Weed all about it

Atlassian, the company I work for, allows its staff members six days per year for volunteer work. You can choose where you donate your time, and still receive your usual salary. Impressive, huh.

My pet cause is conservation, and in particular bush regeneration. I spend a lot of time just in my own garden, hauling out nasties like agapanthus and asparagus fern and putting in native plants. A couple of days ago, my neighbour looked on in horror as I uprooted yet another hank of agapanthus. “Are you a greenie?” she asked. I started to say, “No”, then thought about it. I guess I am. Not a dyed-in-the-wool greenie. But becoming more and more convinced that we need to do something about climate change and the homogenisation of our environments.

So, today was my first “volunteering” day. Volunteering is a big thing in Australia. It’s part of the national culture. Try googling it, if you dare. The most well-known volunteers are the fire fighters. But there are lots of other opportunities. I chose Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). They go out in groups of ten to twelve people every day, and tackle a patch of bush that’s under pressure from non-indigenous plants or other threats.

Our group was interesting. There were three new people, including me. The others were all regulars. Some of them volunteer with CVA two or three days every week! One person had brought her daughter – at three years old, the youngest member of the team.

The youngest

Above: The smallest, eager to get started.

One of the regulars is Anna (not her real name). It was Anna’s birthday, so the CVA team leader had baked her a cake complete with candles. We had it for morning tea. One of Anna’s birthday presents was a pair of gardening gloves. That’s dedication for you.

We targeted an area near the Curl Curl lagoon. A week before, people had been hard at work removing the noxious lantana. Here’s what the patch looked like when we started:


Above: Lantana massacre.

And here’s the spot I decided to make my own:


Above: My patch before I started.

Everyone got stuck in, pulling out the last remaining roots and preparing the ground:

Hard at work

Above: Hard at work.

Here are the plants we put in:


Above: Pigface (Carpobrotus). Info. Evidently this one grows fast and furious – a good ground cover for difficult terrain. We made sure we planted it in one particular area only.


Above: Porcupine grass (Spinifex). Info.


Above: Pelargonium. Info. This is a native variety of the popular pelargonium/geranium family.


Above: Hibbertia. Info. They say this one is quite hardy too, and makes very good ground cover.

And here’s my own little patch after a couple of hours’ work:


Above: My patch done.

It’s a good feeling at the end of the day, to have made some sort of difference in the world out there.

To remember for next time: Take some insect repellent!


About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 24 October 2007, in atlassian, environment, trees and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Wow, I didn’t realize that volunteering was such a big thing in Australia, but I’m glad to hear that it is. I’m not a big volunteer-er myself, however I do financially support some really great organizations so that others can get out and do the work. 🙂 One of these days I’ll get off my duff and go, if only to get out and meet some new people, but of course to also help out in some way. Brava to you!

  2. Great story! I think that sometimes donating time can be even more important that donating money. You have provided a great example with your post. Thank you for you work. Robert Hernreich

  1. Pingback: Getting to the root of the problem « ffeathers — a technical writer’s blog

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