How ISV volunteers made a positive impact to the natural environment of South Eastern Australia

by isvolunteers on Wednesday, 19 October 2016

ISV Australia Project Leader Nicola Palmer reflects on her time leading an ISV volunteer team and conservation project with ISV partner DEWNR in South Australia.

DEWNR, South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources have been working with ISV for three years to make a positive impact to the natural environment in the South East of the state.

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ISV’s volunteers made an enormous contribution to DEWNR’s ‘Landscape Links’ project, achieving our goal of planting 3,300 trees over one week! (c) ISV

Last season, eight American students came to contribute to this work and learn about sustainability, conservation and Australian culture. After over forty hours of air travel followed by a six hour drive, the group were in remarkably good spirits as we pulled into the tiny town of Frances, South Australia (population 34) on a rainy Saturday evening.

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Volunteers took part in an Adventure Caving Tour at the nearby World Heritage Naracoorte Caves, where they learned about some of Australia’s prehistoric megafauna. (c) ISV

The following day was spent getting to know each other with an Adventure Caving Tour at the nearby World Heritage Naracoorte Caves, where we also learned about some of Australia’s prehistoric megafauna.

Volunteer work began the next day and the first week was spent planting trees. We made an enormous contribution to DEWNR’s ‘Landscape Links’ project, achieving our goal of planting 3,300 trees over the week.

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Week two was spent at the historic coastal town of Robe where volunteers made a huge impact working to help DEWNR implement their Coastal Action Plan. (c) ISV

In a few years these trees will create wide vegetation corridors to link patches of remnant bushland. This will provide habitat to a range of native mammals, reptiles and birds, including the endangered south-east Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoo, as well as provide a refuge for wildlife in times of drought and bushfire.

The group had a terrific cultural experience in the first week, making friends with most of the town – including the general store manager, Colin, who made sure everyone tried a meat pie and kangaroo jerky, Ken, the publican or more importantly, provider of excellent coffees, and Gary a wheat and sheep farmer. To the group’s delight Gary invited us round to see his dog’s four week old puppies and new born lambs on his farm!

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One of the great locals, Gary, invited the group to see his dog’s four week old puppies and new born lambs on his farm! (c) ISV

While we were all sad to say goodbye to our new friends in Frances, everyone was excited to get to the coast and see some of Australia’s beautiful surf beaches. Week 2 was spent at the historic coastal town of Robe where volunteers made a huge impact working to help DEWNR implement their Coastal Action Plan. Here we worked on a range of tasks, including removing an infestation of the invasive weed Polygala from Little Dip Conservation Park and planting trees to rehabilitate land alongside the Kungari Aboriginal Burial Ground.

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Working with DEWNR across two of their major projects gave volunteers an opportunity to experience the diversity of Australia’s natural beauty and culture while making a real impact to on-ground conservation initiatives. (c) ISV

To show their gratitude, two local Indigenous community leaders gave the group a BBQ and cultural experience including a traditional smoking ceremony (elders use smoke from native plants to cleanse and ward off bad spirits), a chat about their culture and connection to country and of course a boomerang throwing session!

Cath, Kiran and Tania from DEWNR explained to the group the impact our work would have on improving the quality of coastal remnant vegetation patches and the importance of volunteer help in achieving their goals.

Everyone in the group came to ISV with their own personal goals and we were happy to find that by the end of our two week projects most of these were met – learn about Australian culture, meet new friends and see kangaroos and emus. Working with DEWNR across two of their major projects gave volunteers an opportunity to experience the diversity of Australia’s natural beauty and culture while making a real impact to on-ground conservation initiatives.

Click here to find out more about volunteering in Australia.

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