What I did
I carried out my work experience over three weeks at Greening Australia in Aranda alongside a fantastic bunch of volunteers led by Donna and Jenny. Greening Australia is a not-for-profit who primarily work to conserve and restore Australia’s natural environments. Their initiatives include reforestation, fencing and fundraising as well as spreading awareness of conservation issues through partnerships with local landholders, schools and their diverse community volunteer base.
My contribution to this initiative was to help out at one of their nurseries by caring for their enormous number of young plants. Although some of these plants will eventually reach gargantuan heights, at this early stage they can be delicate and require regular weeding, repotting, thinning and sorting to keep them strong and healthy. Eventually, these plants will either be destined for woodland restoration or sold to raise funds for conservation efforts.
Why habitat protection matters
Work like this is pivotal to combating habitat loss in Australia. Since colonisation, Australia has lost approximately 40% of its forest cover, and what remains is highly fragmented (Bradshaw, 2012). This has caused major ecological degradation and contributed to the extinction of 35 species on the Australian mainland since European settlement (Woinarski et al., 2015). As developments and deforestation persist, many birds and mammal species reliant on woodland are continuing to decline, with many species, like the Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus), at risk of extinction (Bradhaw, 2012; Woinarski et al., 2015) The WWF in 2015 predicted Eastern Australia would be one of the eleven hardest hit areas in the world by deforestation, highlighting the need to take more serious action.
Greening Australia, however, take conservation a step further than simple replanting. Only about 17% of Australia’s environment is protected as national reserve, which fail to include almost 13% of Australia’s threatened species (Watson et al., 2011). Greening Australia work with private land holders to provide economically viable methods like paddock restoration that help increase woodland environments and connectivity, which are essential to protecting species like the superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii) (Manning and Lindenmayer, 2009). Using Greening Australia fundraising to help landowners increase the environmental value of their land in a commercially workable manner is such an important initiative to bringing more private owners on board. And bringing them on board is critical if we are to effectively conserve and restore Australia’s environment.
This work experience facilitated more than just an opportunity to help the environment. It also allowed me to establish and build connections with other like-minded people, both young and old and from different backgrounds and cultures. I found listening to their stories and learning from their vast pool of experience in conservation both humbling and illuminating. It helped reinforce that conservation is not just about the environment, it’s about people. And perhaps a little more focus on bringing people together to solve this issue might just be the tipping point it needs.