Volunteers make a vital contribution

It’s National Volunteer Week and we’d like to thank the thousands of people around Australia who are helping to create places for people and nature to thrive. 

The theme of National Volunteer Week is ‘Give Happy, Live Happy’ and that’s certainly the case for our volunteers who give their time and energy, and in return, get to spend time making Australia’s beautiful environment, even better.

Our volunteers work from the slopes of Mt. Kosciuszko to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

They’re weed mapping Tully Grass on the Howard Sand Sheet in the Northern Territory, working in our nurseries and seed production areas in the Capital Region, Adelaide, Sydney and Darwin,and collecting bird information in Gippsland, Victoria. They are out in the field, in the nursery and seed production areas around the country and they also help out in our offices.

You never know, that person standing next to you in the shop, on a bus or watching the footy may just be one of our fantastic volunteers. They come from everywhere!

Volunteers are also vital to our community planting days which are held in many locations around the country. We often have family groups that include two or three generations of volunteers. We have university students, international students, landholders, corporate volunteers, friends, solo volunteers, Correctional Facilities prisoners, school groups and many others.

Last year in Western Australia 20 events were held involving over 1300 students and community participants.

In Northern Australia, they’re weed mapping on the Howard Sand Sheet

The Howard Sand Sheet is an area of conservation significance in the Northern Territory.  We have engaged a number of volunteers from the community and from Charles Darwin University, as well as being assisted by the Top End Native Plant Society to help with weed mapping the area. We have so far spent five days in February and April in the field collecting data. This work will lead to a management plan and some targeted weed management within the area and is vital to keeping the area beautiful.

“I like the opportunity to learn about plants.”  Dave – a volunteer from Adelaide. “It just felt right doing something for the environment. It’s close to home and, once I got to know some of the staff, they are all very committed. In that sense probably unlike any other people I’ve worked with, I think,”

In Geelong, TAFE students volunteer and gain valuable experience

Gordon TAFE students have been volunteering with us for many years on The Threatened Species Protection Initiative with funding through the state government.

It’s win-win for all as the students provide beneficial support for on-ground works and at the same time, gain practical industry experience. They help in a number of activities including weeding, spraying, collecting seed, propagating plants and planting. Recently the students were out at Lake Beeac near Colac, brushcutting and spraying high threat weeds, (Phalaris and Tall Wheat) to reduce competition on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA) -listed threatened Salt-lake Tussock Grass.

Recent works with the Geelong team included surveying for the threatened Salt-lake Tussock-grass within the Western District Lakes surrounding Colac. The long days involved mapping and recording population data on the species – providing vital information on the species for future management.

“I think too, knowing that you’re achieving something that will help the environment and the animals as well is a big part of being here” Amanda a volunteer from Adelaide.

In Gippsland, volunteers gather vital bird population data.

Local volunteer Jack Winterbottom has been collecting bird information for us every fortnight for over 18 months on one of our important Lake Wellington Wetland sites. Thanks to Jacks’ sharp focus and consistency, we have the migratory Greenshanks and Common Sandpipers recorded on the site. Jack provides consistent bird count numbers for over 20 species including other migratory waders such as the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Jack provides all of this information to Birdlife Australia and the bird atlas also.

In the Capital Region, groups of regular volunteers visit our nursery.

For volunteers in Canberra, regular nursery visits are a social activity. Alongside weeding, propagation, thinning and tidying the benches, they learn new skills and help the environment.

  • We have a group from Alzheimer’s ACT who have been with us for around 18 months or more which includes 10 clients and 1 support worker and a support volunteer. Watch the video.
  • Our regular Wednesday morning group of 20-30 people is a mix of genders, mostly retired, but some are younger new mums or part time workers who are looking for work and like to be busy and can put this on their CV.
  • There’s also a group of year 9 students from various high schools. These are kids who have issues with school life or home life and it’s all a bit of a struggle so they work in small groups to get back on track.
  • The local school has a garden club and they come down in their lunch time to help out. These are kids in year 5 and 6.
  • The Green Team are a group of about 20 volunteers who go out on site and plant.
  • Adopt a Patch is a group of 6 people who go out and in fill smaller plots that need planting. They are independent so once we have organised a site for them, they go out to plant, guard and water native seedlings to help rehabilitate the environment.

And in Darwin, volunteers are vital for maintaining the nursery.

The Darwin native plant nursery has a strong base of volunteers who support activities such as nursery maintenance, pricking out and potting up native plants for the Darwin public, Landcare groups and other project work.

  • We have been lucky enough to have the support of two of our regular volunteers, Lyn and Mireille for 14 and 16 years respectively.  Lyn is integral to managing our Darwin seedbank and Mireille has provided much nursery support including her expertise in handling new seedlings.
  • We often support Return to Work assistance programs giving people who have had a work place injury or an ongoing disability the opportunity to gain work-ready skills in a supportive environment and assisting them with the benefits of working outdoors in our warm climate.
  • We have the support of Darwin Correctional Facilities who provide prison volunteers who are otherwise unable to gain employment in their Sentenced to a Job program due to barriers such as language, isolation or inexperience.
  • We often have volunteers from school work experience programs or Charles Darwin University students studying Horticulture, CaLM or Environmental Science who attend during their semester breaks
  • Our volunteers are often members of the public, particularly retired or semi-retired individuals looking to gain or share their experience, work outdoors, and who appreciate the social aspect of meeting with like-minded people and supporting the work we do.

“Whatever we do is appreciated. I never go home without somebody saying thanks.” Dave from Adelaide.

A Short Interview with Stacey Harwood one of our terrific volunteers

Stacey has volunteered with the Mallee and Geelong team after recently completing her Bachelor at LaTrobe University.

How did you hear about Greening Australia?

In my 2nd year at La Trobe University completing a Bachelor of Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) we had a field trip in Natimuk assisting with a project by Greening Australia. It was part of the Habitat 141 project, revegetating properties to link habitat along the border of Victoria. We collected soil samples at the property to be revegetated and soil samples at a nearby site covered in remnant native vegetation. We also identified the plants occurring in the different soils at the site with native vegetation so Greening Australia could match these with the soils at the property and determine what native vegetation to plant.

Why do you volunteer?

Honestly, the main reason why I volunteer is to gain experience in the fields of Ecology and Conservation to contribute towards obtaining a job in the field. Volunteering is also a good way of getting an idea of what sort of work I’m interested in and also networking with people in the field. Looking at it from a less work driven incentive though, volunteering is a good way to get involved in and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do, and its also a great way to see new places, even new countries! For example, last year I volunteered in Costa Rica, helping with turtle research, and in a month I’m going to the Kimberley to help with animal surveys. But even closer to home, through volunteering I have been to many places in Victoria that I’d never been to before.

Why volunteer at Greening Australia?

Part of the reason I first volunteered with Greening Australia is because through the uni field trip I mentioned above, I met Jess Gardner and she provided her contact details should anyone from that trip wish to volunteer with her. After that field trip, I emailed Jess and set up a week of volunteering with her and then a week in Portland with Dave and Doug from Greening Australia. Later on, I was then able to get in contact and volunteer with Candice from the Geelong office via Jess. The other reason for volunteering with Greening Australia is because they are doing environmental work which I ultimately want to do as a job, from conducting environmental research to land management, and in particular re-vegetation work, such as the Habitat 141 project.

Activities that you do? Favourite activities. Why?

As mentioned above, I’ve been involved in a small part of the process for re-vegetating a site, including taking soil samples and determining what vegetation to plant. I’ve also assisted with research aimed to determine the amount of food available for endangered Red-tailed Black Cockatoos in Heathy Woodland Vegetation after different intervals since fire. I’ve helped with surveying for the vulnerable Salt-lake Tussock-grass around lakes near Colac, as well as helped with community planting and weed control.

In terms of favourites, I would like to do more related to revegetation, as I am interested in restoring some of the environment we have destroyed and cleared, and feel like it would be rewarding work looking at the changes over time. I also enjoy work related to endangered species, again its rewarding and I love getting to see rare species.

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