Saraan Finney (left) and Nicky Rolls at Bon Bon. Photo by Nicky Rolls.
Nicky Rolls, together with her friend Saraan Finney, first took a volunteer role at a Bush Heritage Reserve way back in 2007. They enjoyed it so much they came back the next year, and the next. This year, their eighth annual ‘working holiday’ with Bush Heritage, was spent at Bon Bon Reserve in South Australia’s arid rangelands.
Many years ago, during the excitement of the Sydney 2000 Olympics I took a scenic ferry trip from Circular Quay to Manly Beach. On one of the outside seats I found a Bush Heritage Australia newsletter, which I rescued from being blown overboard.
I enjoyed the read. It was my first introduction to an organisation that seemed to have values and goals similar to my own and that gave me a chance to ‘buy that bush block’ as a contributing supporter.
It wasn’t until 2007 that I read about volunteer working bees and signed up for one at Carnarvon Station, talking my friend, Saraan Finney, into coming along. We had such a great experience that we’ve volunteered two weeks of our time each year since at various Bush Heritage reserves. A lot of people I know think it’s unusual I want to ‘work’ on my holidays but to tell you the truth it’s my most anticipated holiday each year.
I love getting physically involved on the reserves and seeing what Bush Heritage is doing with supporters’ money.
I see, first-hand, the feral animal and weed management strategies, erosion control, boundary and infrastructure maintenance, controlled burning, fauna surveys and more.
Nic and Finney taking a break with Reserve Managers Mike Chuk and Julia Harris. Photo by Nicky Rolls.
All of the reserve managers I’ve met have been welcoming, friendly people who’ve been happy to answer my endless questions and help me learn more about land care.
On a personal note, I get away from the city, see fabulous scenery and wildlife, gaze at the stars, get dirty, listen to dingoes howl and barking owls bark and enjoy a piping hot donkey shower at the end of the day. Half the adventure is getting to some of these properties, which can involve two or three days of driving from my home in Brisbane.
This year we made the trek out to Bon Bon Station in South Australia, where reserve managers Mike and Julia provided us with a variety of jobs around the property. I have a particular interest in weed control, so have been in my element spraying buffel grass (introduced for stock and originating from Africa) which out-competes native grasses and shrubs.
Other duties have included ‘fixing up’ the airstrip, track maintenance and fence removal. For the animal lovers amongst us, the last job is particularly important as wildlife can get entangled in fences and die a slow death.
I get away from the city, see fabulous scenery, gaze at the stars, get dirty, listen to dingoes howl and barking owls bark.
The landscape at Bon Bon is far more vegetated than I expected. A multitude of grasses, shrubs and small trees cover the sand, rocks and clay. The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular and the facilities are more than we could have asked for.
I’ve now finally seen Australia’s iconic red kangaroos as well as burrows for the southern hairy nosed wombat, whose occupants remained out of sight. Bon Bon is also home to many birds however I’m not a ‘twitcher’ and can only list emus, plovers, galahs and crimson chats (plus the persistent chiming wedgebill).
Volunteering with Bush Heritage is a great way to pitch in and become directly involved in ‘doing your bit’ for the environment. It’s also a fantastic way to see the properties, get away from the city and enjoy a million stars.
To find out more about volunteering opportunities or to register your interest, visit our volunteering page.
Hear Nicky on ABC’s Radio National on combatting siam and lantana weed in far north Queensland.