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Conservation volunteers search for invasive Hawkweed plants during a stint at picturesque Falls Creek.

Retiring? How about conservation volunteering?

By Mick Webster

Many people approaching their ‘twilight years’ seem to cast around without much idea as to what to do with the rest of their life – possibly 20 or 30 years, when they are still reasonably fit and have a desire to learn about the world, and maybe do some good for the planet.

About a year after retiring in 2005, having no wish to take up bowls or become a grey nomad, I happened to read a newspaper article describing a week-long program replanting creeklines in Mudgegonga with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). This sounded great!

So I turned up in Myrtleford the following Monday, met a very mixed group of volunteers and off we went – the main memory of that week was our 10 young Korean vollies huddling together in horizontal rain as their plastic ponchos blew all over the place.

Despite the lousy weather, I was hooked!

Soon I was looking up the CVA website and in the next 10 years there were many adventures with this wonderful organization, including:

  • tracking Yellow Crazy Ants in tropical scrub near Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory
  • mattocking Buffel Grass around Uluru (to reduce fire intensity) – we stayed in the Aboriginal town there and played footy with the kids after work each night
  • installing bollards at parking areas at Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles)
  • restoring track markers on the Goldfields Walking Track between Ballarat and Bendigo
  • and maybe the best CVA trips – conducting animal surveys in Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa (waking up in our flimsy huts to see a giraffe looking in the window, discovering the camp kitchen had been trashed in the night by the terrifying neighborhood Honey Badger…).

And then I started joining some of the many great programs organised by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, painting very remote walking huts, doing track maintenance, removing weeds.

Back closer to home, Hawkweed is an invasive weed daisy in the Alps – a week at Falls Creek in summer is good, wandering across the plains, spotting the tiny leaves among the tussocks.

And a bit further away monitoring of Mallee Fowl nests in the Victorian Mallee is great fun, and working in Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park as a Friend of the Park.

It’s a busy life!


Photo: Conservation volunteers search for invasive Hawkweed plants during a stint at picturesque Falls Creek.