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Green heroes celebrated in Adelaide's first Pelzer Prize awards

Monday 30 August 2021

Nature-lover Jill Woodlands has won the first Pelzer Prize for her many efforts to reconnect people with their planet. Read on to learn about the awards.

Pelzer Prize 2021 Winner, Jill Woodlands at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Credit: Matt Turner/The Advertiser

Pelzer Prize is a new award for South Australia's green heroes, conservation leaders and champions of the environment, named in honour of Adelaide’s first city gardener – August Wilhelm Pelzer.

Pelzer Prize celebrates Adelaide’s unsung environmental heroes from schools, community groups as well as professions that go above and beyond to restore landscapes, create habitat for wildlife, connect people to nature, or clean up our parks, beaches and waterways.

Pelzer Prize inaugural winner Jill Woodlands

As a curator of the Nature Festival and organiser of other nature-based events such as the Parklands Project, Zoodle and Amongst It, Ms Woodlands finds creative ways to bring people, plants and wildlife together for mutual benefit.

Her historical research uncovered the Forest League, a secret society of Adelaide establishment figures who came together to protect natural forests and to encourage the government to regenerate large areas.

On accepting the award Ms Woodlands said she was “completely shocked” to win. She didn’t even know she was nominated and had actually nominated someone else.

Ms Woodlands said, “I’m very proud to work in horticulture, I’m equally proud to be a member of the small but mighty crew bringing the Nature Festival to South Australia … We want people to be saying, 'Of course we celebrate nature, we’re South Australians, we want to stand up for nature'.”

August Wilhelm Pelzer (1862-1934) transformed the city landscape during his 33 years as head gardener, arresting the loss of trees in our parklands and planting thousands. Picture: City of Adelaide

Launch of Adelaide's Pelzer Prize

Green Adelaide partnered with The Advertiser and Sunday Mail, the University of Adelaide Environment Institute and the Australian Science Media Centre to launch the inaugural Pelzer Prize in June 2021 and received almost 100 nominations.

The 2021 Pelzer Prize winner and finalists were announced on 27 August 2021 at a small event held at The Advertiser. The Pelzer Prize winner was awarded $10,000 to dedicate towards an environmental cause and selected by a panel of experts.

Green Adelaide Board Presiding Member Professor Chris Daniels said the selection panel had a difficult task with such a strong field. The panel awarded 12 certificates of commendation in categories and felt the “ultimate winner” Ms Woodlands had “a hand or a foot” in most of the categories.

FULL LIST OF AWARDS

Winner of the 2021 Pelzer Prize:

Jill Woodlands

Gardener and nature-lover Jill Woodlands finds creative ways to reconnect people with their planet. She is an exceptional communicator, a curator of the Nature Festival building partnerships and expanding the program, and organiser of many other nature-based events such as the Parklands Project, Zoodle and Amongst It. Her research extends into the natural history of Adelaide, such as the existence of the Forest League (a society of Adelaide’s founders). She has also been involved with organisations like the Mediterranean Garden Society and the Nature Conservation Society. She strongly believes that being attached to nature is hugely important for conservation and for our own wellbeing. Jill is also a manager at Diggers, Australia’s number one gardening club.

12 certificates of commendation in the following categories:

Local Hero:

David Mussared

For more than 25 years, David Mussared has been protecting and restoring biodiversity in the Adelaide Hills with the Aldgate Valley Landcare Group. He has planted about 50,000 seedlings and removed many, many thousands of weeds. He has driven the Valley of the Bandicoots Project and the Aldgate Valley Nature Walk development. The Valley of the Bandicoots consists of a wildlife corridor stretching about five kilometres from Aldgate to Mylor. His business helps organisations advertise for jobs in the Natural Resource Management field and provides a portion of its income to environmental causes.

Local Government:

Tim Johnson

Mitcham Council’s sustainable infrastructure engineer for natural environments, Tim Johnson, is involved in countless green engineering projects across Adelaide, such as “H2Oak – From Flood to Foliage”. He is connected to both UniSA and Flinders University and serves on the advisory board and management committee of TREENET. His research supports trees in urban settings, studying the interactions between roots, infrastructure, water and soil to deliver maximum benefit to the community and environment. He’s always looking for nature-based solutions to the challenges of urbanisation and climate change.

Regional:

Peter Lehmann

A natural propagator and grower of all things, Peter Lehmann took it upon himself to harvest seeds and raise seedlings to restore the burnt landscape of the Yorke Peninsula following his work with teams of Blaze Aid volunteers. At home he has spent many hours germinating the seeds and then potting the seedlings out. Once raised to a reasonable stage he has then transported these seedlings to the areas in need of revegetation. This has involved many trips to the area to distribute seedlings to landholders and community groups for planting out. A great South Australian who has used his knowledge and passion for Australian plants to assist the fire ravaged areas of our state.

Associations and Friends of Parks:

Ron Bellchambers, Brownhill Creek Association

Retired schoolteacher Ronald Bellchambers, 66, is the driving force behind the Brownhill Creek Association. Now in his tenth year as a full-time volunteer, Ron has developed an exceptional ability to leverage extra donations and volunteer hours from government funding for restoration and revegetation. At Brownhill Creek, the focus of attention in recent years has been an ancient river red gum that holds special significance for the Kaurna people, known as the Kaurna Shelter Tree. He has developed strong working relationships with the Kaurna people, school groups, community groups, politicians and businesses throughout the area.

Pollution and sustainable practice:

Michelle Blewitt

Marine biologist Michelle Blewitt of Brighton knows how much damage plastic can do but she has turned from “disentangling whales and dissecting turtles” to training volunteers to search for microplastic, map hot spots and track down culprits. As the Australian Microplastic Assessment Project program director, Ms Blewitt has identified the Port Adelaide wetlands as the site with the highest number of pieces of microplastic per square metre anywhere in Australia. She works with local councils to find where the microplastic is coming from and then search for effective solutions, before it enters waterways.

Schools and communities:

Deirdre Knight

Bringing butterflies back to the St Josephs School community at Hindmarsh is labour of love for Deirdre Knight of Pennington. She teaches students to propagate plants known to attract butterflies and then hosts neighbourhood planting days, giving away seedlings for families to plant in their own gardens. She says she gets a real kick out of children showing their parents how to propagate, saying ‘No mum, you don’t do it that way, this is the way you do it. Let me show you.’ This is not her first hands-on educational initiative, she has been doing this sort of work for more than a decade, working closely with the natural resource management education unit and now Green Adelaide to incorporate sustainability into the school curriculum.

Education and engagement:

Jason Tyndall

Through storytelling, poetry, photography and art, Jason Tyndall brings people closer to nature. He draws on almost two decades of experience in the environment sector, culminating in his current role at Nature Play SA. He has trained in environmental management and specialised in environmental education. He has written countless valuable nature-based resources, delivered hundreds of workshops and presentations all over the state and engaged with thousands of educators, children and adults to deepen understanding and help people find a true and meaningful connection with nature. His latest book ‘Where birds sing and wildflowers dance: a companion for exploring South Australia’s National Parks’ is a triumph.

Flora for fauna:

Andrew and Alison Jessup

In 20 years, Andrew and Alison Jessup have restored a 650 hectare former grazing property on Kangaroo Island near Middle River to provide habitat for the endangered glossy black cockatoo, which feeds exclusively on the seeds of the casuarina tree. By engaging a network of dedicated volunteers, the Jessups have established an annual tree planting exercise on the property. Over the course of these 20 years, more than 15,000 native trees have been planted on the property. Sightings of the glossy black have become an almost daily occurrence.

Research and Information/Knowledge:

Ann Williams

Decades of work to identify, preserve and improve the remnant native vegetation of the Yorke Peninsula has informed Ann Williams’ popular book, “Native Plants of the Yorke Peninsula”. Her passion for the plants of the Peninsula began when she became secretary of the Southern Yorke Peninsula Tree Propagation and Landcare Group in 1991. The first typed list of local plants was published in 1996, and gradually evolved into a black and white booklet. In 2017, the third edition, with 84 pages and 100 photographs, was launched. As well as creeping about the local scrub, Ann wandered through old cemeteries and explored roadsides, sometimes finding rare or hidden gems, some long thought extinct.

Growing:

Peter Hemmings

Provenance Indigenous Plants at Salisbury is a nursery that propagates and distributes only those species that are indigenous to the Adelaide region. These are the plants that our native animals and insects depend on. Owner and horticulturalist Peter Hemmings is passionate about the local native plants of Adelaide and his business contributes to the conservation and restoration of our unique indigenous flora. Mr Hemmings recently worked with the City of Salisbury to plant 10,000 trees along the Little Para River.

Innovative technology and methodology:

Craig Hosking

One of the driving forces behind the suite of innovative tree management solutions at The Project Green Group is Craig Hosking of Austral Tree Services. Rising to the challenge of climate change, the eden4 software platform was developed to facilitate more sophisticated green asset management using the latest technology to guide decision making. Underpinned by data, green assets once thought to be problematic can be recognised as assets worthy of retention because their value, role and importance within the landscapes they occupy is now known. When trees do have to come down, the philanthropic initiative Wood for Good recycles and re-purposes vegetation to provide positive community outcomes and donates 100 per cent of the profits to charities including conservation programs.

Influencer and change maker:

Laura Carrington

Environmental warrior Laura Carrington is passionate about making the world a better place. She has a growing following on social media through her “Love Earth Laura” profile on Instagram and Facebook, inspiring and leading a generation toward an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Topics range from home gardening to homemade produce, including good old fashioned preserves, and tips for the eco-mum such as using cloth nappies and making your own cloth wipes. Laura can also be found orchestrating beach cleans, removing plastic straws and other rubbish from our environment.

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