Volunteers walking to a planting project in Sydney. Credit: Matteo Ratini/©matteoratini.com

Can you tell us a little about your organization? What does Conservation Volunteers aim to achieve?

Conservation Volunteers Australia aims to link people with the environment. We believe in a healthy and sustainable environment, and for everyone to be involved in managing and protecting that environment. We do this by developing and implementing programs in line with recognised management plans that achieve measurable benefits for conservation, and by providing opportunities for volunteers to join well-managed and effective programs.

What have been some of your biggest challenges and successes?

Some of our biggest challenges arise from the sheer scale of Australia’s landscape – some of our projects are in quite remote locations, and we need committed volunteers who are able to travel with us in order to be able to complete these types of projects. However, we do also offer plenty of urban and regional projects too, so there’s a good balance and (hopefully!) plenty of opportunities to meet different volunteer needs.

What are the most popular destinations for your volunteers?

We offer over 2,000 different projects across Australia each year. Many volunteers love the ones which take place in National Parks, which by definition offer the chance to visit some of our greatest landscapes and wildlife. Examples in this category are places like Fraser Island which is a World Heritage Area, and the largest sand island in the world! We have some popular projects coming up again in the Australian Alps, where volunteers will be helping to build and maintain tracks and trails, and lots of opportunities every year to visit Kangaroo Island in South Australia which is one of our most exciting projects, involving volunteers in wildlife monitoring and research on species such as echidnas and monitor lizards. It’s always hard to choose the most popular projects, as conservation means different things to different people – for some, it’s all about the glamour of wildlife projects, but for others, the appeal really lies in grass roots activities like planting trees (we plant between half a million to a million each year, depending on rainfall) or removing weeds which impact on our native species. Our aim is to have a wide range of projects for everyone to enjoy.

What type of professional background are you looking for? Can anyone participate?

Volunteers applying from overseas to join our residential programs need to be aged between 18 and 70.

If they are resident in Australia, the age range above and below this is more flexible – for example, we run specific programs for school groups, and we welcome volunteers aged 15 and over on non-residential projects. Below 15, they need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to join programs, subject to the activity being suitable of course.

We don’t need any specific skills or qualifications – there is a Team Leader with each team of volunteers, who is there to provide hands-on training and show the volunteers what to do, and how to do it.

Volunteers getting stuck into a planting project in Sydney. Credit: Matteo Ratini/©matteoratini.com

Do volunteers have to pay to participate, and if so, what does this payment support?

For non-residential programs, there is no charge at all – we simply ask volunteers to bring their lunch and a water bottle with them, and at the time of booking we advise them about suitable clothing and footwear that is required for participation.

For residential programs, a fee does apply to cover the costs of meals, accommodation and project transport.

In general, what do people gain from volunteering with your organization?

This is different for each individual volunteer – some already have plenty of conservation knowledge and experience, while for others it’s the start of their conservation journey. We teach all the practical skills needed, so it’s a good way to learn about things like plant identification or how to build tracks and trails.

Generally, we want people to really enjoy themselves while taking part in a healthy and well-managed activity – to learn about the environment, to know that they have made a really worthwhile contribution, and to have fun doing it. Volunteering is a great way to meet new and like-minded people, and our program offers the chance to do so in the great outdoors.

In terms of skills that people take with them, there are plenty that apply to any workplace – being part of a team, organising work patterns safely, achieving a common goal and of course, learning to get along with a range of people from different backgrounds and often, many nationalities.

Get involved by visiting: http://www.conservationvolunteers.com.au/

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