This year Bush Heritage volunteers had the unexpected (although rewarding) experience of webinars presented by volunteer speakers. We heard about research and stories on a large range of topics from cat detection dogs, to nature in urban areas, and the flora of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Certainly, when the Volunteer Advisory Committee (VAC) met in February to plan the year ahead, we never envisaged the opportunities that the events of 2020 would create for connecting the volunteer community.
The VAC is a group of Bush Heritage volunteers that provides a user’s perspective on volunteer programs and supports Bush Heritage in developing new volunteer opportunities and processes.
With the pandemic quickly unfolding, by April the VAC became firmly focused on strategies for connecting and engaging the volunteer community during a time when Reserve-based volunteer placements were limited, and for developing new home-based volunteer placements.
A Volunteer ‘TED Talks’ initiative proved very popular with volunteers and staff. The line-up highlighted the broad and diverse body of skills, knowledge and experience within our volunteer community.
Volunteers were happy to be involved. Many thanks to those volunteers who generously shared their knowledge and experiences during 2020.
National Volunteer Week in May was eventful, with a highlight the fabulous photos submitted for the Volunteer Photograph Competition. These were a stunning visual reminder of the spectacular and diverse landscapes, flora and fauna, and the happy (and hard working!) volunteers on Bush Heritage Reserves. The volunteer videos released during National Volunteer Week were also a real treat.
Bush Heritage’s Volunteer Coordination Team (VCT) worked with staff during 2020 to develop new home-based volunteer placements as well as Reserve-based placements wherever possible when local restrictions eased.
There were 64 new home-based volunteers engaged this year. Thanks to Bush Heritage staff for thinking about different ways to use the skills of volunteers and for keeping the volunteer community so well-informed on developments, especially given the impacts of the bush fire season.
For those Reserve-based volunteer opportunities that were able to occur, it was great that volunteers had the chance to personally ‘check in’ on our special Bush Heritage places and resume adding value on-ground towards Reserve conservation goals. All while meeting hygiene and social distancing needs of course.
Despite the pivoting and adaptation needed in 2020, the VCT has continued to develop volunteer opportunities for 2021 and beyond. The VAC has supported scoping for volunteer mentoring and succession projects, a science program and a community speakers’ program. Watch out for more information on those.
Important work on volunteer strategy and processes has also continued. The VAC has represented the voice of volunteers on Bush Heritage’s strategy, diversity policy and procedure, the supporter engagement campaign, guidelines for visitor camping and station stay, and improved systems for information access and sharing.
During 2020, Bush Heritage’s terrific work on volunteer opportunities and engagement has shown how resilient the volunteer program is and just how fabulous its Volunteer Coordination Team is.
Special thanks to Michelle, Leanne and Katie.
Best wishes for a great festive season. Looking forward to 2021. We are more prepared than ever for any surprises that it brings.