The monster fire season 2019-2020 saw many million hectares of bush and farmland burnt up and down Australia’s east coast, causing massive losses in wildlife and sweeping damage to natural landscapes made vulnerable through sudden loss of ground cover. Cities were enveloped in a pall of thick yellow smoke throughout January; Lasting health impacts are yet to be fully understood. Direct damage from fires devastated the life of numerous small communities – destruction of farm buildings, fences, and private and public property. At the human level the task of recovery has been slow – people have had to build from the ground up their livelihoods and their health; communities have been a hub for this recovery stepping up months ahead of promised government assistance.
Through fortuitous circumstances IVP was able to quickly put together a project to bring surplus garden plants, regularly discarded from wholesale nurseries, to affected communities as a quiet gesture of solidarity. First delivery was in July to a coastal village that had been cut off for weeks by fire the previous January – images from the time show residents retreating into shallow water of the nearby lake; to a backdrop of burning bushland.
The 70 plants we brought disappeared quickly and were gratefully received. We have been working since to reach other communities – supplying several hundred plants to a cluster of small communities further inland, partnering with the local council, and planning to extend our deliveries to coastal areas further south.
Even though it is approaching a year since the fires, attention to re-establishing a garden from scorched earth and weeds, delayed while makeshift accommodation arranged, can be a link on the path to restored mental health, and revived communities. Our action rested on willing cooperation from one of the largest wholesale nurseries – who supply city garden centres. The rescued plants are tangible ingredients in psychic healing for people who have lost homes and possessions; and communities coming to terms with a succession of calamities: 4 years drought, then fire, then storms then pandemic. The bush fire experience has exposed the sober virtue of walking with people – not just the drama of survival that makes the news, but the months and years for confidence to return.
If you would like to help with this project, please get in touch with Eva at firstname.lastname@example.org or Stephen at email@example.com
Participation Fee: $150 (AUD) (covers food, accommodation, insurance, camp leader, day trip to Canberra, sightseeing in Goulburn).
Host: Goulburn Agricultural, Pastoral and Horticultural Society began in 1880. They organise the Goulburn Show each year, showcasing the very best of agricultural produce, local creative talents, school artwork and related activities. Goulburn Show is one of the largest community events in the region. www.goulburnshow.com.au
Volunteer work: For the volunteers it will be fun and rewarding to work with local community-minded people. The Show will take place on 6th and 7th March 2021 . You will work behind the scenes and help put the Goulburn Show together, set up infrastructure for the show and pack away afterwards. The work will be approximately 6-7 hours per day with tasks as required, mostly physical with some moderate lifting. You will be working alongside local volunteers; helping erect tables, setting up displays, fencing, laying carpets, general office duties and even chasing a forklift! Cleaning up after the show may include mucking up straw. During the show you will help for a few hours, on a rotating roster, to run an information stall about international volunteering and sustainability. Your ideas are welcome for this.
Cultural activities: You will have free tickets to the Show. You will learn about agricultural issues, in particular wool growing which has an important place in the history of Australia and Goulburn. There will be a whole day sightseeing trip, possibly to Canberra, and time after work for local sightseeing / shopping.
Accommodation: The team will live together in a small building at the showground. Stretchers, mattresses, sheets, pillows and blankets will be supplied. There will be a roster for shopping, cooking and cleaning. Toilets, showers and a washing machine are in the building. The town centre is a 20 minute walk away and there you can find supermarkets, post office, cinema, nature walks and a swimming pool.
Arrival and departure: Nearest international airports are Sydney and Canberra, from there it would be train or bus to and from Goulburn Railway Station, which is conveniently located in the centre of town. Detailed information about train times will be given closer to the start of the workcamp (in case of change of timetable). Please aim to arrive in the afternoon of 27th February 2021. On arrival there will be a group welcome and orientation to get to know Goulburn, the project and your hosts. There will be a walk around the grounds to familiarise you with the surroundings. Activities will start from Monday 1st March, until Tuesday 9th March. The next day Wednesday 10th March there will be an evaluation, excursion and farewell barbeque with the local volunteers. Thursday 11th March is the final day, time to wind down, pack up, you can plan to leave any time on this day that suits you.
What to bring: Wide brimmed sun hat, closed work shoes/boots and appropriate work clothes. The weather can be very changeable, one moment very and the next, a cold snap, so bring clothes for all climates, including possible rain.
Requirement: You will be working with children during the camp, therefore the Australian authorities require you to have a Working With Children Check. Please, apply for that online here , prior to arriving in Goulburn. Keep your application number, because you will have to report that on arrival.