Above Kelsey Tong at Boolarra watching the installation of nest boxes for the Greater Glider Project.
Victoria’s Regional Landcare Coordinators, with support from DELWP, have established a mentoring program to support and encourage the development of Landcare facilitators. Caring for Landcarers is a structured mentoring program where mentor and mentee pairs meet and work together on an agreed goal.
Bonnie Reeves, a new Agricultural Landcare Facilitator with the Maffra and Districts Landcare Network is partnered as a mentee with mentor David Tsardakis, an experienced Landcare Facilitator for the Lower Werribee and Little River Catchments.
David: “It was a fresh, wet, Melbourne winter morning for our first mentor program meeting. I walked to the venue, the Melbourne Museum, through the Carlton Gardens with my mind racing.
The event kicked off with a beautiful smoking ceremony, which made me feel welcome and my nervous thoughts melted away.
Once I was introduced to Bonnie we went and sat in the forest gallery and were in awe of the giant tree ferns. We soon found out that we shared a similar connection to the land. We both have a passion for the environment and a strong desire to inform and educate the wider community to help them protect and enhance their natural environment.
Bonnie’s holistic approach combined with her bubbly nature is a breath of fresh air. She instantly put me at ease. Bonnie’s understanding of the environment and her approach is really energising. It made me reflect on how we can get overly caught up with the science, procedure, and processes of what we do.
This is a two-way process. What I’ve learnt from Bonnie so far is to take a step back. It’s OK to look at broader issues outside the normal procedures and by doing this the problem at hand will become clearer. Watch out for Bonnie as she is going to be such a positive force in Landcare for many years to come.”
Bonnie: “I’m still quite new to my Landcare Facilitator role and I was initially nervous about being a mentee. When I was paired with David, I thought we’d have little in common because he’s from the big smoke and I’m from rural Gippsland. But I quickly learnt that I’d been too quick to judge, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
David and I had many similarities, not just in our work settings, but in our beliefs and in the demographic challenges in both of our areas.
I was so inspired to learn what David has achieved and also to hear about his challenges with being a Landcare Facilitator. This gave me a confidence and a clearer picture of how I can be successful in my role.
David and I regularly arrange Zoom and phone catch ups to discuss our challenges, achievements, and interests. We plan to visit each other’s area in the future, which will be a great skill building experience. I’m keen to learn about the different demographics in his patch and visit his projects.
David’s life is totally immersed in the environment. As well as being a Landcare Facilitator he works with native plants and is a volunteer leader. I am so grateful for my mentor relationship with David. He has a wealth of knowledge that I know I can learn from and apply to my own work in Landcare.”
Kelsey Tong, a young Landcare Facilitator with the Latrobe Catchment Landcare Network is partnered with mentor Matthew Crawley, Program Manager at the Bellarine Catchment Network.
Kelsey: “I walked into the room nervous about who my mentor who would be but Matt’s beaming smile from across the room instantly put me at ease. We bonded over chats about hiking adventures and our families. Both of us have lived by the coast and have a strong connection to nature. It was clear we were going to get on really well.
The goal for our mentorship program was to plan for me to approach one of the local councils in my network to get them more involved in Landcare in the region. This has been a daunting task for me, so I was hugely relieved that Matt felt it was a strong and achievable goal. I feel I can be open and honest with Matt about my challenges – for example improving my skills at stakeholder engagement and time management – and feel no judgement in expressing myself.
We’ve only met a few times to chat about our mentoring goal, but I can already see the wealth of knowledge and experience that Matt has to share and I’m excited to learn as much as I can. Getting to know Matt’s story of working in Landcare, or similar organisations over the years, gives me hope that I could be on such a rich and fulfilling career path.”
Matt: “I hadn’t met Kelsey before we were paired up at the workshop. We got to know each other by sharing our interests and hobbies. I’d brought a photo of hiking and Kelsey one of her dog. Before long we were swapping stories of various hikes, ski touring and Kelsey’s love of Tasmania and nature. It felt like we were off to a good start. Then we got stuck into the specific work and why we had applied for the program. I learnt about Kelsey’s recent experiences and previous employment. Then we discussed her current role, challenges, and areas for improvement.
For two people who had just met we were remarkably candid in our discussions. I guess that was the whole idea. We were both there for a purpose, to get as much out of the program and therefore we needed to be honest.
In many ways Kelsey reminded me of myself at a similar age. Her passion and commitment to Landcare was familiar and exciting.
I instantly liked Kelsey and her approach to the challenge. She applied to become an even better Landcare facilitator, to service her community, network and the environment. Her approach was positive, and I liked the way she looked for improvements and solutions, rather than focusing of the negatives.
For more information on the Caring for Landcarers mentoring program email Regional Landcare Coordinators Barry Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Carolyn Cameron at email@example.com