Volunteering Innovation Fund round three recipients

Twenty two innovative volunteer projects have been awarded more than $530,000 to support people from all walks of life to volunteer in our parks and forests, benefiting the environment, volunteers and the community.

Read about the successful projects from Round Three, selected by our panel of assessors.


Conservation and Science

Protecting the Otway’s Threatened birds: Let’s Train the Community

Threatened Species Conservancy - $29,051.00

The Threatened Species Conservancy is Australia's only not-for-profit organisation dedicated exclusively to preventing the extinction of the nation's threatened plants and animals

Protecting Australia's threatened species increasingly relies on on-ground, systematic monitoring programs led by citizen scientists and enthusiasts. There is currently no in-place monitoring program for threatened bird species in the Otway region. The project will provide 40 local volunteers the opportunity to participate in a one-of-a-kind, comprehensive bird monitoring course with renowned Senior Ecologist, Dr Greg Kerr.  We will work with Nature Glenelg Trust to upskill their ecologists and continue to run these courses in the Otways, providing the community an opportunity to learn these highly specialised skills. Our ecologists will also coordinate and set up a series of citizen science led monitoring plots to survey and manage into the future, in collaboration with local volunteers.

By heavily involving and training Traditional Owners and local community members, volunteer leaders will emerge and be fostered to coordinate and continue the program into the future.


Has Your Garden Escaped?

Growling Grass Frog Inc. - $24,500.00

Growling Grass Frog Incorporated supports the work of environmentally focused organisations to encourage the development of a sustainable society. Through the provision of technical, financial, marketing, and administrative tools, we support the ongoing work of sustainable projects, helping those groups to be found, heard, and lower the administrative barriers.

“Has Your Garden Escaped?” is a Citizen science project to provide long-term weed monitoring by utilising the large number of visitors and previously collected data. This citizen science project has two components. One component will be citizen scientists utilising a customised mobile app to survey and learn more about targeted weeds. The second component will consist of an in-person weed identification workshop led by three qualified botanists. Volunteers will assist with resurveying line transects previously done by Parks Victoria. This data will assist with target weed management and educate on the importance of avoiding planting weed species in urban gardens.

Due to the proximity of urban areas, the Dandenong Ranges National Park is especially vulnerable to invasion by exotic plants, feral animals, and pets. “Garden escapees” comprise of 66% of all naturalised plants in Australia and invasive weeds represent the most significant threat in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. This project will set-up the start of our long-term monitoring project and be the catalyst for our expansion into the environmental volunteer sector.


Cultivating ClimateWatch communities, empowering non-expert environmental stewardship

Earthwatch Institute Australia - $30,000.00

Earthwatch envisions a society that lives in balance with nature. By engaging people in real-world scientific field research to build environmental and scientific literacy that leads to a deeper appreciation and connection with nature, Earthwatch empowers people to save the natural world.

ClimateWatch is a free app that empowers volunteers from all over Victoria to be a part of Australia’s strategic response to climate change. By using the free ClimateWatch app to gather phenological data for climate-sensitive indicator species, Victorian volunteers directly contribute to our understanding of how nature is responding to climate change. We have identified a primary barrier limiting non-specialised volunteers from fully engaging in the program. Our project will build volunteer’s confidence and sense of community through improvements to the ClimateWatch app:

  1. Develop an in-app tiered list of the ClimateWatch indicator species
  2. Develop an online community forum
  3. Host Community-ClimateWatch-Walks

Over its 12 year history, ClimateWatch has evolved from solely being a research tool to now being recognized as a vehicle for environmental education across all ages and a platform for community building. The project aspires to leave a legacy of inclusiveness and respect for fellow volunteers, underwritten by an improved sense of stewardship and understanding for the natural world.


Baywide data pioneers: Habitat-mapping sandy coasts in Port Phillip Bay

Port Phillip EcoCentre - $29,821.00

We connect and inspire people to care for land, water, wildlife and wellbeing.

As Port Phillip Bay coastlines shift with ‘coastal squeeze’ between infrastructure and rising sea levels, citizen scientists can provide critical, ecosystem-scale insights. Five volunteer groups will be linked and upskilled to map understudied dune and intertidal habitat zones. Resulting ‘Sandy Coasts of Port Phillip’ publications will provide novel insights and new community literacy, enhancing land management and community coastcare, while monitoring the State of the Marine and Coasts at an ecosystem scale.

The project will demonstrate that the combined forces of well-coordinated groups of volunteers can achieve ‘baywide’ outcomes that are far greater than the investment required to coordinate their efforts.


Add FUNgi

MYCOmmunity Applied Mycology Inc - $26,358.00

We are a not-for-profit community organisation that aims to increase public awareness about fungi and the vital role they play in the ecosystem, for health and environmental sustainability.

Vertebrate and plant species of conservation significance in Victoria either rely on or co-occur with a diverse range of fungal species. These vertebrate and plant species are often the subject of outreach programs and attract significant amounts of volunteers. These are perfect opportunities to upskill existing networks in fungal identification and monitoring, as well as enriching their understanding of ecosystems by adding fungi. Mycological volunteers will be trained to have the skills and confidence to share fungal knowledge in the areas of ecological and citizen science. These volunteers and mycological professionals will work with existing community groups to introduce and engage them with fungi through a sharing day, which will include cross training about fungi and community engagement. Two public fungi events will then be held with partner groups, and give trained volunteers the opportunity to share their knowledge and engage the public in citizen science surveys.

Interactions between species drive ecological processes, and by collecting citizen science data across the different functional groups, we will improve our local biodiversity data. Management relies on data and with more data we can increase the opportunity for improved understanding and management.


Rediscovering projects past: Utilising volunteers to monitor and assess forgotten nest boxes

Eco Warriors Australia Inc - $29,879.00

Eco Warriors Australia is Not-For-Profit Incorporated Association created to encourage and support individuals and groups to collaborate and share information and ideas with a view to enhancing the resilience of the ecosystems of Australia though on-ground, restoration and augmentation, and mitigation research projects.

Nest boxes are a common conservation tool across Australia. However, ongoing monitoring of installed nest boxes is often challenging due to lack of financial resources and logistical issues. Our project will utilise volunteers to monitor at least 500 nest boxes previously installed on Parks Victoria land across Victoria. The primary aims of our project are:

  1. To take the pressure off PV team members to monitor and maintain existing nest boxes;
  2. to create interesting and engaging volunteer opportunities and increase community / volunteer involvement;
  3. To train and educate volunteers in GPS tracking, use of monitoring equipment such as nest box cameras, safety and use of PPE, species identification, and data collection, as well provide opportunities for graduate ecologists to gain industry experience.

The project will contribute to identifying a variety of species in National Parks. All species data will be entered into the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, and significant findings regarding occupation, longevity of nest boxes and/or maintenance issues will be reported and potentially published in peer-reviewed journals.


Spotlight on Bunyip

Friends of Bunyip State Park - $29,794.00

Friends of Bunyip State Park support and foster public awareness and appreciation of the natural values of the park while supporting the effective management of the park's indigenous flora and fauna.

We want to shine a spotlight on Bunyip State Park, celebrating natural diversity and community values, and encouraging people into the park to explore the wildflowers, fungi, birds, small mammals and gliders! The project has two components:

  1. Citizen science wildlife monitoring – Partner with VNPA’s Nature Watch program and install and use motion-detection cameras and host evening spotlighting surveys to collect, analyse and report on data.
  2. Creative community engagement activities – invite the community to guided activities in the park that showcase the parks biodiversity, teach identification skills, offer creative interactions with nature and train new citizen scientists.

By partnering with VNPA, Friends of Bunyip State Park has access to scientists and educators with skills in citizen science and community engagement. The activities will boost membership and environmental volunteering to support current and future programs in wildlife conservation and revitalize the group with fresh enthusiasm and strength to build on our past successes.


Healthy Parks Healthy People

Take 3 for the Trail

For Wild Places - $30,000.00

Founded by a small and driven group of trail runners, For Wild Places empowers passionate outdoor enthusiasts to embrace sports activism as a way to celebrate and protect wild places.

Expanding on the ‘Take 3 for the Sea’ movement, Take 3 for the Trail will encourage all Park users to pick up three pieces of rubbish by:

  1. Collaborating with an Australian based clothing manufacturer to design and develop a sustainable rubbish collection bag that will address the yuck factor of picking up rubbish.
  2. Running a series of social events with local running groups to take 3 along high traffic trails.
  3. Using social media and QR codes to encourage people to share their good deeds, and connect with the social movement.

Sports activism is our tool for change, as we encourage all trail users and nature lovers to become advocates of wild places - through large and small actions to improve the health and well-being of Victoria's biodiversity.


Cycling Without Age - Rushworth

Rushworth Events Incorporated - $21,595.00

Rushworth Events Inc. enable community groups to run specific interest events and activities, which promote the arts, environment and physical and mental activities in our community.

Rushworth has an ageing population. One in six Australians are over the age of 65, however in Rushworth that figure is one in three. Rushworth has an aged care hostel in the main street adjacent to the old railway station. This location is also the start of the Waranga Rail Trail, which runs for 22 kilometres, providing fabulous views of the basin through a variety of natural environments. We will purchase a TrioBike and pilot a program where residents of Rushworth who are physically unable to engage in cycling will be carried as passengers in specially designed and constructed TrioBikes. Residents of Rushworth who are physically able to cycle will volunteer to pilot the TrioBikes, increasing the awareness of the importance of Victoria's natural environment will be opportunities for all Victorians to have daily connections with nature.

The project will promote inclusivity, reduce social isolation and help build connected, strong and healthy communities. Pending success of the program, we will establish a Rushworth Chapter of Cycling Without Age.


Climbees: Supporting environmental connection within outdoor communities

Yarra Riverkeeper Association Inc - $23,242.00

We work towards protecting the Yarra from mouth to source, revitalising the river and fostering love for the river by current and future generations. This is achieved through a mixture of river advocacy, research, community engagement and education that allows us to build an informed and evidence-based community understanding of the river as a single, living and integrated entity.

"Climbees" is a series of volunteer events at Burnley Harbour Bouldering wall. Through this project, the Yarra Riverkeeper Association and the local climbing community will join forces to bring regeneration efforts to the park. The events will combine educational workshops on climbing techniques while enjoying volunteer training on-site. Some of the workshops will be facilitated by Women Uprising, a gender/race inclusive organisation aiming to provide access to climbing training around Australia. Other events will count on the support of Crag Stewards, Cliff Care, and the Victorian Climbing Club.

Over the past two years, we have increased ecological diversity through various planting events. Over 2022, we expect to plant over 4,000 natives into the surrounding areas of the wall. With events such as "Climbees", we look towards activating the local community and users of the wall.


ExSPANsive in Nature

Span Community House - $29,230.00

Span works with people of all abilities and cultures from across the Darebin community, engaging them in formal and informal opportunities to improve their well being and develop their employment, community and social skills and connections.

This project will establish a planned program of outdoor activities to expand the engagement of our community to connect with nature in Darebin and surrounds, focusing on pockets of Darebin Creek, Merri Creek and linked to the Nangak Tamboree Wildlife Sanctuary. Program sessions will include revegetation work, First Nations cultural awareness, plant propagation, tai chi and art in nature. These sessions will provide new opportunities for Span volunteers, existing parklands volunteers and local public housing tenants.

This project will build on the wellbeing and equity benefits that we see from our all-abilities, diverse Community Gardening program where participants reap the physical and mental health benefits of getting hands on in the garden, learning about plants and seasons, and building strong social connections with others.


Supporting nature’s Future

Building a Brighter Future

Phillip Island Nature Parks - $29,966.00

Our purpose is to protect nature for wildlife and to inspire people to act. Phillip Island Nature Parks is a unique conservation organisation that also operates ecotourism experiences on Phillip Island. Revenue raised through our ecotourism experiences is invested in vital research, environment, and education programs.

Our project will diversify and expand our volunteer team by delivering tailored, age-appropriate activities for young people. The project involves three activities:

  1. "Wildlife Ambassadors" - for ten students aged 15-17 years. 40 hours of supervised activities over 6 months including: threatened species monitoring, native plant propagation, and habitat restoration.
  2. "Helping Habitat" - for up to 200 young people aged 10-15 years. Four sessions of habitat improvement such as tree planting and creation of animal homes (insect hotels, penguin boxes). We will work with local schools and youth groups to create these fun and inspiring volunteering days.
  3. "Making a Mark" - for up to 1000 local school students aged 5-12 years. Two art-centred activities to learn about wildlife, conservation, habitat and Aboriginal heritage at Nature Parks, centered on the island’s threatened species and Country, that is part of our new Aboriginal Heritage Interpretive Garden.

Sarre and Tarling (2010) have identified that young people’s Volunteering is often ignored in the sector due to the difficulties of obtaining permission, lack of suitable opportunities, and tendency for youth Volunteering to be ‘informal Volunteering’. Connecting with young environmental volunteers and establishing ongoing relationships with youth-focused community groups is the key to building a pool of volunteers to work with us in creating an "Island Haven" for threatened species.


WynTree Nursery

Canopy Accelerator Co-operative Limited - $30,000.00

Melbourne's west has the lowest tree canopy cover percentage in the greater Melbourne area. We want to establish a community-owned tree nursery in the region where residents can participate as volunteer growers and planters and help Green the West.

Our Project will establish a pilot community-owned tree nursery to encourage the social and economic inclusion of residents to address a local issue – of Wyndham City having the lowest percentage of tree canopy in the whole of Greater Melbourne Area. We are partnering with the Encompass Community Services College of Education and Training to offer a Certificate in Production Horticulture. They will provide the expertise in horticulture and nursery operations while making the nursery a demonstration and live project for their students.

A huge demand for seedlings and trees is expected as a result of COP26, the World Economic Forum's objective of planting 1 trillion trees by 2050, Australia's objective of planting 1 billion trees by 2030 and the objective of the Councils in Melbourne's West to dramatically increase its canopy cover. Planting Trees is the most effective and cheapest solution to address climate change. They are investments and legacy we can leave for the future generations.


Connecting Commuters

Glenbervie Stationeers - $6,580.00

Glenbervie Stationeers is a volunteer led community group that works to rewild and enhance Glenbervie Station in Essendon, Melbourne. Set up in 2020, it aims to support the local biodiversity of adjacent creeks and reserves alongside improving the look and feel of the railway station precinct for the local community and commuters of both the human and fauna kind.

Glenbervie Stationeers in partnership with Moonee Valley Sustainability would like to present 'Connecting Commuters', a streetscape improvement and community activation initiative at Glenbervie Station. This project is the first phase to remove invasive weeds and plant indigenous species to beautify the station and enhance the biodiversity of the locale. Improvements will support flora and fauna of the neighbouring Five Mile Creek Reserve, which is an important First Nations peoples place.

This pilot project brings together key stakeholder groups, community change agents and residents to create large scale streetscape change. Emphasising that everyone can create a positive change and that change can be incredibly powerful when combined with localised community action. Furthermore, in September 2022, Glenbervie Station will have been in service for 100 years, what a perfect way to celebrate this community space.


Cape Beach Daisy Awareness, Education and Removal Project

Belfast Coast Reserve Action Group - $16,991.00

Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group is a community group actively involved in the protection, preservation and restoration of the Belfast Coastal Reserve's natural and cultural values.

Cape Beach Daisy, is a highly invasive weed introduced from South Africa to Western Australia. In recent years, Cape Beach Daisy has spread to Victoria. We are taking a pro-active approach to remove the Cape Beach Daisy before it 'takes hold'. Our project will be the first major community driven project of its kind in Victoria. We will:

  • Raise awareness & educate local community on the impacts of invasive Cape Beach Daisy in Belfast Coastal Reserve & along the coast.
  • Create & promote a video to demonstrate safe, effective removal & disposal of Cape Beach Daisy.
  • Conduct citizen science & host an online platform to share information, monitor & control future outbreaks.

Removal of Cape Beach Daisy will have a positive impact on nesting shorebird habitat, survival of native vegetation & enhance environmental diversity. It will protect the ecological values of Belfast Coastal Reserve for future generations, can be expanded to target other invasive weeds/areas requiring protection & empower our local community networks. The project will also develop an ongoing operations plan to monitor and control future outbreaks, creating a model for effective and long term control of Cape Beach Daisy along Victorian beaches.


Sharing Nature’s Stories

Connecting through Nature

Out Doors Inc. - $30,000.00

Out Doors Inc. is a Victorian based not-for-profit mental health organisation offering a recreational and active outdoor programs designed to break down isolation and engagement barriers whilst supporting the development of social confidence and connection to the community.

Our project project focuses on connecting disadvantaged communities with the environment and will be conducted over three phases:

  1. Plan and co-ordinate a series of free outdoor community programs. The programs will improve social connections and individual health and wellbeing; build individual self-esteem and self-worth; develop positive relationships with the environment and foster the benefits of the human-nature connection.
  2. Evaluate the outdoor programs to develop a set of resources that include: a short film and print and online resources for community members. The resources will highlight the personal and social benefits of engaging in environmental groups, build capacity for community groups to increase accessibility and create an ongoing directory of environmental groups who have accessible volunteer opportunities.
  3. Work with partners to distribute resources.

The project will connect Wyndham community members into environmental volunteering by introducing a unique approach of engagement through utilizing outdoor recreation experiences and the promotion of personal and social wellbeing. We will show the linkage between mental health and connection with nature through environmental volunteering and local connections.


Loddon Plains' Bird Day Out

Loddon Plains Landcare Network - $9,250.00

Loddon Plains Landcare Network's mission is to reinvigorate and maintain long-term monitoring of bird species as a key indicator of biodiversity within the 5 key landscapes of the Loddon Plains.

Ten years ago the Loddon Plains Landcare Network commenced a seasonal volunteer bird monitoring program on 45 sites. The program has struggled to replace ageing and/or departing volunteers, especially after the disruption of the past two covid-affected years, and needs revitalising. Our project will stage a mini birding festival in spring, called the Bird Day Out. The festival will be held at our Inglewood premises, and be flanked by field birding trips: a walk up Mount Korong in the morning and an afternoon outing by foot, canoe or boat on Serpentine Creek. The middle of the day will feature presentations by bird experts Chris Tzaros and Simon Starr, a bird drawing workshop by noted children's author (and birding canoeist) Trace Bella, a nature photography exhibition by local photographers, a fully catered lunch and a Welcome to Country by the Dja Dja Wurrung.

By celebrating existing volunteers, inviting inspirational speakers and modelling the standard 2-hectare, 20-minute survey in the field, new volunteers will step forward to help sustain the quality of our extensive bird monitoring program on the Loddon Plains.


Fencing for the Future

Collingwood Children's Farm - $23,003.00

We are a not-for-profit organisation which aims to support people in the Victorian community who are experiencing adversity, supporting social inclusion by delivering a range of programs from a rustic community working farm.

Fencing for the Future will attract the next generation in environmental volunteers, by engaging and educating them about regenerative agriculture. The project will involve the large-scale upgrading of the Farm fencing and gates to protect revegetated zones from Farm livestock, educate young people about regenerative agriculture and pasture management in the 21st century and engage young people in environmental volunteering in an inner city environment.

The skills learned throughout the implementation of the project will provide the participants with vital jobs skills that they can transfer into a range of occupations and professions and will increase their ‘community village’ so they hold a greater sense of responsibility, purpose and being.


Bush Colors

Friends of Kooyoora Inc. - $13,517.00

Friends of Kooyoora provide positive contributions to the environment of the Kooyoora State Park and surrounding lands and ecosystems.

Our project will produce a flora field guide which considers how the young mind operates and is educational, engaging and entertaining. Unlike traditional Field Guides, presented in a ridged scientific format, this Guide will be designed to engage ones basic senses. Simple and fun to use, it will be interactive, informative and educational. It will use the basic principles of observation and logic in order to identify each plant. The Guide will feature up to 120 local flowering species, grouped by colour, listed in order of their flowering time and then specified in terms of the 6 Indigenous seasons. Species will be given their common names, scientific names and their names in the local Dja Dja Wurrung language. Their cultural significance and use will be included in accordance with cultural sensitivity.

This guide will be developed in collaboration with volunteers, field experts, and Traditional Owners and be a free resource to the public, groups, agencies and institutions, targeting the younger generation.


CALD grassland communications materials

The Grassy Plains Network - $30,000.00

The Grassy Plains Network represents land management professionals, academics, ecologists and community concerned about the ongoing decline of grassy ecosystems across Melbourne and its surrounds.

Grasslands were a dominant ecosystem of pre-European Victoria, but now less than 2% remains. Much remnant is in or adjacent to Melbourne’s west and north, where CALD communities neighbour Victoria’s most endangered ecosystem. This project will partner with 6 organisations to create multi-lingual communication tools to engage CALD communities and develop the communications infrastructure. The products will translate into 7 languages and enable organisations that actively work with volunteers and on crown land grasslands to engage with CALD communities and increase and diversify CALD community environmental volunteering.

Environmental education is a legacy in itself, empowering people to better understand and engage in their world, and creating place and identity. Australia's grasslands have a complex and contested history, and this project can help bring the richness and understanding of diverse communities to that story.


A Year in the Life of Mount Worth State Park film(s)

Friends of Mount Worth State Park - $10,338.00

The Friends of Mt Worth was formed in 1981 and work in partnership with Rangers to protect the Park.

We will produce 6 short films across the seasons to present a “year in the life of Mount Worth State Park”. Our volunteers will be involved in all aspects of video production, assisting professional producers with scripts, filming and editing. The films will highlight:

  • Seasonal changes in the park and associated activities including flora changes, fungi, wildlife movement etc.
  • Activities of the friends including including wildlife monitoring (eg lyrebird count), fungi foray (with Field Naturalist Club), trail run etc.
  • Art in the Park day.

Showcasing this beautiful park to new groups of people has given existing volunteers pride and satisfaction in what has been achieved. These films will provide a new medium to reach out to different groups.


Managing Country Together

Growing seeds for Galgi Ngarrk: a Whittlesea Community Farm project

Whittlesea Community Connections - $27,858.00

WCC is an independent not-for-profit community organisation fostering relationships within the municipality of Whittlesea.

We are establishing a grassland seed production area on our Whittlesea Community Farm site in Wollert. This project will:

  • Run workshops/training for community to take a lead in conservation at Galgi Ngarrk;
  • Empower community members with migrant and refugee backgrounds to find a sense of belonging; and
  • Collaborate with Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung to protect Indigenous environmental knowledge into the future.

In 12 months, Galgi Ngarrk will have an established seed production area, ongoing seed supply and a revegetation/seeding plan for the following planting season. Volunteer support conducting floristic surveys (the first since 1998) will provide rangers with vital information about the condition and needs of the grassland. We will further our partnership with Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung and enable grassland knowledge to remain the intellectual property of the land’s Traditional Owners.

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