Above Cubs, scouts and parents from Bairnsdale Scout Group on the Mitchell River after planting more than 300 seedlings on National Tree Day in 2014.
Bairnsdale Urban Landcare Group Inc (BULG) works along the north and south banks of the Mitchell River that flows through the town of Bairnsdale. We acknowledge the original owners and managers of this land – the Gunaikurnai people. The early European settlers removed most of the native vegetation along the river and by the 1990s the lower Mitchell River was lined with imported plants including suckering poplars, swathes of blackberries plus the odd fruit tree.
BULG formed in 1999 following concerns from residents about the badly degraded state of the Mitchell River and its environs. Our group’s area stretches for two kilometres either side of the river, a total of about 135 hectares. Community engagement has been one of our core activities from our first working bee to clean up rubbish to our 20th birthday celebrations in 2019.
BULG has donated more than $100,000 of grant funds to the local council to facilitate poplar removal and redevelop the 5.4 kilometre walking track along the Mitchell River. The track is now a popular tourist and community destination and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
In 2003 the group divided the north bank of the river into 20 sites and asked for community groups to adopt
a site for two years.
Many schools, local businesses and Landcarers signed up and more than 35,000 trees and shrubs have now been planted across the sites. This has created habitat for the increasing number of native birds, insects and animals in the area.
In 2015 BULG worked with two other urban Landcare groups on an art project organised by the East Gippsland Art Gallery. We were paired with a local artist who, after some research, produced an artwork for the riverbank that reflected the area and was sympathetic to our Landcare philosophy.
In 2016 the local open garden scheme included BULG’s projects in their list of sites to visit – the first time a Landcare group had been invited to participate.
National Tree Day is always a big event for BULG with up to 80 cubs, scouts and parents joining Landcare members to plant, guard, water and mulch 400 to 500 seedlings in the ever-expanding scout plot on the north bank of the river. We have been working with the scouts for almost 10 years and have assisted scouts with their Landcare badges and the necessary volunteer work needed for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Federation Training VCAL students started working with the group in 2016 when they resurrected the old community college site on the north bank of the river. Some students initially admitted they chose Landcare as an escape from the classroom, but they quickly became interested and involved. Their work was rewarded with a regional Landcare award in 2017.
According to former BULG president Ann Robson the students developed a sense of ownership of the work they had done and the seedlings they had planted.
“When some of their newly planted seedlings were stolen the students were quite upset. It was difficult to explain to the students why people stole their plants,” Ann said.
For the past two years the group has been working regularly with VCAL students from Bairnsdale Secondary College. These students have taken responsibility for a site along the north bank and have erected a new sign for their patch. This work is part of the VCAL personal development program which provides opportunities for the students to expand their observational skills, practice problem solving and increase their creativity and team building skills.
BULG, Bairnsdale Scouts and Bairnsdale Secondary College’s VCAL students were nominated for the 2019 Victorian Landcare Awards (in the Junior Landcare Team award category) for their revegetation work. VCAL teacher Sarah Lamble said although they didn’t win, attending the presentation was a fantastic experience.
“The students were proud that their work was recognised by the nomination and they got to see the range of innovative projects that are being developed through Landcare,” Sarah said.
In 2019 BULG began working with Noweyung, an organisation that caters for people with different abilities, and that was keen to include some meaningful environmental activities in its curriculum. BULG members meet with Noweyung participants twice a month for Landcare related activities.
According to BULG president Dan Lambert they soon worked out who liked doing what.
“Sebastian is good at digging holes with the Hamilton Planter, Rachel organises the stakes for the guards, Lauren is a wonder at maintaining the water buckets and Jamie works best when wearing his super hero gardening gloves.
“We had both the VCAL students and Noweyung young adults working together for a few working bees, which was a wonderful experience for all concerned, but unfortunately the college timetable was altered so it’s no longer possible,” Dan said.
BULG works on the basis that a healthy environment is essential for a healthy society and that every individual should have easy access to nature. The group also encourages collaboration, inclusion and partnerships with community groups. This strategy is showing great success and we have no doubt it will continue to do so.
“It is a good opportunity to get out of the classroom and away from the textbooks, and also to do something great for the community along with our future. It’s great and I really enjoy doing it.”
“Helping the environment and climate is better than sitting in a classroom.”
Maxine Semple is secretary of Bairnsdale Urban Landcare Group Inc.
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