During National Volunteer Week 2020, we're celebrating the amazing efforts of the many volunteers in the Northern and Yorke region. Here's an insight into two of our volunteers.
Northern and Yorke Landscape Officer Cameron Watson and volunteer Leonie Moore
I grew up in a family of volunteers, so for me, volunteering is just a part of life. Sporting teams, churches, town projects simply would not exist without volunteers. So I have always volunteered, however it was after I was prematurely invalided from full-time work that volunteering became a major part of my life. I was living in NSW at the time, and I have always had an interest in wildlife, so I attended a WIRES training course to care for injured wildlife, whilst also having time to volunteer with local theatre and take up new hobbies such as quilting.
In 2016 I moved back to the Clare Valley and got involved with bush caring. I am a volunteer grower of native plants through Trees For Life, and I enjoy regularly going out with a small, core group of volunteers to tackle weeds at Neagles Rock and Spring Gully Conservation Park, Clare. The main weed we tackle is Topped lavender, supposedly a remnant of an attempt at lavender farming decades ago. The lavender has spread rampantly throughout the bush, smothering native vegetation, particularly the gorgeous native orchids which flower in spring. Over decades of trial and error by previous volunteers, the lavender can be killed by pruning at ground level and leaving the plant to rot on the ground, however it is a never-ending process as we have to keep returning to the same ground to pull out new seedlings. But in doing so, we solve the problems of the world and have a good laugh, highlighting the other value of volunteering, in that it is also a great way to make friends with people who have similar interests.
Volunteering has become an important part of my life, as it gives me a social outlet and a sense of purpose. My mental-health took a real hit after being abruptly retired from the work-force whilst still young, so being able to regularly meet with other people and make a positive contribution to the environment fills my time, plus it is satisfying to see the progress made in just a couple of hours.
My volunteering has also made my father proud, as I have taken on many of the volunteer tasks he used to perform. He is always interested to come out and look at the trees I have planted with Upper Wakefield Landcare, or to return to Spring Gully where he also used to tackle the lavender, so it is nice to have those interests in common, and for him to know I have taken on his role.
I would like to encourage other people to volunteer. Find something you are interested in and that you can perform within the limits of your own health. Although I am no longer able to work full-time, I can still make a real and rewarding contribution to my part of the world. Now people are asking me about native trees and animals, and I realise I have become a minor expert in a whole new field.
Volunteering is rewarding and I look forward to watching the trees I have planted blossom and grow, and finding orchids in the bush where once only weeds would grow.
Words by Leonie Moore
What organisations do you volunteer for?
I have volunteered for many of the NRM regions, Nature Foundation SA, BirdLife Australia, BEST and National Malleefowl Recovery Team. I am also registered as a volunteer with Bush Heritage Australia and Australian Wildlife Conservancy. I'm also always on the look out for nature-based volunteering that I may be able to participate in.
How long have you volunteered?
About 10 years
What do you love about it?
I love anything to do with nature and being out in nature. I find it fascinating to discover how many different "critters" and plants are out there when you really look. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to learn the identification of new things. I am always mindful of the fact that it is us humans that have upset the natural balance of the environment so it is up to us to do something about trying to restore what we can.
Share a moment when you realised that your hard work had made a difference.
I have participated in the hooded plover biennial counts and have been very happy to see the numbers of hoodies increasing. I have also taken part in the banding of some hooded plovers and it is a special feeling when you come across a banded hooded plover in future seasons and can contribute to tracking its movements.