An international student perspective of Conservation in Australia

By Jenn Galler 
about  Melbourne  
on 12 Dec 2016 
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As an American student looking to study abroad, I questioned if I should go to Australia because I wouldnt get the cultural experience I was after. After realising that the Australian program for Sustainability & Environmental Action was the best option for me both personally and academically, I headed to the land down under. I was offered a student placement with Bush Heritage to experience what it is like to be part of a well-established non-profit tasked with conserving the Australian bush.

The project I was to research was to ascertain the connection between Bush Heritage’s conservation work and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 15- protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainability manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt bio-diversity loss.

My research showed that for the SDGs to be accepted and to see progress, there must be social change that involves a vast amount of renovation from our conventional thinking. This project on a personal note showed me what it means to project plan, to collaborate with team members and to research the details, benefits and barriers of a project.

While in Australia and interning with Bush Heritage, I have strayed away from my own conventional way of thinking. On reflection I have been able to see some cultural differences between the United States and Australia.

I grew up in a culture centred on the idea of, “success equals wealth and do whatever you need in order to get there.” While in Australia, I see how an egalitarian society operates(based on the ideas of equality, helping out your fellow “mate”, and community rather than individual) and seeing the effects of these values in people, policies, and organisations.

I thought how radical and challenging of social norms it would be to bring that model back to the United States - where wealth for the individual was the objective. I also thought that integrating the ideas of equality and what’s best for the whole is a crucial starting point for the SDGs to work globally.

Bush Heritage showed me the enormous effort that goes into running a successful non-profit organisation and I saw how all the different departments worked with a shared value and purpose.

With an environmental organisation, I always considered the field work - the colourful pictures on the website and people in nature - the main component to the organisation. But my experience has shown that it is actually the people in the office - calling, emailing, fundraising, and creating those relationships that allows the fieldwork to happen. I was humbled by all the work that goes into these organisations to productively operate and am grateful to have had such an eye opening opportunity in Australia”.

Thank you to Jenn and all of her hard work. For any other students interested in a potential student placement, please email us at volunteers@bushheritage.org.au

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