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Striated Pardelote at Tarcutta Hills Reserve, Wiradjuri Country. By Kiara L'Herpiniere
Striated Pardelote at Tarcutta Hills Reserve, Wiradjuri Country. By Kiara L'Herpiniere

Connecting people with purpose

Helping people to experience, connect with, and learn about the bush to inspire support for its conservation.

Published 25 Aug 2023

Conservation’s next generation

“We really want to work with every individual that takes part in the program, to make them completely and utterly job ready, so they can step into any conservation organisation the day they finish."
Michelle Stook, Seeding the Future Program Lead.

As the state of Australia’s landscapes deteriorate and organisations rise to the challenge of protecting them, it’s highly likely the sector’s need for job-ready employees will grow. Enter Bush Heritage’s ‘Seeding the Future’ program.

Last year, thanks to a generous grant from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation we were able to formalise the way we offered internships, student placements and career pathways for emerging conservationists.

Bush Heritage Intern Georgea Kamara is working on a tree thinning project at Tarcutta Hills Reserve, Wiradjuri Country, NSW. By Georgia Ohlin

A dedicated program team has been established, allowing us to make headway providing opportunities for early-career conservationists to gain paid work experience across all areas of our work. Specific Aboriginal-identified positions and traineeships have been established within the Seeding the Future program, in an effort to actively increase conservation career opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Program Lead Michelle Stook understands the urgent need for a program such as Seeding the Future in the sector. As former head of Bush Heritage’s volunteer program, Michelle regularly answered calls and emails from students who were desperate to gain practical, hands-on experience.

“I vividly remember someone who broke down in tears on the phone to me. He said, ‘I did my undergrad; I couldn’t get a job. I’ve done my master’s; I still can’t get a job. And I’m just constantly told, ‘you need some practical experience’,” recalls Michelle.

Back then, Bush Heritage, like many other organisations in the sector, was too stretched to take on most of those students. “There’s a lot of work involved in setting up and supervising a placement and our staff just didn’t have the time,” says Michelle.

In 2022, Michelle’s team began developing position descriptions, managing application processes, supervising students, coordinating training and helping participants with their resumes and interview preparation, taking the load off other staff.

During 2022-23, Bush Heritage supported 45 early-career conservationists through Seeding the Future including internships, research and student placements. However, Michelle's goal is for the program to support the broader sector.

“This is not just about Bush Heritage. This is about the whole sector,” says Michelle. “We’ve had trusts coming to us wanting to support this work. It seems to be a meeting of perfect opportunity.”

Bush Heritage gratefully acknowledges the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation for their core support to establish the 'Seeding the Future' program. Over the last year, Chris and Gina Grubb continued their generous support for PhD placements and The James Kirby Foundation and other generous donors allowed us to deliver a record number of internships. Seed funding for Aboriginal-identified positions was provided by a visionary cohort of philanthropists from the Australian Environmental Grantmaker’s Network, with subsequent significant support from the Erica Foundation and the Scully Fund.

Back together

The best science today tells us that people have the power to overcome the environmental challenges of the future. But for us to do this and find joy in the process, we’ll need moments of actual connection.

This year, with the easing of COVID-related restrictions, Bush Heritage buzzed with the momentum of humans coming back together. Across the country our likeminded community gathered in various spaces to reconnect with the organisation’s work.

The Events and Visitation team were back conducting in-person events. This included the annual Women in Conservation Breakfast; co-hosted with Trust for Nature, the Women for the Environment Breakfast series; supported by ANZ, and reserve trips. Self-guided day trips and seasonal camping also resumed at selected reserves. And, the Major Gifts and Grants team hosted a number of trips to Bush Heritage’s reserves for our generous donors.

The Communications team engaged with stakeholders from all areas of the organisation as they completed the recording of Big Sky Country, the second season of our podcast. They met with volunteers at Scottsdale Reserve, Ngunnawal and Ngarigo Country, farmers involved in the ‘Farming for the Future’ project, Traditional Owners returning culturally-led burning to Wiradjuri Country and others within Bush Heritage’s dedicated network.

Our work couldn’t happen without the generous support of our community both financial and in kind.

It is invaluable to give those we engage with a sense of the landscapes we work across, and experiences that cement their involvement in the shared vision of healthy Country, protected forever.

Panel discussion at the Women for the Environment Breakfast. By Rift Photography

The values compass

Values determine the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ behind all our work. As we looked to grow to meet the goals of the 2030 Strategy, we needed to refine our values to guide that growth. Values act as a compass for decision-making and ensure we stay true to our origins and purpose.

In 2022, we partnered with FutureBrand to review our organisational values and brand identity. The process involved collaborative workshops and included input from staff, volunteers, life-long supporters and partners.

From these conversations emerged four key sentiments that define who Bush Heritage is: 

  1. we walk in harmony; 
  2. we see the possibility; 
  3. we listen and learn; and 
  4. we make real change.

These values statements are accompanied by an updated visual identity that will allow us to better reach new and current supporters through more diverse channels and richer storytelling. In 2023, the new identity began rolling out across our channels, with the website undergoing a redesign due to be complete in early 2024.

Bush Heritage gratefully thanks FutureBrand for their work in bringing our values and brand into the future and for the donation of more than $100,000 in pro-bono fees to make this project possible.

“What better way to mark this exciting period of growth than with a refreshed brand that honours our history and looks towards our future?”
Heather Campbell, Former Bush Heritage Chief Executive Officer.

Investing in our future

To achieve the ambitious goals of our 2030 Strategy, we need to have the right people, skills and expertise in our team. In 2022-23, we expanded our workforce to fill identified gaps, restructured our Senior Leadership team and levelled up our procedures to ensure we are on track for 2030.

We expanded our workforce by creating 20-full time equivalent roles in key areas of the business including Strategy & Growth; the team that supports our emerging agricultural focus, Assets & Procurement; our corporate services team, and Seeding the Future; the program that supports early-career conservationists. In the field, we expanded our teams in the North, South East and West, increasing our on-ground impact.

Michelle Jacobs Bush Heritage Executive Manager People, Safety & Culture is most proud of our Senior Leadership Team’s restructure and changes across Bush Heritage to centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in all our decision-making processes.

“At a Senior Leadership Level, we now have three representatives from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to ground and guide the organisation’s actions,” says Michelle.

“We now look to strengthen all our teams’ capabilities through mentoring, coaching and training. Whilst continually improving our policies and procedures to support the health and wellbeing of our people.”

The path to 2030 looks bright, with the right people, development opportunities and procedures in place to achieve our Strategy’s goals.

Dan Nugent Reserve Manager at Nardoo Hills Reserve, Dja Dja Wurrung Country, Vic. By Annette Ruzicka

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