Applications are now open for the City of Whittlesea Nature Stewards spring program, which will run from Saturday 17 September to Saturday 3 December.
Nature Stewards is a 10-week course run by Outdoors Victoria, with support from local councils, to equip participants with the skills and knowledge they need to help protect our natural environment.
Under expert guidance, Nature Stewards study a range of topics including local ecosystems, plant names and caring for native animals. Field trips to into bushland areas, such as Quarry Hills Parkland, teach practical techniques and offer valuable experience that may lead to future volunteer opportunities.
Nature Stewards participant Ben Marshall speaks about his experience.
What attracted you to Nature Stewards?
My childhood was spent in regional Australia, so the bush and nature have always been a refuge and an essential part of my physical and mental health. With a move out of inner Melbourne during the pandemic, we've been on a mission to explore every piece of flora, fauna and fungus within a couple of hours of home. The Nature Stewards program was a chance to learn, protect and give back to the environment that's given us so much.
Can you tell us about your experience in the program?
I wasn't expecting the breadth of backgrounds, age groups and areas of interest for my fellow group members. Everyone had something to add to the discussions and the group leaders were absolutely fantastic. I know that we'll all see each other again.
Learning about everything from Aboriginal natural history, citizen science, water quality, fire strategies, the benefits of nature, and with guest lecturers and teachers with such experience and history, you can't help but walk away wanting to get your hands dirty.
As our region grows, the environmental challenges grow commensurately, and this program has given me the tools to help, as well as knowing where to go to find assistance.
What are some of the benefits you see for the community?
I believe that most of us value the natural world and love being a part of it. But not many of us take the next step to find out how to better protect our environment, advocate for our world and take action.
Nature Stewards is a short and transformative program to give participants the knowledge and tools to take that next step and be part of the change.
One person with the drive to remove invasive woody weeds, for example, makes an impact on every person that visits his local parks. And an educator working with a Bush Kinder program can take the knowledge from a course like this one to help drive a life-long love of nature.
Would you like to see the Nature Stewards program continue to run in the future?
It's hard to imagine a better return on investment than a program like this one. One curious, trained and passionate Nature Stewards graduate has an impact far greater than their one pair of hands.
My friends and fellow graduates are more likely to be engaged with the community, volunteer to assist with council programs and to communicate our love of the world around us. Engaging with the community by promoting programs like Nature Stewards shows how important the Council believes our natural world is.
I can't say "thank you" strongly enough to Maddy, Tash, and Jeff from Nature Stewards, the Whittlesea Council, and all the program's sponsors, organisers and guest presenters.
I'd love to see more people take the course, to see more people volunteering and meet more graduates out in the bush. I'll be out there, so make sure you say g'day when you spot me!
Visit www.outdoorsvictoria.org.au/nature-stewards to apply. Applications close Friday 9 September.