Volunteering for a common future in West Gippsland

Thursday 2 December 2021

On International Volunteer Day, Sunday December 2021, as communities around the globe celebrate the important role volunteers play in responding to challenges facing the world, West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) honours the local heroes who make a difference in our corner of the globe and asks others to think about contributing a few hours in 2022. 

Across this diverse region, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are essential in working towards the common goal of a better future for catchments and communities. This includes in Landcare groups, as citizen scientists with schools and students and more. 

“The volunteers I work with contribute hundreds of hours of labour, incredible local knowledge and inspiring passion,” says WGCMA’s Partnership and Engagement Project Officer Tash Marty-Cripps. 

“They are often part of ‘Friends Of’ and Landcare Groups or they are just solo citizens monitoring their backyard creek or local stream. They all seem to have a real dedication to their patch and being a part of the bigger picture of helping WGCMA keep an eye on what’s happening in their waterway.” 

Take David Steel for example, this citizen scientist from Warragul is retiring from his Waterwatch volunteering after 16 years having completed 170 site visits and monitoring events at his local Hazel Creek. 

“Waterwatch volunteers are worth their weight in gold and David has been one of our most dedicated volunteers,” said Tash. 

Reflecting on his time as a Waterwatch Volunteer, David is very proud of his contribution, particularly the co-operation with other Landcare groups and his involvement in local events. He recalls highlights of spotting a platypus swimming in Hazel Creek during some site surveys and strangers looking at him curiously as he crouched in streamside vegetation sampling the water.  

“We really do rely on citizen scientists like David to collect data. Without their contribution we wouldn’t have the information. Most of our volunteers, like David, are local people with an interest in their local environment and waterways.”  

Landcare is an incredible story of volunteer contribution. In 2020-21, Landcare Volunteers spent 14,797 hours volunteering on ground across West Gippsland’s Landcare groups. 

“Volunteers are paramount to the success of Landcare environmental outcomes. Every year right across West Gippsland volunteers roll up their sleeves, all with the environment in mind. Some participate for a few hours one day per year and others perhaps once per week ongoing. Every volunteer hour really does make a difference,” says Marnie Ellis, WGCMA’s Latrobe Catchment Network Coordinator. 

Kelsey Tong is WGCMA’s Latrobe Catchment Network Facilitator and came up through the ranks as a volunteer from a young age. 

“I started out going to planting events in my local region (Three Creeks Landcare Group in Bass Coast) with my parents when I was young. This passion for the environment has been instilled in me as I have spent most of my time studying and working career focusing on environmental management and community engagement within my local community,” said Kelsey. 

“Volunteers play an integral part in our society and are the powerhouse of environmental management within Landcare. They are the people who do the hard yards, who care about their community and who are inspiring. They are your next-door neighbour, your local community representative – the people we rely on for help when it’s needed. Volunteers should be celebrated for the efforts they put into their community.” 

Having come from a strong volunteer background myself, I have seen the benefits it creates to both the local community and the personal growth it enables.  

Gippsland Intrepid Landcare (GIL) has been a special part of both my professional and personal development as I have met some amazing individuals and made lifelong friends along the way.  

This year I was fortunate enough to land a job with Latrobe Catchment Landcare Network as a Network Facilitator. Achieving this position was a very proud moment in my professional life as I owe much of my experience to volunteering with GIL, working in the environmental management field and efforts from completing my undergrad (and now studying as post-grad). I hope to expand on my knowledge and experience in this new position whilst continuing to volunteer with GIL well into the future.  

Being a volunteer has numerous benefits from creating resilient communities to helping restore the natural landscape. Volunteering with Landcare is an opportunity to create a better world for future generations whilst feeling a sense of accomplishment when you look back and see the benefits it creates to your community. Now is the time to get involved in your local Landcare group, give back to the environment and develop long lasting friendships. Happy International Volunteer Day everyone!”  

Volunteering is more than one day – it’s every day, so get involved and make a change for the planet. Volunteer now! 

Why not get involved? Take the first step and sign up for more info  https://bit.ly/3nvEu8s