Man in suit wearing red boxing gloves
AWC’s overbearing rules confuse and anger photographers. Photo: ©istock

AWC rules are hostile to photographers

If you are a nature photographer of any stripe and have visited an Australian Wildlife Conservancy property, chances are you have unwittingly broken one of its most Draconian conditions of access.

You may have taken a picture of a good bird on your smartphone or compact camera, posted it on social media, or Heaven forbid, sent it to e-Bird as verification of a good sighting.

And if you did so without first obtaining the AWC’s permission to use YOUR image to show YOUR friends, followers or birders, you have broken one of the conservancy’s repressive rules covering photography.

Overbearing attitude

I was reminded this week of the organisation’s overbearing attitude to photographers (of all kinds) when booking a visit to the AWC’s Bowra sanctuary in south-west Queensland.

In confirming the booking online the helpful volunteer guest manager recommended that I read the attached Conditions of Entry dated 19/10/18 before arrival because they would have to be agreed to as part of the check-in process.

All looked fine and reasonable until the very last section: Photography and filming. Suddenly, a big red light started flashing. I can’t possibly sign that!

Australian hobby perched
An Australian hobby fluffed up against the early morning cold – Cunnamulla, near Bowra. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Conditions of entry

Here are the AWC’s actual conditions of entry as they apply to everyone who might take pictures or shoot some video while at Bowra (and probably at its other properties):

  1. You may take photos or film on an AWC sanctuary for private or personal use only.
  2. Copies of photos or film taken on an AWC sanctuary may be requested by AWC, and you must consent to publication by AWC if requested by AWC.
  3. If you would like to make photos or footage that you take on an AWC sanctuary publicly available, provide them to a third party to publish, or use them for commercial purposes, you must obtain written consent from AWC prior to your visit.

Confirmed suspicions

A follow-up chat with the AWC’s communications manager in Perth confirmed my suspicions that:

  • ‘private or personal use only’ means exactly that – no sharing; no use in a blog, social media; nothing without AWC ok;
  • any of your images that the AWC likes can be ‘commandeered’ and used (presumably free of charge) as and when;
  • written consent BEFORE YOUR VISIT is required if you plan to use YOUR images on YOUR blog, website, social media page; probably even e-Bird.

Whether professional photographer, enthusiastic amateur, dedicated birder or casual visitor, if you take any pictures and want to share them with anyone, you need formal AWC approval to do so. Oh yes, and you have to give them any pics they might fancy. Bollocks!

Many photographers and birders who like to record images with their sightings are unhappy with the AWC’s conditions.

My comments and suggestions to improve the situation – particularly for non-professional and recreational photographers – have been forwarded to the AWC. Hopefully others will follow suit and we get something more sensible in place – ideally in time for my proposed visit in September.

The AWC owns or manages 28 properties encompassing 4.8 million ha of wildlife habitat, making it the largest private owner of land for conservation in Australia.

It is funded by private donations, indigenous groups, governments and landholders, and casts a long shadow over wildlife and habitat protection. It is also involved in the controversial trapping of seriously endangered red goshawks on Queensland’s Cape York.

©Tony Neilson, Natural Images 2019

Galah landing on dead tree
Dusk light adds a blue hue to a galah’s upper wing feathers, Bowra. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.



  • Lumpy May 3, 2019 at 4:50 PM Reply

    Unless the photo’s are Night Parrot related, then they don’t want them.

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