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Mid-summers in steamy Central Queensland aren’t for the faint hearted. If a cyclone isn’t boiling on the north eastern horizon and dumping inches of torrential rainfall, then the hot still air shimmers with the scent of eucalyptus whilst cicadas erupt in rowdy chorus. The sea fishermen rejoice on these calm days, but personally I’m like the yachties who toast each other when the cooling breezes fleck Keppel Bay with white caps.

I’m the office coordinator of a small Landcare group which has been running since the late eighties thanks to a dedicated team of members, volunteers and supporters. Today marks the start of my third year working here, and I still look forward to the new experiences it brings me. Every single day is unpredictable. The Environmental Centre that I manage is located at a council Community Centre, so the inquiries directed to my desk range from ‘where is the parole officer’, ‘do you have washing powder for the free laundromat, or ‘can you advertise my lost pet’ to ‘a crooked developer is illegally clearing my bush boundaries’, ‘what strange plant is this’ and ‘can I drop off my compost whilst I’m visiting town’?  Surprise parcels turn up on my desk: donated books, trays of homegrown native plants and packets full of plastic bottle tops for special recycling.

When not in the office I’m working on revegetation sites with a terrific team of volunteers, most of whom are my parents’ age. Their dedication to our Landcare cause, their passion about environmental issues, their irreverent wisecracks and propensity for a good scandal at tea time never cease to add value to my days. I remember a colleague from another NRM group meeting one of our burly and artistically unkempt volunteers once and whispering with trepidation under her breath if she was safe. Funnily enough he would be the first to leap in front of a charging wild boar to protect us; a highly unlikely scenario in our urban Landcare work. The most hazardous things on our worksites, other than a mini-pick flying free whilst being wielded at the roots of a siratro vine, would be ticks crawling into embarrassing skin crannies, abandoned underpants with stretched elastic, an occasional reptile or discarded needle in a rusted beer can. Oh, and don’t forget the ingenious home-made bongs.

It’s not always easy caring for the environment in this part of Australia, where there is a jagged divide between opposing sides of politics and where the term ‘greenie’ is flung at anyone who dare think humans need to pause and consider environmental side-effects of corporate and personal actions before profit or fun. I cringe regularly at the common lies and misconceptions ‘like flying foxes are dirty rodents which defecate from their mouths’ and I am saddened to witness the piles of cheap broken consumables scattered on the landfill face, thanks to disposable mining incomes, and also incomes that don’t allow wriggle room to buy better quality. I get frustrated at the lack of speed with which all tiers of government adapt to environmental threats.

But I have no right to judge others on their environmental legacy; I’m a miner’s wife, I’m an immigrant who flies across oceans to visit loved ones, I partake of animal products and I drive a car. But I’m always determined in my Landcare role to be compassionate, to give people the benefit of learning from new information and to lead by example where I can. I’m a strong believer in learning from experience and last year led a plastic-free shopping tour – imagine a gaggle of ladies, plus one patient husband, blocking the aisle of Coles comparing the per-sheet price difference of unwrapped toilet paper rolls and plastic wrapped packs. Or picture a few ladies at a time, so as not to scare off the regulars, clustered in the corner of our tiny local butchery to show them how to bring their own containers to avoid plastic bags.

The rewards of this job are huge! We get to share gorgeous hard-to-reach beaches with a group of passionate marine debris hunters and rare shore-birds. We exercise on a shaded urban creek bank, or picturesque coastal dunes, serenaded by a cheerful volunteer whistling, without paying a cent for gym membership. We relish morning tea out of real ceramic cups and share our home bakes. We are supported anonymously with random donations from Containers for Change or kind strangers who see value in what our group does.

I hope that all Australians see the value of contributing to their local environmental groups, however small or influential they are. Don’t be jaded by the challenges we face in our world. The positives far out-weigh these challenges. Let 2020 be the year where you make a contribution.

Written by the Coordinator of Capricorn Coast Landcare Group, Yeppoon.

Trish O'Gorman
I felt like I was transported all the way to Yeppoon reading that story. Thank you!
3 people like this.
Trish O'Gorman
I felt like I was transported all the way to Yeppoon reading that story. Thank you!