Victorian Landcare Magazine - Spring 2019, Issue 76

Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award - John Pye

C344 p11a

Above John Pye serves hot chocolate to students during a Project Platypus Landcare Network tree planting adventure in 2018.

John Pye has been contributing to Landcare and the Wimmera community for more than 35 years.

John is an educator. He was a science teacher and later head of science at Stawell Secondary College from the early 1980s through to his retirement in 2012. John is a leader in science and environmental education and has had an enormous positive impact on the young people of the region.

In 2004 John was one of the founding members of the Stawell Urban Landcare Group and he has been one of the stalwarts behind the very successful Project Platypus Landcare Network, which supports 11 Landcare groups across the Upper Wimmera Catchment. Project Platypus was established in 1994 to tackle large conservation issues that continue to threaten both the natural environment and social fabric of the region’s communities.

John has also been very active in the local community outside of Landcare as an active member of the Stawell CFA, serving from 1990 to 2014, including as Captain for four years. He was awarded a National Emergency Medal for his involvement in the 2009 Victorian bushfires and was the Acting Divisional Commander during the 2014 Grampians/Black Range fires.

Retirement certainly hasn’t slowed him down. In the last two years John’s volunteer commitment to Project Platypus has been inspirational. Recent changes to funding left the network without a manager and caused a crisis of staff and volunteer morale. In 2017 John stepped in – volunteering as project manager for the group – averaging 50 hours a week and contributing around $100,000 of in-kind labour.

John was determined to secure a sustainable financial position for the network, support the staff and the board, improve stakeholder relationships and reinvigorate communications.

Due to his tireless activity and dedication, a salaried project manager is now in place and new partnerships with the Geoff and Helen Handbury Foundation and the Ace Radio Foundation will ensure Project Platypus will continue to deliver on-ground Landcare outcomes into the future.

John Pye (left) assists ecologist Josh Griffiths with platypus monitoring in McKenzie Creek in 2018.

Above: John Pye (left) assists ecologist Josh Griffiths with platypus monitoring in McKenzie Creek in 2018.

John also maintained and enhanced productive partnerships with Northern Grampians Shire Council, Ararat City Council, Parks Victoria, Glenelg Hopkins and Wimmera CMAs, Central Victorian Biolinks, Australian Farmers Foundation, Trust for Nature, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Grampians Community Health, many businesses and hundreds of volunteers. John was instrumental in the development of a new strategic plan for the network.

John said it is unthinkable that Project Platypus could fold.

“The project has achieved so much – 1.1 million trees planted, more than 20,000 hectares treated for invasive plants and animals, and 1200 hectares of remnant vegetation protected.

“In the 2017 planting season we worked with schools, Landcare groups, farmers and nature lovers to prepare sites, get plants in the ground and protect them despite tough, dry conditions. More than 300 volunteers were involved including participants from the Local Learning and Employment Network – young people disengaged from full-time education or employment.

“Partnering with Project Platypus gave these young people the opportunity to actively give back to their community through volunteering efforts. They learned that they were not only planting trees, but they were also planting insects, possums, sugar gliders and other natural wildlife. That’s a project worth fighting for,” John said.

John’s commitment to Project Platypus helped prevent its demise and has placed the organisation in a secure position to keep delivering Landcare benefits into the future.

Award sponsor's logos.

Above: Award sponsor's logos.

John Pye will represent Victoria at the 2020 National Landcare Awards in the Individual Landcarer Award category.