The conservation industry has come a long way since Martin Potts, our Program Specialist in Gippsland, was at school. Having no academic outlet for his passion for nature, he tried to study business at university, but left disheartened with the greed he felt was instilled in the training principles. Instead, Martin set off into the wilderness, living off bush foods for months on end. When he finally returned to the city, he realised how much he still had to learn about native plants so became a horticulture apprentice. Several more years of “walkabout”, taught him how to grow plants in different conditions and climates.
By the time Martin had completed his extraordinary journey, the environmental field had started to take shape and after earning his degree, he was recruited by Greening Australia. Martin describes his work as “large-scale gardening and land-healing”.
“We find areas that are degraded and in a state of further decline, and we try and reverse that to bring wilderness back.”
One of his focus areas is Redgum Grassy Woodlands, which are under threat due to extensive land clearing and fragmentation. Martin works to understand where these damaging practices remain and work to eradicate them.
Martin also leads our major project at Lakes Wellington Wetlands in Victoria. The wetlands, which surround the Ramsar-listed Gippsland Lakes and form important habitat for migratory birds and local wildlife, have become increasingly salty and more isolated.
“Some of our most threatened species rely on these wetlands so we’re doing a lot of work to try and look after them. We are working with local community groups, government and corporate partners to restore the wetlands, manage pests and bring buffers back”.
During his several years out in country, Martin befriended many Aboriginal communities who inspired him. Today, working with and learning from Traditional Owners, as well as helping to teach Indigenous communities, plays a core role in all his work.
“In every project I write, I include an Indigenous education component. When you try to heal a bit of land, you can’t scratch the surface much without touching on Indigenous history. We bring in schools and community to be part of a smoke ceremony, or be part of a bush tucker day, or get the kids to learn a local dance. It really serves to foster a respect for the past but it also connects people to country. They do think about that bird while they’re dancing, they are thinking about that tree that they’re making the boomerang from. And like a lot of Indigenous stories, they bring you back to the land you’re standing on.”
Martin is passionate about connecting everyone to nature, and believes that bringing people together for the common purpose of restoring the land is the best way to do that.
“I wish that more Australians would stop to consider the fact that we are dependent on nature, and to allow themselves to stop and admire the beauty of everyday life such as taking time to watch a sunrise. Being touched by the beauty of those moments and realising that something in yourself is connected to that, is really important.”