At the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC), our volunteers are ever-present in all that we do to protect nature. Volunteers are active across every program, in every team and at every reserve. Every campaign letter, every remote-sensor fauna camera, every pair of loppers, every office computer keyboard and every profit and loss statement have volunteer’s fingerprints all over them.
This is truly remarkable… and yet it isn’t. Volunteering has been in the TLC’s DNA from its inception; a group of friends with a common commitment to a cause, volunteering their skills and their time to start something. To do something. Today, nothing’s really changed from our infancy - we’ve just grown up, grown bigger, and grown even more effective. And our volunteers and staff are still concentric circles of overlapping friendship groups with a common desire of wanting to do something. Something meaningful. Something greater. Something together.
“Through the volunteering experience, we draw surprising, funny and fascinating new connections and understandings about who we are, what we have done and what we might do next in and for Tasmania,”
The theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week is ‘making a world difference’. Absolutely, our volunteers have made a world of difference to the landscapes and living world we look after. The less celebrated and beautiful by-product of this is that by pulling together, volunteers also make a world of difference to each other and themselves. Volunteering relieves social isolation, builds self-esteem and improves well-being. It engenders community, provides purpose and promises pathways. It mutually enriches lives.
Meet Ginger Rankin and Abbey MacDonald; two absolute gems who credit their growing friendship to volunteering together with the TLC.
“Our TLC volunteering experience is an inextricable part of our friendship. It has enabled us to bond over our shared love for the natural world, and our commitment to care for it,” Ginger says.
Ginger, who studies Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania (UTas), chance met Abbey, a UTas Senior Lecturer in Arts Education, when she tagged along with her father to a work meeting between the pair. Although at different life stages, with similar interests and energies the two women gelled instantly. When Abbey heard about a four-day TLC volunteer weeding program in Tasmania’s Central Highlands, she saw a chance to spend time together doing something meaningful, somewhere special, and roped Ginger in. The trip, and its raw natural setting, shaped an ethos that defines their strong connection.
“Through the volunteering experience, we draw surprising, funny and fascinating new connections and understandings about who we are, what we have done and what we might do next in and for Tasmania,” explains Ginger.
According to Abbey, place is an all-important enabler.
“Volunteering with the TLC enables me to reconnect with well-worn friends and kindle new friendships outside in some of Tasmania’s most precious places. If we are to empower ourselves and others to make a world of difference, we must first listen and seek to understand each other’s perspectives through stories, and the places those stories unfold.”
Beyond the mutual benefits, both gain personal benefits from the experience as well.
As a busy professional, Abbey enjoys the natural context of volunteering on TLC’s beautiful reserves.
“For me personally, volunteering with the TLC enables me to re-calibrate from ‘screen to scene’,” Abbey reflects.
For Ginger, time volunteering in the field with TLC staff is akin to an accelerated learning experience.
“Listening to TLC Ecologists is fascinating and their interest in Tasmania’s environment is so inspiring. It feels great to know that my volunteer work… is making a world of difference, importantly to the land and also for my future.”
For many, the decision to volunteer for the environment is as much a personal choice as a proactive response to a perceived issue or cause. A prolific and dedicated volunteer, Barbara Vaschina’s motivations are deeply felt, her conviction to volunteering for the environment deeply held.
“I began volunteering with the TLC when a friend with a love of the bush passed away, and donations in memoriam were going to the purchase of the TLC Five Rivers Reserve”, she shares.
“Coming from a farm, the land and its management to be environmentally sustainable for perpetuity is my family heritage and sustains my soul.”
This conviction has helped Barbara shape a career in the environment sector where she currently acts as Health, Safety and Environment Manager for Bush Heritage Australia. It’s an important role, but one that sees her indoors more often than outside.
“Continuing with my volunteering with TLC allows me to manage and care for land again, when my day job is behind a keyboard. TLC’s volunteer program offers such a wide range of opportunities from weed management to identifying species on camera trap data. There is something for every type of volunteer, the program is inclusive, dynamic, flexible and very well run.”
For the ever active and dynamic married couple, David Butler and Cathie Plowman, volunteering together for the TLC on its beautiful reserves represents a continual rekindling of their mutual love of the Tassie bush.
“Environmental values are a core part of both of us. Working together as volunteers gives us increased opportunities to share our love of the bush, to build our bush skills and increase our knowledge of the Tasmanian bush. We also enjoy working with the other volunteers that come to TLC projects.”
Something meaningful. Something greater. Something together. That’s what all of our phenomenal volunteers do, delivering for nature, for each other and for themselves. I’d call that a win, win, win.
The Board, CEO and staff of the TLC would like to sincerely thank all of you who dedicate your valuable time, skills and heart. You truly do enable the TLC to make a world of difference.
For more information about the TLC’s volunteering program visit this link.
Banner image: Volunteer Georgie Seddon at Five Rivers Reserve. Photo: Phill Roach