Gippsland’s many volunteers are being acknowledged and appreciated during National Volunteer Week (May 17-23). Among them are those working with the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA).
“We are very fortunate to have so many people across our region quite literally, rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck into a range of tasks that aid the local environment,” said CEO of the WGCMA, Martin Fuller.
“As well as the perhaps ‘higher profile’ roles such as Landcare, which brings communities together to plant trees and improve landscapes, we also see people taking other responsibilities such as Waterwatch where data is collected from waterways that helps us monitor the health of various rivers and creeks,” Mr Fuller said.
“Added to that are the various ‘Friends’ groups which do everything from track maintenance, bird monitoring and weed management.”
The last 12 months has seen changes to the way volunteer groups have operated with more ‘socially distanced’ events needing to be organised.
One example is the Arawata Landcare Group in South Gippsland.
“We were in lockdown when we were planting in spring so there was a bit of a supply issue with seedlings,” said group president Vince Philpott.
“And then we had to work in very small groups, socially distanced as well, so that changed the way we would normally operate.”
For others, their volunteering takes the form of working in isolation, meaning the COVID-19 restrictions were less of a burden than for others.
Carolyn Roscholler has been a Waterwatch volunteer for 14 years, taking samples of water from the Traralgon Creek, measuring its quality and recording that data.
“It’s something I enjoy doing and I like to think it helps to build a picture of the health of the creek and to identify issues that might come up,” Carolyn said.
“With more climate awareness these days it is important to have some long term continual data to measure any changes that might be occurring, even in this small tributary that leads to our precious Gippsland Lakes.”
Similarly, Stephen Broady from Foster is a Waterwatch volunteer for the Foster Creek.
In 2013 he began testing an upstream site, several hundred meters from his home in Korumburra. Testing locally helps Stephen feel a sense of stewardship for his local waterway. As Stephen says, “You do feel… ownership sounds too strong, but you do feel a local connection to it”.
Waterway Projects Officer with the WGCMA Jem Stirling says that the work that people like Carolyn and Stephen do in monitoring waterways, as well as the work that hundreds of people like Vince do under the Landcare banner, makes a significant difference to not just the environment but everyone’s quality of life.
“Seeing the work Landcare do and watching that grow over time is certainly important but knowing that these projects bring communities together and allow friendships to grow is another substantial benefit,” Jem said.
“Our Waterwatch volunteers similarly do amazing work, albeit in isolation, but knowing that people are out there doing this type of work to ensure our rivers and creeks stay in as good a condition as possible is another important aspect of our community and the special people who make it up.”
Newcomers are welcome to join. For information about volunteer roles within the WGCMA, people can call 1300 094 262.