Above Nina Earl at Bradshaw Bushland Reserve in 2021.
Nina Earl has volunteered for the environment for more than 22 years.
She has been a member of Friends of Bradshaw Bushland Reserve in Mordialloc since 1999, serving as vice president, and is also active with Friends of Mordialloc Catchment in the Mordialloc Creek Reserve, Yammerbook Nature Reserve, and Epsom Conservation Reserve.
Nina is a regular at working bees where she helps others to distinguish look-alike native grasses from weeds, so ensuring the integrity of the reserves she works on. Her outstanding observational skills enable her to note signs of ecological damage, which she reports to the Kingston Council’s Natural Resource Area Team.
Nina’s advocacy is determined, respectful and effective. She was one of a group that was instrumental in Kingston Council purchasing a development site for a bushland reserve that was the last remaining patch of coastal vegetation in the area. She influenced the course of the Environment Effects Statement on the Mordialloc Bypass (Freeway) to require environmental offsets that had not been part of the original scope. Nina consulted with the local Bunurong people to have Melbourne Water land in Aspendale Gardens renamed after the Aboriginal leader Yammerbook, and helped save rare grassland at the centre of the old Epsom horse training track.
Nina believes her love of nature stems from her parents. Her father worked as a jobbing gardener in the UK and Nina and her siblings enjoyed being dinked to work with him on his bicycle.
“He worked in some amazing gardens. I loved spending time in them and liked to watch him as he gardened – the fork or spade was an extension of his body,” Nina said.
Nina and her husband migrated to Australia in 1974 and moved to Mordialloc in 1998, attracted by the foreshore, creek, and many bush reserves.
“The flora and fauna of this country is so rich and interesting, the landscape and prehistory too. The Mordialloc Creek catchment was once a great wetland that rivalled Kakadu. I didn’t grow up here so the learning curve has been steep, but the opportunity to protect remnant vegetation and restore the original plant communities of the area is so rewarding,” Nina said.
Nina has been resourceful in attracting funding to environmental projects. She produced an informative leaflet to invite sponsorship from 90 local businesses. In 2004 Nina successfully applied for a grant from the Mordialloc Village Committee to provide shelter and additional security for the Friends of Bradshaw Bushland Reserve’s water tank pump.
Nina is a committed and ingenious promoter for the Friends. She regularly contacts local newspapers about upcoming working bees and places brochures and leaflets in libraries and other public buildings. She contacted 21 local schools to request Bradshaw Reserve’s Open Day be included in their newsletter then sent personal letters of thanks to each school.
VCAL students at Holmesglen TAFE have benefitted from Nina’s presentations on the value of parks and reserves in urban settings and the need to protect them.
Nina is highly regarded by her colleagues for her kindness, empathy, and unwavering support. She has been an influential presence in the City of Kingston – a champion for the local environment and for her community.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Victorian Environment Friends Network’s Best Friend Award.
Friends groups are made up of passionate and dedicated volunteers who engage with the local community and foster the wellbeing of a specific reserve or species. Hundreds of groups across the state nurture coastal sites, bush, grasslands, watercourses, wetlands and indigenous plant and animal species.
The Victorian Environment Friends Network represents and advocates for the common interests of all Friends groups in Victoria. The network supports Friends groups to share knowledge, goals, strengths, and resources, and to build their collective capacity. The first Best Friends Awards were presented in 1991. Since then, 90 winners have represented 55 different groups. In 2020 the first Young Best Friend Award was made to Matilda Venn for her outstanding contribution to the awareness of native orchids. Matilda attended her first planting at the age of three with the Upper Wimmera Landcare Network. The inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award went to Geoff Durham, one of the founders of the Victorian Environment Friends Network and a long-term contributor to Friends of Wanderslore, and Friends of Wyperfeld National Park.