Despite numerous lockdowns and the fact we only advertised opportunities within each state (due to border restrictions), 2021 still saw 508 people volunteering 38,215 hours over 1,289 placements.
As well as thanking our volunteers, a big thank you to Bush Heritage staff for thinking about different ways to use the skills of volunteers and for keeping the volunteer community so well-informed and engaged.
The Volunteer Advisory Committee (VAC) welcomed new staff members Rosie Smith (Western Australia Volunteer Coordinator) and Maxima La Rosa (Southeast Volunteer Coordinator) into the team and Katie Ronald (formerly Western Australia Volunteer Coordinator) stepped into the National Volunteer Program Coordinator role while Michelle Stook took a 12-month secondment at Birdlife Australia.
At the end of the year the VAC sadly said farewell to three smart, insightful and dedicated members - Richard Alcorn, Richard McLellan and Catherine Nicholson, who all contributed greatly to the Volunteer Strategy, guidelines and policies developed in the last four years. We welcome Will Allan, Paul Bateman and Angela Fitzgerald to the committee in 2022.
We had the opportunity to tune into eight Volunteer TED talks in 2021. The topics ranged from Farm Scale Natural Capital Accounting to first-time caretakers on reserves. All the presentations were entertaining and insightful. Thank you to all the wonderful presenters.
An exciting project that kicked off at the end of 2020 was the trial of a new Citizen Science data collection tool for use by volunteers at Bush Heritage Reserves. The tool, supported by the Atlas of Living Australia is designed for the sharing of biodiversity observations through the uploading of photos of flora and fauna to the iNaturalist app. All photos are then verified online by other users.
The project will help build the picture of native species occurring on reserves and enables volunteers to directly contribute to the valuable, national database.
The VAC is grateful for Richard Alcorn’s hard work getting the process set up for identified Bush Heritage Reserves.
Photos taken by Bush Heritage volunteers on Reserves were also recognised during National Volunteer Week in May. The theme of the week was Recognise, Reconnect and Reimagine. Congratulations to Mark Davidson, Jacqui Raynes, Shane Woltmann and Nicky Rolls for their winning submissions in the fauna, flora, landscape and people category respectively.
Important work on volunteer strategy and processes has also continued. The VAC has represented the voice of volunteers on Bush Heritage’s 2030 Strategy, Covid-19 Guidelines, Recognition Guidelines, and a review of the volunteer hourly rate.
The VAC also supported a Volunteer Survey. Thank you to the many volunteers who responded to the survey, which has provided valuable information for the management of the volunteer program and future improvements. We're indebted to fellow VAC member, Eva Finzel who collated and analysed the responses to both the volunteer survey and a corresponding survey of Bush Heritage staff. Eva presented the data in two detailed discussion papers. We're currently reviewing the results of both.
The Volunteer Mentoring Program was delayed again by COVID-19 but we hope to launch it early this year. The VAC is looking forward to working on a number of new projects during 2022, including writing the next Volunteer Strategy to take us to 2030.
The VAC would like to thank the Volunteer Coordination team for their fabulous work this year – Michelle, Katie, Maxima, Leanne, and Rosie, as well as many others who are continuing to make volunteering with Bush Heritage a positive experience.
We hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season and is looking forward to volunteering opportunities in 2022.