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Volunteering at the National Gathering

Michelle Stook (Volunteer Program Coordinator)
Published 05 Dec 2017 
by Justin Kell (volunteer) 
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Wow! How fortunate we are on the Volunteer Advisory Committee (VAC) to have been invited to the Bush Heritage Australia National Gathering. This gathering is a chance for staff from across the country to connect face-to-face.

For staff the gathering began with a full day of training on Tuesday 31st October, and went through to Friday 3rd November. The VAC joined them on Tuesday for an evening at Rawson Village, Mt Baw Baw Victoria, and stayed through to Thursday lunchtime.

We had the chance to meet face-to-face with so many of the reserve managers, ecologists, fundraisers, office staff, Board members and CEO Gerard O’Neill. Gerard is an impressive presenter and his opening address in conjunction with a welcome to country from a local Aboriginal elder, was detailed and set the scene for a truly inclusive event.

It was a privilege to witness the comradery, commitment and passion of staff – such a diverse but wonderful group of people. We’re in good hands for a long-term future if they are anything to go by.

The Connection to Country presentation on Wednesday morning was inspiring. Bush Heritage is working in collaboration with many Aboriginal communities across Australia, drafting up plans for 'Healthy Country protected forever'.

Two elders from the Arafura partnership travelled from northern territory to be part of the National Gathering and their gratitude and acknowledgement of Bush Heritage's help in producing a Healthy Country Plan was evident. While they froze in the 10°C daytime temperatures, their presence warmed the hearts of everyone else.

On Thursday morning the VAC presented to the gathering. Our goal was to introduce the committee and to draw the staff’s attention to the great work we've done over the last two years and our goals moving forward. We'd prepared an entertaining and informative video about the VAC, which laid the foundation for our staff workshops. After the video we split the staff into four groups to brainstorm ideas of how to better engage our volunteers in the areas of:

  1. Science and research

  2. Team Leader model

  3. Fundraising and events

  4. Engagement of students and young people.

This gave the committee members the chance to introduce themselves in more detail and to let the staff know what it is they do and why they do it. I chaired the Team Leader Model group and extracted many ideas and concerns about that model's implementation, particularly in remote areas.

The success, or otherwise, of our presentations is really yet to be gauged as the collection of ideas on butcher’s paper is still to be dissected, but the true test will come with hopefully improved outcomes between reserve managers and the volunteer committee.

This will be the final blog from the current Volunteer Advisory Committee as our two-year tenure is now up and expressions of interest for a new committee are currently being advertised. If membership of the VAC provides you with an invitation to the bi-annual national gathering then that alone makes it completely worth it – but of course there's so much more we've been privileged to contribute over the last two years. I'd encourage anyone to apply and enjoy the rewards of greater satisfaction from greater contribution.

To apply for committee membership, please send your expression of interest to [email protected] by Sunday 10th December or contact [email protected] with any questions. Only registered Bush Heritage Volunteers can apply for membership.