The value and experience of volunteering

By Lis McLellan 
on 10 Nov 2016 
Malleefowl mound

I recently had the privilege of volunteering with Bush Heritage Australia on Charles Darwin Reserve. I helped with a small field survey team looking for the elusive Malleefowl, or hopefully at least their nests.

I was going to write a blog on the day-to-day experience myself, but my fellow-field-tripper Jessica Stingemore from NACC (Northern Agricultural Catchments Council), wrote a beautiful piece about the event and I don’t think I could top that.

What I would like to share though is a reflection on the value and experience of volunteering. Just this morning I read an Op-Ed in the New York Times – written by the Dalai Lama and Arthur Brooks, entitled ‘Behind our Anxiety: the fear of being unneeded’.

It's a great piece – well worth reading. And it struck me that this is precisely what volunteering allows: being needed (whether they know it or not) by society, by the environment, by those unable to fend for themselves, etc. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”

The opportunity to be in the wild places of a Bush Heritage Reserve; to be with people knowledgeable about the science and the land, and to contribute to our understanding and conservation of these special places, and their flora and fauna, is incredibly precious, and provides a wonderful opportunity to make a contribution.

We were also lucky enough to have Badimia Elder Vaughan Lane with us throughout our Malleefowl search. He graciously shared part of his Aboriginal culture and local knowledge with us, which totally enriched our experience.

And what an experience. The mornings were early; the bush was harsh – Malleefowl like to build nests in incredibly dense, prickly and scratchy bush; and the Malleefowl were elusive. But the rewards were incalculable. Morning sunrises; sunset wine and cheese on a magnificent granite outcrop; beautiful wildflowers still in bloom; majestic york, salmon gum and gimlet woodlands; the camaraderie and satisfaction of a good job well done; the care taken by Bush Heritage of its volunteers; the sheer beauty of the bush; and that wonderful feeling of making a contribution and being needed – all added up to an unforgettable experience.

And yes, we did get to see those elusive Malleefowl in the end and discovered new active nests!

Thanks Bush Heritage. I’m already looking forward to the next time!

Lis McLellan works for WWF and volunteers with Bush Heritage.

Malleefowl mound