Insights from some of NGT’s wonderful volunteers to Celebrate National Volunteer Week 2022

NGT certainly couldn’t achieve all that we do without our fantastic volunteers! To mark National Volunteer Week in 2022, this week on social media we have been sharing stories from volunteers around our region – and we thought they were worth including here too. Read on to get a feel for what people enjoy about volunteering for nature with NGT.

Kylie and Andrew in the Grampians, Vic

Kylie and Andrew at Walker Swamp.

First up we have Kylie and Andrew who have been helping us out at Walker Swamp since May 2021. Kylie and Andrew, who have also volunteered with local Landcare groups and Scouts, became interested in NGT’s work in the Grampians (Gariwerd) after buying a bush block in the area a few years ago. They noticed there was work underway to restore Walker Swamp and found the rapid transformation “breathtaking”. They say they “were keen to get involved to support this exciting project which gives us hope that we can reverse some of the mistakes of the past.”

Kylie and Andrew are involved with our ongoing monitoring of the site to detect any changes to abundance and diversity of fauna since restoration. Their role has involved trekking out on site to change batteries and retrieve memory cards from motion sensor cameras and audio recorders.

When asked about their favourite volunteering moments, they say that “the highlights are many. Getting out into the swamp and seeing endangered birdlife such as brolgas returning to the wetlands is an obvious highlight. It has also been fantastic meeting a wonderful bunch of people, both NGT staff and other volunteers. Through this network we’ve become involved in some other local Landcare projects.”

Helen in Mt Gambier, SA

Helen is always keen to learn new skills; here she is at a recent chainsaw training

Helen is one of the regular crew at our native plant nursery in Mt Gambier. Helen started volunteering with NGT about eight years ago during the restoration of Long Swamp, Victoria. She remembers, “there were a lot of sandbags to be filled!” (She’s not wrong – for that project we manually filled and placed more than 7000 sandbags!).

Helen joins us about once a week and helps Ange, Nursery Manager, with a range of nursery tasks. She also joins us for planting days and any other activities that “take her fancy.” But we’re not the only group that benefits from Helen’s hard work – she also volunteers with Friends of Shorebirds SE, Mt Gambier Friends of Parks, and Millicent Field Naturalists.

When asked for her volunteering highlights, Helen said, “there have been many good moments. I enjoy being around other volunteers and am in awe of the wonderful hard working staff. Being out in the environment we have some magic encounters with the wildlife. One of my most memorable times was sitting in a ute watching a huge hail storm sweep across Mt Burr Swamp late in the afternoon at a planting day.”

Helen would love to see the environment loved and valued by all. She says, “what a different world we would live in, but for now I can only do the best for my little patch.”

Jennie at Wannon Falls in western Vic.

Jennie in Mt Gambier, SA

Jennie, another one of our nursery regulars is a retired primary school teacher and began volunteering with us in 2019. As well as working in the nursery, Jennie also helps us out at Mount Burr Swamp, Eaglehawk Waterhole, and Hutt Bay.

Jennie has a love for the natural environment, especially trees, and connected with the fact that NGT is restoring local places. It’s a bonus that our nursery is close to her home! She also volunteers with a number of other organisations, including FoodBank, SAPOL, Riddoch Art Gallery, and sometimes helps out Rotary.
Jennie has enjoyed learning more about conservation with NGT. She loves that volunteering leads to “intelligent and fun conversations with a fabulous group of people” and “provides the opportunity to mix with a variety of people including young ones.”

Jennie says her hopes for the environment are that “we don’t let the beauty and wonder of our natural environment disappear forever. We have to leave a legacy for our grandchildren and their children and so on.”

Vivien in Dunkeld, Vic

Vivien with a bottle tree.

Vivien, now retired from careers as an academic and a counsellor, has been volunteering with us for about a year in the Grampians.

Vivien became aware of volunteer opportunities with NGT through another volunteer role she fulfils at the kitchen garden of a local school where she works with NGT’s Lisa (who, as well as working in the kitchen garden, as a farmer, and as a Landcare facilitator, is also our Southern Grampians Community Coordinator). Vivien also volunteers with the Dunkeld Refugee and Asylum Seekers group which carries out a wide variety of fundraising efforts. Vivien says she was motivated to volunteer with NGT because she was “deeply inspired by the great work so far undertaken at Walker Swamp as well as Long Point.”

During her academic career, Vivien taught in the Mawson Centre’s Master of Environmental Studies program at the University of Adelaide, and has really enjoyed adding to her theoretical knowledge through the experiential learning opportunities volunteering with NGT has provided. She has been involved in a number of different activities including tree planting and guarding and a Red Gum health assessment, and she is currently assisting with a project involving two Hamilton schools. In this current program, students from two schools are working together to identify native and weed plants, insects, birds, and habitats of native and introduced species, with the aim of producing a wetland ID guide to be used by others in future.

Vivien has a bush block in the Dunkeld area and reckons that being involved with NGT has increased her understanding of “about this distinctive and precious environment of the Grampians and surrounds the region … an area of outstanding natural beauty.”

Vivien says the Red Gum assessment, led by Greg Kerr, was “a truly great learning experience. Quite apart from soaking up so much history and NGT information re Walker Swamp from Greg, I can neber look at the Red Gums on my property and elsewhere in the same way – transformative!” She has also enjoyed meeting the NGT volunteers and community members who share similar interests and passions, including Bill Wetherly of Friends of Forgotten Woodlands and other local bush block owners. Another highlight has been “observing how primary and secondary students experience the environment at Walker Swamp away from school and book learning!”

When asked for her hopes for the environment, Vivien has this to say: “After a life in cities both in Australia, in UK and USA, I have lived for many years in the Southern Grampians trading a largely theoretical and book knowledge of the environment and its history for a more practical immersion in tree growing, maintenance of a native animal sanctuary and care of a small property – a precious opportunity to understand, conserve and care for the land. NGT and its ten years of huge effort has already illustrated to me the remarkable achievements that are possible for specific environs, particularly, bringing back wetlands, revitalising degraded former pasture lands and eradicating blue gum plantations… I would celebrate the proliferation of many such organisations such as NGT and believe it provides a successful working model of restoring and regeneration of the non-built environment. Yes, you bring a much-needed hope!”

Rose Thompson