1985 - 1986

Commencement and first duck rescue

Because Victoria’s politicians refused to visit the wetlands to see the slaughter they had sanctioned, the illegally shot birds were laid out and displayed outside the Victorian Premier’s office on the following Monday morning to highlight the illegal shooting of protected and threatened species. This practise has continued ever since.

South Australia

Between 1986 and 1989, Coalition Against Duck Shooting rescuers crossed the border to assist native waterbirds at Bool Lagoon in South Australia. Animal Liberation South Australia took over after 1989.


Minister considers a ban

Duck shooting in Victoria came close to being banned when Conservation Minister Joan Kirner moved to ban duck shooting, but only if the NSW government also implemented a ban. At that time Barrie Unsworth had become NSW Premier following Neville Wran’s resignation. After long deliberations, Unsworth decided against a ban as he was facing an election and while Neville Wran had been extremely popular, Unsworth was not. This resulted in the continuation of duck shooting in Victoria. Conservation Minister Joan Kirner banned the use of airboats that the shooters sometimes used to scare off the water and towards the shooters’ guns.


NSW duck rescue

Levy was invited to NSW to discuss with a newly formed rescue team the strategy and tactics used in Victoria and to talk to new rescuers.

1989 & 1990 Lake Buloke

Approximately 400 rescuers challenged 10,000 duck shooters at Lake Buloke on the opening of these duck shooting seasons.


Laurie Levy and Neal Bethune campaigned to assist stranded whales from 1981 to 1988 (see their 47 minute documentary ‘The Whale Savers’ which was aired on ABC TV in 1984).

Once governments implemented their rescue plans and recommendations, the Whale Rescue Centre closed down.

However, to assist the whale campaign, in 1985 Laurie stood for the Democrats in Geelong.   The duck shooting season started on the same day as the election.  Laurie took a lunch break from handing out ‘how to vote’ cards and because he was curious to see what took place on the wetlands during duck openings, decided to visit the nearby Connewarre wetlands.

Laurie knew very little about native ducks at that time but did know that the pelicans, swans, ibis, cormorants and myriad of other species being illegally shot were not ducks.  He was outraged at the injustice to the beautiful birds and astounded that regulating officers were themselves shooting waterbirds instead of watching the hunters.

Later that year his intervention led to wildlife officers being prevented from shooting birds while on the job, and a change in the opening times so there was less shooting in total darkness before dawn.

Then in 1986, a group of 15 Animal Liberation rescuers joined a rescue team that Laurie organised at Reedy Lake, part of the Connewarre Lakes near Geelong, where they faced around 8,000 shooters. The wounded birds were recovered and taken to the CADS veterinary unit for treatment and care.

Waterfowl Identification Test

Waterfowl Identification Test introduced after CADS’ media exposure of the slaughter of Australia’s threatened species. Shooters’ required to clear the test before obtaining a game license. Victorian Duck shooter numbers come down from 100,000 to approximately 60,000.

Banned in Western Australia

The Conservation Council of WA invite Levy to WA to help with their first duck rescue campaign. Six months later Premier Carmen Lawrence banned recreational duck shooting

Labour State Conference

The Victorian Labor State Conference overwhelmingly voted to ban duck shooting.


Labor Country Caucus in Ballarat

The Victorian Labor Country Caucus voted to ban duck shooting. But the ban was never implemented by Labor’s political wing. The Kennett Liberal Government then won the October 1992 election.


Lake Buloke Freckled Duck Slaughter

300 Freckled ducks sighted at the northern end of Lake Buloke before the duck shooting season. Levy asked for the whole wetland to be closed to shooting. Conservation Department only closed the northern end where the Freckled ducks had been seen. 272 illegally shot Freckled ducks were recovered by rescuers.

The Age

The Melbourne Age newspaper published the first of many editorials calling for duck shooting to be banned. Headed ‘Duck shooting must be outlawed’, the first line of the editorial stated “Duck shooting is not a sport, it is an obscenity”. The Age continues to print editorials calling for recreational duck shooting to be banned.

New Political Laws To Stop Rescuers

Following the 1992 Victorian election, new Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett introduced Human Safety Regulations in an attempt to keep duck rescuers and the media off the water before 10am and after 5pm on the first two days of duck shooting seasons. For the remainder of the 3-month season this regulation did not apply.
CADS’ rescuers continue helping native waterbirds on the water in spite of the fines and court cases.


Lead shot banned in SA Wetlands

Victorian duck rescuers travelled to Bool Lagoon in SA in 1986. Levy questioned National Parks about the dangers of lead shot and was told it wasn’t a problem. Three months later he received a phone call regarding an investigation into the deaths of Magpie geese, Black swans and Pacific black ducks at Bool Lagoon which revealed the birds had died from lead poisoning. Lead shot was banned at Bool Lagoon in 1987 and was completely banned from all SA wetlands in 1994.


Banned in NSW

NSW Premier Bob Carr officially bans recreational duck shooting. Decision based on recommendations from the NSW Government’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.


The Victorian duck shooting season was scheduled to go ahead despite drought and low waterbird numbers. However, an illegally taped telephone conversation between two shooters resulted in a moratorium.


Levy vs State of Victoria

Rescuers fined $20,000 in fines for being on the water before 10am. Challenged in the Magistrates’ Court where they originally won on a technicality. The technicality was removed, the police tried the case again and won. Levy appealed to the County Court and then the High Court, where the case turned into a major free speech argument. The case was lost in court but CADS capitalised on all the media. The Court, however, recognised that freedom of speech could be through actions, not necessarily verbal. This decision helped other environmental groups with their campaigns.


Lead Shot banned in Victoria

In Victoria, in 1988 & 1989, it was discovered that lead shot was a major problem. This emerged in the autopsies organised by the Conservation Dept. on illegally shot and recovered waterbirds. In 1990 the government instigated a study into the lead problem on Victorian wetlands. The Conservation Dept. called for a phase-out of lead shot in 1993 but the shooting organisations stalled the ban until lead was finally banned in 2002. CADS was the peak campaign body working toward this outcome.



Because of drought, a moratorium on duck shooting was called in Victoria. The rescue team instead turned their attention to Moulting Lagoon in Tasmania.

2004 -2008

Labor Branches

Levy and some Labor members spoke at 28 Labor branch meetings. 27 branches voted for a ban on duck shooting including former Premier Steve Bracks’ Williamstown branch.


Banned in Queensland

Queensland’s Labor Government bans recreational duck shooting on recommendations from the Queensland Government’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.


Roy Morgan Research Poll

Thanks to a grant from Voiceless, a Roy Morgan research poll of randomly selected Victorians showed 75% wanted a permanent ban on recreational duck shooting. A huge 87% of Victorians said they wanted an end to recreational duck shooting. This was across all political parties.

2007 - 2008


Duck shooting was cancelled in Victoria in 2007 and 2008. The CADS’ rescue team instead travelled to Tasmania’s Moulting Lagoon both years.


Field & Game Australia Water Theft

A CADS undercover team discovered Field and Game Australia (FGA) illegally diverting water from the Latrobe River onto Heart Morass (FGA’s private shooting property) just a week prior to the opening of the 2009 duck shooting season near the town of Sale in Gippsland.
After substantial media coverage, Southern Rural Water laid charges and FGA’s Gippsland wetland manager, Gary Howard, pleaded guilty to illegal diversion of water in the Sale Magistrates’ Court. He was fined $1,500 (without conviction) and ordered to pay costs of $1,500.

Labor’s Socialist Left Faction

Labor’s Socialist Left faction voted for a ban on duck shooting.


Petition to Parliament

In October, CADS and the RSPCA jointly presented a petition of over 30,000 signatures to the Victorian Parliament requesting a ban on recreational duck shooting.


A Rescuer is shot

A rescuer was shot in the face and hands at Lake Buloke, near Donald. Fortunately, she was survived with her eyes intact.

RSPCA Action

The RSPCA ran an advertisement in The Age newspaper titled ‘Victoria’s day of shame, 19 March 2011’ – the opening of the duck shooting season, and called on Victorians to help stop duck shooting. The RSPCA continued taking a high profile with full page advertisements in The Age every duck shooting season until after the Oct. 2016 Independent Review of the RSPCA Inspectorate.


Box Flat Massacre

CADS received a tip-off on the opening weekend of duck shooting season about a massacre of native water birds including about 200 threatened Freckled Ducks on a private wetland called Box Flat in Northwest Victoria. The event also had gun manufacturer Winchester supply crates of free ammunition to the site with a strict shooters-only invite with only two wildlife officers who could not act due to Occupational Health & Safety Regulations.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh announced closure of Box Flat pending investigation. Post-investigation, CADS rescue team went to the site and recovered 40 threatened Freckled Ducks that had been illegally shot and got the news to the media. A few months later, the shooters were let go without being prosecuted.


Labor’s Conservation Environment & Resources Policy Committee

This Committee voted for a ban on duck shooting but it was never allowed. The second time it was voted on, the committee was closed down for some time in a bid to prevent the policy from going to State Conference.


Freckled Duck Slaughter

Rescuers recovered 42 illegally shot, threatened Freckled Ducks from Lake Bullrush, south of the Grampians, during the first week of the 2014 recreational duck shooting season.
That year, rescuers recovered over 100 illegally shot, threatened Freckled Ducks from just a handful of wetlands during the 3-month duck shooting season.
After being closed to shooting because of the presence of Freckled Ducks at the start of the season, Bartlett’s Swamp, a private wetland near Box Flat, was opened on May 7. Within the first 10 minutes, rescuers recovered an illegally shot Freckled Duck.
Had the CADS rescue teams not patrolled these wetlands, the illegal slaughter would have gone undetected.


Compliance Officer’s Kayak Incident

At the beginning of the Duck Shooting season, Levy encountered a Game Management Compliance Officer (and a Duck Shooter) who has a history of misbehaving with rescuers and misusing the legal system against the rescuers.
Levy saw the officer paddling his kayak to go after rescuers who were saving an injured native water bird. Acting on the spot, Levy held on to his kayak’s end to stop him from misbehaving yet again. The event was covered on News channels that day and gained a lot of public attention.
For his actions, Levy was produced in the Magistrate’s Court for obstructing an officer and fined with a ban on attending the next shooting season at the site.
With support from an anonymous benefactor and Lyn White AM, Director of Strategy for Animals Australia, Levy’s fines were paid. White also offered to stand in his stead at the next shooting season if the ban was upheld.


Animals Australia Supreme Court Challenge

The Ramsar Wetlands hold international importance due to the number of threatened and protected species they hold. Two of the most popular duck shooting spots in the region are Lake Elizabeth and Johnson Swamp. While the latter was closed till Easter, the Government allowed Lake Elizabeth to stay open until Animals Australia challenged the decision in Supreme Court and forced the site to shut down for shooting. During Easter when Johnson Swamp was expected to open for shooting, Animals Australia again moved to the Supreme Court and emerged victorious by forcing the Government to close Johnson Swamp for shooting for the remainder of the Duck shooting season.


Koorangie Marshes Massacre

CADS pushed for the Koorangie Wetlands to be closed for Duck shooting but the request was turned down. On opening day, the shooting started 20 minutes before the designated time, with regulating Officers and police standing helplessly over OHS concerns. Rescuers exposed the massacre and recovered 183 illegally shot threatened birds and 296 protected birds. CADS delivered 1500 dead birds and 10,000 used shotgun shells to Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford in Ballarat to make a statement.

Pegasus Report

After CADS exposed the appalling massacre of native water birds in the opening of the 2017 recreational duck shooting season at the Koorangie Marshes, an assessment of the Game Management Authority’s compliance and enforcement function was undertaken by Pegasus Economics. The assessment brought some alarming and highlighted major problems within the GMA.


Airboat Incident

In a surprisingly quiet Duck season in Victoria’s Wetlands, the last day of the season saw only 7 shooters at Cundare Pool. The shooters however, used an airboat to flush birds into shooting lines. Our rescuers captured visuals of this action and shared it with the media. The Game Management Authority was informed and seized the infamous airboat. The owner of the boat was prosecuted in the Geelong MAgistrates Court and fined A$ 5,000.


AJP MP Andy Meddick

In March, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick announced his bill to end duck shooting. The Bill was read and debated in Parliament in September, but not voted on.

Shooters Dwindle

The year saw very low bird numbers amidst drought and bushfires. The Labor Government, however, called for a modified Duck shooting season. The Game Management Authority estimated about 1,300 active shooters on the opening weekend.

Labor Review of Duck Shooting

At the November Labor State Conference, MPs Lizzie Blandthorn and Steve McGhie called for a review of duck shooting.


Illegal Shooter Behaviour

Duck rescuers, shooters and wildlife face huge risks from duck shooters who are intoxicated while in charge of firearms.
During the Covid pandemic, a CADS photographer captured drone images of what appeared to be two duck shooters snorting a white powder.


Parliamentary Inquiry

The Victorian Labor government announces a Parliamentary Inquiry into recreational native bird hunting in Victoria.

After three months of hearings the Inquiry announced a number of recommendations, including that recreational duck shooting be banned.


Premier Jacinta Allan rejects recommendation to ban duck shooting

On 29 January 2024, the new Victorian Premier, Jacinta Allan, overrode her Cabinet and called a duck shooting season, kowtowing to the unions, the gun lobby and a handful of her duck shooting constituents.

Image: The Age 28 Jan 2024

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