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Better together with our volunteers

Published 11 May 2022 by Katie Ronald (Volunteer Coordinator)

After quite interesting times recently, things are really opening up again in the volunteering sector right across the country! This year Bush Heritage is once again welcoming new and returning volunteers from interstate as well as our locally based regulars.

With re-opening and reconnection in mind, the theme of National Volunteer Week 2022 is 'Better Together’.

Bush Heritage volunteers are a vital part of who we are and what we do, both on-ground on our Reserves and undertaking home or office-based roles.

Reflecting on what makes for a valuable, useful, and enjoyable volunteering experience is especially relevant during National Volunteer Week. We recently took a deep dive into volunteering with Rex George and Gail Holt, two of our active and committed WA-based volunteers to discuss what Bushie volunteering means to them.

Gail and Rex can be spotted on our reserves all over Western Australia, whether it be caretaking, fencing, cleaning, or helping with monitoring. Recently departed Hamelin Station Reserve Manager Michelle Judd had this to say about them: 

“We really appreciated the fact that when we were pushed, they stepped up to the mark, and were prepared to drop everything for two weeks and come help us prepare for the Station Stay opening, which was cleaning, not the most pleasant work! They were the first port of call as their attention to detail is high, and we're so appreciative of their commitment to Bush Heritage – to do the dirty stuff as well as the fun stuff, they take great pride in their work and they are a huge asset to the organisation.”

Rosie Smith, West Region Volunteer Coordinator, sat down with Rex and Gail to chew the fat on being a Bushie Volunteer: 

What do you love most about volunteering with Bush Heritage? 

Gail: We love the strategic direction of Bush Heritage and their work, it's something we really believe in and we feel as though we're contributing to a worthwhile cause. Now that we're retired, we can contribute our time and our energy to support the people that are out there doing this worthwhile work. We've been working as volunteers long enough now that we are seeing some of the changes happening, and as time goes on and we go back to the reserves we can see things improving, which makes you feel better as you know you've contributed to that as part of a team. 

Rex: What I really enjoy is the support and contact with Bush Heritage staff, because they're very generous with their time and knowledge, so I think the work the volunteers do is quite meaningful and useful, there's a plan to do particular projects and there's good support from the staff. 

Which volunteer project you’ve been involved with has been most impactful to you and why?

Gail: One of the standout ones for me is when we were caretaking at Hamelin Station in 2018, and we were unexpectedly invited to the Malagana Land Title Determination ceremony as Bush Heritage representatives. The federal court set up in a big marquee in Denham, and sat, and handed out the determination. It was quite emotional for everybody; I’ve never felt part of a historical event before and I really did that day. That event is an example of some of the unexpected things which can happen as a Bush Heritage volunteer.  

Rex: The ceremony was quite magical, and obviously the Malagana people were very moved too. We did some cat baiting down on the Fitz-Stirling reserves recently, and to me that’s quite impactful because feral pest management is a real issue, and we were doing something useful and specific about it. And I reckon it’s going to make a difference in that area, so I really enjoyed that cat baiting exercise.  

How has volunteering shaped your sense of community?

Gail: For me, it’s being part of the volunteering community. I have got a real sense of community, of like-minded people, and just learning so much stuff off everybody, this fabulous exchange of information and knowledge.

I’m just awed at some of the experience and level of expertise that some of the volunteers have got that they’re willing to contribute, so for me I just feel it’s a really good community to be part of. I’ve never really felt that sense of community before, but I really do with Bush Heritage. And now that things around COVID are relaxing, I’m really hoping that we can have more get-togethers with the other volunteers to keep that sense of community. That’s why a lot of people join volunteer organisations is to become part of community, because it’s really important as a human being to feel you belong.

Rex: I agree, and in the wider sense I think it’s really nice just to be able to talk to people you come into contact with about volunteering, particularly with Bush Heritage. Most people that I’ve spoken to are quite interested in it and so you have a good conversation, it’s a bit of a chance to chat to other people in the community about volunteering.  

Gail: So you become an advocate for Bush Heritage, and you’re sort of spreading the word and I think that’s a good thing. 

Do you have a stand-out memory or story from your time volunteering with Bush Heritage?

Gail: We’ve seen firsthand some pretty sad sights across the Reserves of animals getting caught in old fences, and it makes you realise how tough an environment it is out there, the impact of that old legacy, and that it can damage wildlife. It makes you want to go out there and just start ripping down all those old fences – to see it firsthand was a bit of a shock quite frankly, which makes it even more worthwhile to get out there and do stuff.

The other thing we’ve enjoyed is feeling as though we’re really helping the Reserve Managers, because they all do such an amazing job out there. It’s hard yakka, day after day, out in that environment. Reserve Managers are really busy out there on the land, for us to be able to help them out, to work on projects they don’t have time to do, even just to caretake so they can have a break, we feel like we’re really helping them. There’s a place, a role for volunteers.

And we’ve made some fabulous friends, met some wonderful people and learnt so much from visiting scientists. You’re talking to them about the project, and it gives you so much insight into different aspects of things which are going on which we’ve never considered before. There’re so many people doing good things, and just to be a part of it is terrific, we enjoy it very much.

Volunteers Rex George and Gail Holt. Volunteers Rex George and Gail Holt.
Putting Eurardy Reserve's chooks to bed. Putting Eurardy Reserve's chooks to bed.
Gail at a Malleefowl mound on Eurardy Reserve, WA. Gail at a Malleefowl mound on Eurardy Reserve, WA.
Gail hard at work fencing. Gail hard at work fencing.
A watering run at Eurardy. A watering run at Eurardy.
Rex taking a reading at Hamelin bore. Rex taking a reading at Hamelin bore.
Collecting and removing rubbish at Hamelin. Collecting and removing rubbish at Hamelin.
Among the wildflowers at Hamelin Reserve, WA. Among the wildflowers at Hamelin Reserve, WA.
Rex ready to deploy some plant guards. Rex ready to deploy some plant guards.
Rex fence posting. Rex fence posting.

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