WORDS BY JEM MILKINS
Incredible photography by Petite Visuals – Morgane Cazaubon
Down south, you’ll find a place with its own unique greenness. It has grassy rolling hills, wet rainforest remnants, swampy flood plains, and dairy cows – lots of dairy cows. It’s called Gippsland and it’s the beloved home of Gippsland Intrepid Landcare.
We had our first event in July, planting 4,500 trees on some very steep slopes in Woolami, overlooking the Bass Strait and Westernport Bay. As a group, we were all a little nervous. After all we had only all met less than 2 months before and suddenly we were in full swing organising an event. We were keen to attract new members and prove to ourselves that young South-Eastern Victorians are as passionate as any in volunteering for the environment!
Our group committee met in May, on an Intrepid Landcare Leadership Retreat organised by the inspirational Kathleen Brack from the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA). 19 young people attended, all very different but all had one thing in common – we are super keen to look after our planet. Post retreat, we continued to connect via Facebook, basecamp and phone conferences. Social media is instrumental to our group, especially because Gippsland is a pretty big area. It covers most of Eastern Victoria and is home to some pretty special places including Wilson’s Promontory, Phillip Island, Corner Inlet, Gippsland Lakes and Ninety Mile Beach, just to name a few. Distance has easily been our biggest challenge alongside the fact we all lead hectic and busy lives.
However, we are committed. We have a very relaxed committee structure. No president, but all of us are project co-ordinators in some capacity. Kathleen is instrumental in networking us into the WGCMA and other existing Landcare groups. Brita is our incredible secretary. Harriet and Kelsey diligently work our social media and I am our treasurer. The flexibility of our roles works because we have 10 very active members – we can share responsibilities depending on everyone’s availability.
Our first event was organised by Derek (who is also our ‘chair’), who works for the Bass Coast Landcare Network. He did an amazing job of kicking us off and a few of us committee members supported him on the day. We had no idea who would come our first event but astonishing, we had 40 planters! The best bit was that most of them were young people who signed up to attend future events.
As to what we are now and where we will go – we are still figuring that out. We rely on the support of the WGCMA and existing Landcare networks, which is a good thing. We can learn from them and share resources while all of us achieve great things for the environment.
Our next project will be kayaking in the mountains to assist the WGCMA in mapping out where pesky willows are growing so that they can be removed for waterway health. Madeline, Isabel and myself will be the project co-ordinators for this event.
We plan to have 3-4 major events a year and work on publicising other local environmental volunteer projects and job opportunities. Essentially, I think our general vibe is to stay openminded and embrace whatever opportunities come our way. We feel no rush to define ourselves, rather we will develop into whatever we want our Landcare group to be.
And our secret to date? Having passion, push through any social anxieties, and GIVE IT A GO!