities.

Our committee is made up of volunteers with diverse backgrounds who all share a passion for protecting and improving the health of the Barwon River system.

We work with landholders, government, agencies, community groups and industry to make sure we all use water more wisely, build our cities more sustainably, and create healthier environments.


Waterways are the lifeblood of country and communities, but our waterways across the broader Barwon River system need our help.

More people than ever call Geelong, the Bellarine, the Surf Coast, the Otway Ranges and Ballarat home. Climate change is shrinking how much rain makes its way into our reservoirs. Increasing populations mean that people are taking more water from our rivers and groundwater systems, more often. More roads and roofs in our towns and cities send more polluted stormwater into our waterways.

The Barwon River system is large, comprising two basins or catchments, and includes the Yarrowee/Leigh and Moorabool rivers, and several hundred kilometres of minor tributaries. It extends from the Otway Ranges to Geelong and Barwon Heads. To the north it reaches as far as Ballarat. Much of the catchment has been significantly modified by settlement.

The surface and groundwater within the Barwon River system provide the bulk of the water used by the population within its catchment. This has placed enormous strain on its rivers, resulting in frequent cease-to-flow events, acid releases causing large fish die-offs and a myriad of other impacts.

During the period of 1975 to 2017, records show that the average surface water availability was 232.5 GL/year, a decline of 11 per cent compared with the historical average surface water availability, which was 262.1 GL/year. The period since 1997 shows further declines in water availability (DELWP, 2020).

Over time, annual rainfall totals for the Barwon region are likely to decline, particularly under high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, with the greatest drying in spring. By late-century under high emissions, the climate change trend becomes obvious compared to natural variability, with a 24 per cent median decrease in annual totals; in spring this decrease is predicted to be 34 per cent (DELWP & CSIRO, 2019).

Formation of the Friends of the Barwon in October 2018 was triggered by concerns about a series of low- or no-flow events in the Barwon River around Winchelsea and the lack of communication between agencies or groups caring for the river. Founding members realised the need for a group focussed on the improvement of the whole Barwon River system. So began our journey.

Our vision

A healthy, flowing and life-sustaining Barwon River system is both our vision for the future and our obligation to the generations to come.

Our mission

Friends of the Barwon will contribute to our vision by acting as an independent knowledge-based community leader and educator for the protection and improvement of the ecosystem of the Barwon River system. 

Our purpose

The purpose of our association is to represent and work on behalf of members towards ensuring that the rivers, tributaries, wetlands and estuaries of the Barwon River system are:

  1. ecologically healthy, well-connected and resilient, both now and in the long term;
  2. managed according to scientifically-proven sustainable land and water management practices;
  3. protected through the provision of adequate long-term environmental flows; and
  4. embraced by communities that are engaged in protecting the natural environment. 

Focus areas

As a small, not-for-profit organisation, Friends of the Barwon needs to be mindful of the fact that delivering on our purpose relies primarily on volunteer time, and that there are many other active and successful community groups who work to protect and enhance the environment throughout the Barwon River system. We need to target our efforts to make best use of our volunteer time and other available resources.

Following consultation with members and stakeholders, four focus areas have been identified as the priorities for FOTB over the life of this plan.


Provide a ‘voice’ for the Barwon River system, focused on protecting and improving its unique values:

  • Advocate for actions by and policies from land managers, private interests and other stakeholders that support our vision.
  • Promote and, where feasible, assist FOTB members and other key stakeholders with engagement opportunities and actions that have positive outcomes for the Barwon River system.
  • Investigate issues that have the potential to impact negatively on the Barwon River system and pursue those issues with the relevant individuals, organisations and authorities.
  • Provide guidance and support to FOTB members and other key stakeholders around issues that have the potential to negatively impact the Barwon River system.


Cultivate and maintain partnerships with relevant affiliate organisations, government land and waterway managers, Traditional Owners, landholders and other users of the Barwon River system:

  • Maintain regular, open and frank dialogue with agencies and other groups and individuals caring for the Barwon River system.
  • Build and maintain partnerships with Traditional Custodians of Barwon River country.
  • Provide FOTB representation on committees and -alliances with significant influence or oversight of Victorian rivers, including the Concerned Waterways Alliance, Barwon Water Environmental Advisory Committee and Lower Barwon Seasonal Water Advisory Committee.
  • Maintain membership and voting delegation to organisations and other bodies with significant influence or oversight of the Barwon River system, including Landcare Victoria Inc., Bellarine Catchment Network and the Geelong Environment Council.
  • Encourage stakeholders to participate as observers in FOTB committee meetings and attend our AGM.

Inform and empower

Empower FOTB members and other stakeholders through two-way knowledge sharing of matters and issues relating to the health of the Barwon River system:

  • Educate and support our committee and other key volunteers so they are well informed and have a meaningful role in FOTB.
  • Produce and circulate widely, regular newsletters focussed on matters relevant to the Barwon River system.
  • Use direct email and/or social media posts to promote FOTB and matters relevant to the health of the Barwon River system.
  • Regularly disseminate news items to media channels to encourage media promotion of FOTB activities and concerns.
  • Maintain and regularly update the FOTB website and promote new content widely.
  • Explore opportunities to increase knowledge of river and catchment management and issues in the community through webinars and other events.

Organisational sustainability

Ensure that FOTB continues to thrive as organisation, now and into the future:

  • Encourage members to join FOTB’s committee and/or expand their contribution to FOTB through increased involvement in specific tasks.
  • Continue to develop and maintain strong governance protocols, which are reviewed annually.
  • Actively seek ongoing and/or periodic funding opportunities for FOTB through partner organisations, members and other stakeholders.


DELWP (2020) Long-term water resource assessment for Southern Victoria. Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, pp. 158-160.

DELWP and CSIRO (2019 – updated 2020) Barwon climate projections 2019. JM Clarke, M Grose, M Thatcher, V Round & C Heady. CSIRO, Melbourne Australia.