What are friends for…

It is very easy to live in a city like Melbourne and not REALLY pay attention to its plethora of small and large parks and reserves scattered throughout. I, like most of us, was oblivious to the role of volunteers in managing these areas. That was until I was exposed to vegetation management through my degree at the University of Melbourne.

All parks and reserves have some type of paid management group overseeing their condition, public use, safety, access, etc. such as Parks Victoria or a particular council appointed body. However the resources available to manage these lands are usually very low and these staff can only do so much without help.

Enter the volunteer! For so many of us that do not pay attention, there are a handful of people out there who do REALLY notice and are also keen to get involved. Many parks and reserves have organised ‘friends’ groups or volunteer programs to help with management. These volunteers often assist with planting, weeding, collecting seeds, litter removal, etc. and they are incredibly valuable to the condition of these sites.

I am currently a St Kilda resident and have recently tracked down two of my local volunteer groups, St Kilda Indigenous Nursery Co-operative, and the Friends of Westgate Park, both of which seem to be great community not-for-profit groups with an interest in managing our beautiful native biota. I will be heading to the SKINC this week to get some locally indigenous plants for my tiny ‘garden’.

No doubt these types of volunteer groups exist in your area and are doing great things. I recommend you make the time to seek them out and drop by some time, it can be incredibly rewarding. For those of you studying ecology or something relevant, this can also be a great opportunity to bone up on your plant ID and management skills, which can be great for career planning – as my current supervisor Peter Vesk has told many students before.

If you can’t find a local friends group, you can always try the Conservation Volunteers who do a range of projects all over Australia (and now New Zealand) with many sites in greater Melbourne. I have done a bunch of different projects with these guys and they really good.

Do it.

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