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Conservation Volunteers Australia

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Madeline Townsend, from Conservation Volunteers Australia and manager for their volunteer programs, explains how the organisation assists environmental programs across Australia. Conservation Volunteers Australia is an organisation that began in 1982 with an eye to practical hands-on activities to do with environmental improvements.

Conservation Volunteers Australia are active in all states of Australia as well as New Zealand, where they are called Conservation Volunteers New Zealand. While some of their activities are city based, there are also regional and remote areas which are the focus of volunteering tours, participants spending time away from home.
The current volunteering research into crazy ants in the wet tropics of Queensland is a case in point, the volunteers providing a research workforce that can be trained to locate and document instances of places that non-native tramp ants (crazy ants) have gained footholds, to the detriment of local ant species.

The citizen science aspect of such volunteering tours is of great benefit to the scientific researchers who get a better picture of the state of environmental problems far sooner than normal research processes would allow. Not all of the projects run by Conservation Volunteers Australia are research-based. Other projects focus on habitat renewal, the weed removal and tree planting being done at the Plough and Harrow Reserve, part of Sydney’s Cumberland Plain, being just one example. Conservation Volunteers Australia has volunteers who are long term as well as short term, some signing up in school and university holidays and some who are international travellers who combine volunteer tours or volunteer work as part of their trip.
Seed collection, Townsville Town Common (Wendy Willcox)

All of these volunteering efforts amounted to some 60,000 volunteer days for the organisation last year (½ million hours of work time), the equivalent of 300 people working full time. Conservation Volunteers Australia has links to the tertiary institutions which propose environmental research as well as to other conservation organisations like Greening Australia. Conservation Volunteers Australia is also a registered training organisation.

It is in the process of delivering a national community volunteer training program that is being delivered to many community and land care groups across the country. The program, In Safe Hands, has allowed organisations to introduce a step-by-step process of how to introduce and manage volunteers into their operations, such knowledge being free to participants thanks to the federal government funding. The website, www.conservationvolunteers.com.au, gives more information about the training and also contact details for interested people or organisations, as well as providing an In Safe Hands toolkit.
Conservation Volunteers Australia has been recognised for their work with volunteers with a number of awards. In 2000  the organisation was admitted into the United Nation’s Global 500.
Cape Dornett, Karijini NP Walking Track construction.

In 2011 they were presented with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Ulysses Award for non-government organisations. That award was in direct response the organisation’s efforts to rehabilitate a property in Victoria which combined activities like tree planting and weed removal with tourism (from a day to a week), enabling such regeneration to be sustained. The benefits to the habitat and the wildlife that use it are already bearing fruit. It is a credit to Conservation Volunteers Australia – and a real show of hands.

Madeline Townsend was interviewed for A Question of Balance by Ruby Vincent.

Images from Conservation Volunteers Australia.

Summary text by Victor Barry, February 2014.

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Sutherland Shire Council's Bushcare programs Greening Australia

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