It goes without saying that environmental volunteers play crucial roles in protecting endangered species, bringing biodiversity back to urban streets, and even growing natives that were nearly lost – and lots more.
For some, their efforts have been recognised in the broader community too – like John Legg and Andrew Dyson from Kensington Residents’ Association, who won the well-deserved Citizen of the Year awards this year. Their group is one of the more than 100 volunteer organisations Green Adelaide supports through insurance, equipment, training and more. Andrew was awarded Active Citizen of the Year for his long-term outstanding contribution to the Kensington community, and John achieved Local Citizen of the Year for his exemplary work on the development and maintenance of Borthwick Park.
Over the years we’ve captured the personal stories of many of our environmental champions in our Humans of Green Adelaide series to celebrate their journeys to volunteering for Adelaide’s environment.
Here’s 4 for you to get to know for National Volunteer Week this week (15-21 May) who work alongside us:
John grew up caring for animals and kept a fondness for nature throughout his working life in the criminal justice sector.
Since his retirement he’s been heavily involved in volunteering as a Hooded Plover Volunteer Coordinator with BirdLife Australia.
‘As a kid I bred zebra finches’, John reflected, ‘and if I came across injured animals, I would take them home or take them to a vet to look after.
‘I remember splinting a magpie’s leg with a matchstick and keeping it and feeding it and loving it until it was fit and I could release it.’
John found the hooded plover project to be a natural progression for him after a life as a keen mountaineer, sailor and birder, as he kept a constant eye out for new bird species to spot on his travels.
‘I think it’s an important role that we need to intervene proactively to try and stem the loss of wildlife,’ John said.
Trees for Life volunteer Lillian remembers growing up playing in the garden with her siblings and being inspired a lot by her late parents who drew and wrote about their observations in nature.
‘Being curious means I have lots of questions, and I spend a lot of time looking for answers,’ Lillian said.
‘Often I don’t find them, but I find out a whole heap of other interesting things along the way!
‘You never stop learning with living things because they are all so different.’
‘I think that is the biggest gift that my parents gave to me, is preserving that curiosity and wonder.
‘Having that as a legacy… I think that is pretty amazing.
‘And now being able to share that with my sons, and have that sense of family and belonging, I think that connection is really important.’
Lillian has volunteered for a lot of her life and has made great connections through Trees for Life, including learning to propagate orchids as an active member of the Native Orchid Society of SA.
‘Some of them I will never see flower. I will be dead before they’re ready to flower!’ Lillian said.
‘But that’s OK, I get to see plants flower now that somebody else planted years ago.
‘That’s the same in the bush. What I enjoy now is there because of what happened long ago, and what we do now affects how others will enjoy it after us.’
Read more about Lillian’s story
Lindy is a retired registered nurse who grew up playing outside and has had a keen interest in conservation since the 1980s.
‘I just like the beauty of nature. I guess some people can walk along and not see things – I see things all the time,’ Lindy said.
She was a Trees for Life member in the early days when it was entirely volunteer-run. After retiring, Lindy still had the same passion for plants and nature and found a new way to express it right on her doorstep.
Her local council, City of Holdfast Bay, was calling for volunteers to help look after the newly opened Minda Coast Park.
Lindy and her neighbours took up the challenge, Friends of Minda Dunes formed, and Lindy became the coordinator. The group quickly grew to 18 volunteers who meet weekly to care for the area.
‘There’s plants where there haven’t been plants for years,’ Lindy said.
And obviously, we’ve kept the weeds down, so where we keep the weeds down, the natives have regenerated.
‘I think that you can tell we’ve made a big difference.’
A love for the outdoors led committed volunteers Sue and Ash Ward to dedicate their time to helping Australia’s most threatened beach-nesting bird.
They met Emma from Green Adelaide and BirdLife Australia back in 2009 and got involved in the hooded plover project.
They soon started seeing breeding numbers match, or surpass, their usual numbers in the wild, and they continue to work to mitigate the human effects on plovers. Sue and Ash have both been dedicated volunteer coordinators in the group and continue to play active roles as volunteers.
Ash reflected on his childhood love for the outdoors.
‘My father was a very keen sportsman and used to take us regularly to the cricket and football, and bought me a pair of binoculars,’ he said.
‘He used to laugh because I spent more time looking at birds than the sport.
‘In our retirement, we're both keen walkers and we enjoy the outdoors, and that's how we got involved with the hoodie program really –just from beach walks.’
Sue shares the same passion.
‘Same for me really, because often, when you're out outdoors and you know – particularly in New Zealand and Australia – when you're walking in spectacular scenery, it just blows your mind really, and, and it's calming, it's really a place to relax and recharge,’ she said.
Read more about Sue and Ash’s story
If you’re as inspired by these volunteers’ journeys as we are, you can find some ways to get started in environmental volunteering on our volunteering webpage.