Tag Archives: Volunteering

A river runs through it

RIVERS are an essential asset for all forms of life.
Humans use them for drinking water and food, business and recreation, and cultural heritage.
The water and the surrounding land are important ecosystems for indigenous plants and wildlife.
Starting near Mount Baw Baw and finishing in Port Phillip Bay, with a total length of 242 kilometres, the Yarra River touches the lives of people, plants and animals through the Yarra Ranges, the Yarra Valley and metropolitan Melbourne.
But 242 kilometres is a long way, and the river we see at Docklands can often feel a long way from the river we see at Warrandyte or Warburton.
To bring awareness and context to the lifeblood of Melbourne, Yarra Riverkeeper Association Chief Executive Officer and accomplished ultramarathon runner Karin Traeger recently ran “from source to mouth”.
Covering 280 kilometres over six days, she has explored the changing landscape of the Yarra river as it meanders from its source to the middle of Melbourne.
That journey, naturally, took Karin through Warrandyte and the Diary, met up with Karin and her entourage to talk about her adventure, which began in the Yarra Ranges beyond Reefton.

Photo: Hilary McAllister

“It’s a pretty, pristine area, really beautiful — lots of forests; pretty remote and isolated, but it’s a pretty nice place, you get to see lyre birds, lots of bush.”

Running 73km with friends from the source to the Reefton hotel, along access tracks and over Mount Horsfall, they took in views of the catchment.

“It was really nice to see the upper catchment, we can see how pristine it is, and it really puts into perspective the change of the river between the origin to what you see in the city.
“It’s such a nice place; it’s very green and lush and has lots of birds, and once you get to the city — it just changes a lot.”

From the Upper Yarra reservoir, Karin made her way down to Warburton, then followed the ranges to Wonga Park and Warrandyte via Healesville, but said that despite some challenging road sections — such as along the Melba Highway — it was interesting to watch the landscape around the river change.
The obvious question at this point is why?

“I’ve been running ultra-distances for the last six years, and I thought, how can I combine my passion for the environment — the river — and my passion for running?
“So, I thought it would be cool to join the whole river in just one run and show people that the same river in Warburton, or Warrandyte, is the same river that is going into the city — because a lot of people don’t seem to be able to connect the two together.
“I thought it would be a good, unique project that lots of people can connect with and use running as a way to advocate for a healthy river.”

The Diary asked Karin what had been her most disappointing and most amazing experience on her journey.

“We found some litter in really like remote places, and we couldn’t understand why people would do that, go out there and dump stuff.
“Why would you go out into the bush to enjoy it and then do that — leaving behind empty cans of beer or broken glass and stuff — it just doesn’t make any sense.
“That was a bit upsetting because it’s so hard to get the stuff out of there.
“We also got an idea of how invasive species affect the environment too; we saw lots of blackberry bushes, stuff like that.”

While some humans are causing environmental damage through littering, Karin said she has also seen a lot of the good that people are doing through their local community or “friends of” groups, volunteering to help restore and maintain the riverbanks and riverine landscape of the Yarra river and the creeks that feed it.
But volunteering doesn’t just mean getting your hands dirty; there may be other ways you can support a local environmental group.

“Some groups might even need help, like, setting up an Instagram page, or you can donate money or supplies and equipment; it doesn’t need to be big.
“Or if you see some rubbish, see if you can pick it up — even carrying one piece of rubbish out of the bush can make a big difference.”

Our lives have developed around the Yarra river, and as Karin has witnessed, the river and its surrounding environment change extensively from a little stream at the source to the vast mouth below the Westgate Bridge.
But it is all the same river, and to advocate for it, we need to be aware of it and actively engage in its protection.
Like Karin says, you don’t need to run an ultramarathon to understand and protect the river; you just need to be aware that whether you are in the heart of the city, at a swimming hole, or deep in the forests of the Yarra Ranges, it’s all the same river, and our impact in the environment affects it all.

Volunteers make the world go round

CAN YOU IMAGINE a world without volunteers? Volunteers do so much for our community, our CFA, Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, SES, Op Shops, sporting clubs, Run Warrandyte, Neighbourhood House… they even write for the Diary. Volunteering has taken a bit of a hit during the pandemic, but local community organisations are hoping for a resurgence in volunteerism now COVID lockdown seems to be behind us.
If ever there was a time to step up and volunteer it was right now.
The Diary has put together a few suggestions to how you can help. Judy Hall from Warrandyte Rotary said the pandemic has been causing a real problem with a lot of volunteers.
“A lot of volunteers are older, and they are more worried about going into the community.” She hopes that once the pandemic is over, people might feel a little more disposed to getting out and about and helping out.
“There are so many good openings for volunteers, there is no reason for anyone to be bored,” Judy said. Lions Club, Rotary, and the Warrandyte Community Association and Doncare are among several groups in the local area that rely on volunteers to help people in the community through fundraising and hands-on projects. Local community organisations are looking for people to join them to enrich and enhance life in Warrandyte for all of us. Beyond the feel-good factor of helping others, volunteering can be a great way of gaining employable skills, connect with other like-minded people — and it looks great on your CV. While service clubs like Rotary and Lions may have, in the past, been seen as stuffy old blokes meeting for dinner once a week, modern service clubs could not be more different. The fundraising and community spirit are all still alive and well, but the clubs are now much more dynamic, and project based. Gone are the obligations to attend weekly meetings, or to be a certain demographic, and while the current members are getting older, an injection of “youth” will ensure the clubs remain viable into the future. Judy said Rotary is looking for people who can help get things done.
“Things get done outside of meetings, not in meetings”. Judy said modern family life means people with young families who are working full time probably do not have the time to give to service organisations.
“So we are looking at people whose kids have got to the point where they don’t need supervision all the time, the 40–60s, or early retirees, people with a bit of time up their sleeves,” she said. Rotary has many projects that it undertakes to help the community, members help run both the Warrandyte Riverside Market and the Tunstall Square Market, as well as the Rotary Art Show.
“We are a small group, but we are very dynamic — we are risk takers, we put our hand up to do things, even if they might sound a bit way out.
“We will try things if we think they are going to benefit people in the community,” she said. Judy said Rotary has adopted a new area of focus lately and are developing projects around environmental issues.
“Rotary is getting on board with a lot of environmental projects, and it is something I would like see our club getting involved with a bit more, particularly in Warrandyte because there are so many opportunities here,” she said.
Lions Club has been part of the Warrandyte Community for almost 50 years, it provides help and support to community members in times of need, through its Op Shop and providing emergency food or other staples, like school fees or clothes. Lions’ secretary, Lyn McDonald says that those doing the helping get a lot out of it too.
“What you get out of it is the boost of knowing that you are actually helping people, which is why I think anyone volunteers, they want to help people.
“But it is also good to know that someone who is invisible can be seen and be assisted, and that is where I worry, there are all these invisible people out there who don’t know who to ask for, don’t know how to ask.” Or when disaster strikes, Lions can jump in with practical assistance, like following the Black Saturday Fires, when the club took a tool library to Kinglake to assist the community to rebuild things like fencing. Lions also runs events during the year that are designed to both provide something for both their members and the broader community. The club also works with Doncaster All Abilities Basketball, the Warrandyte Riverside Market, Warrandyte Pottery Expo, and many other community projects that enhance our community. Once a year the Lions rev it up with a day at Sandown Raceway, giving vision impaired motorists a chance to get in the driver’s seat and do hot laps of the racetrack.
“It is such a boon to so many people and so many other clubs love it and get involved — there is a real buzz about it, people love it, we have people from all over and it has been really disappointing we haven’t been able to run that during COVID,” said Lyn. A major fundraising stream for the club is the Op Shop. Lyn said the Op Shop is not just an asset for the community, but also an asset for the people who work there.
“It is a social hub, and a lot of customers come in on a regular basis, you get to know them and they find it a nice social atmosphere too.” However, as the pandemic has kept some of their regular volunteers away, the Lions are facing a challenge keeping the club, and therefore the Op Shop viable.
“It would be a real shame if we had to fold, people have busy lives and so might not have the time to volunteer, if we could get a few people under 60 it would be wonderful, we have talked to other groups, it has been a major issue overhanging us for the last few years, it is just getting less and less and falling on fewer and fewer people.
“We find we are very useful, and we want to stay useful.” Dick Davies from the Warrandyte Community Association (WCA) is on the Warrandyte Riverside Market committee, and says it is a case of many hands make light work. But at the moment, it is falling to the same people to turn up month after month.
“It is a question of just getting enough new people in, and the more people you get the easier it is, because you are not relying on the same people all the time,” he said.
“Everyone enjoys the market, and it doesn’t just happen, a lot of people put a lot of effort into it.
“It would be very nice to have a list of people we could call on now and again, and not rely on the same people all of the time.” He said the market is always looking for people to help with set up and pack up.
“It is mainly to direct traffic and make sure the cars don’t block the pathway and the stall holders, facilitating the exit, and being friendly to people.” The Market is run by a collection of community groups, North Warrandyte CFA help with the setup, while Rotary, and the WCA help with the bump in and the Lions help with the pack-up. WCA is also involved in the Warrandyte Retirement Housing Co-Operative, which has built and now operates two small retirement villages in Warrandyte. Dick said the Co-Op was started many years ago by Valarie Polley and Cliff Green. It took several years to get all the ducks in a row and the first block of five units, Creekside, went in at Harris Gully Road in 2011, and Riverside was opened in West End Road in 2019. However, Dick said many of the founding members of the committee have passed away and so they are looking for assistance in a range of different areas.
“It is a question of getting a bit more assistance right across the board, we have a formal board and we do have vacancies for board members, people don’t have to be a board member they can help on a casual basis, give advice or assistance.
“We used to have a lawyer and a bank manager, but they have both passed away, but we had legal and financial expertise on the committee, Doug Seymour is on the committee, he is a retired council engineer so he is very good on that and Andrew Yen is a developer and he has done an enormous amount.
“My concern as chairman of the Retirement Housing Co-op, is these buildings are going to be around for another 50–100 years, it is run on a cooperative basis, so we have to keep it going.
“We could do with people with general board and accounting experience, people with nursing experience, people who know about old people — it is a community thing,” he said.
Doncare Op Shops in staffing crisis
Doncare has been predicated on volunteerism for over 50 years with volunteers providing support to vulnerable families through their work as Community Support Workers, Op shop workers, Social Support volunteers, Counsellors and mentors to women recovering from family violence. Doncare CEO, Gaby Thomson said volunteer numbers in the op shops are down 30 per cent.
“We are now faced with having to temporarily close stores because we cannot staff them.
“Doncare has already suffered significant losses in revenue due to the closure of stores due to restrictions in the past 12 months,” Gaby said. Doncare relies on the revenue of its seven opportunity shops to support women and children recovering from family violence, provide emergency relief to disadvantaged families, counselling, therapeutic support groups and provide recreational activities to socially isolated seniors in Warrandyte.
“We desperately need people to volunteer as retail shop assistants in Tunstall Square, Templestowe Village and Mitcham in particular,” she said. There are shifts available during the week or Saturdays from 9:15am–1pm and 1pm–4pm.

Recognising a selfless occupation

VOLUNTEERING is part of the fabric of Warrandyte.
In October the community voted on who they think should be the next recipient of the Community Spirit Award, an award sponsored by the Warrandyte Community Bank Branch in honour of outstanding volunteer work in the community.
Achieving 90 per cent of the vote, Maxine Rosewall, who runs a wildlife shelter out of her North Warrandyte home for Help for Wildlife (HFW), was presented with her award at Warrandyte Community Bank’s AGM.
Sue Kirwan, HFW manager and friend, had these words to say in her nomination for Maxine.
“Maxine has been a wildlife carer for more than 20 years.
“This is a voluntary role with no government funding.
“She rescues and rehabilitates wildlife with a special passion for birds of prey.
“All expenses come from her own pocket and she is on call 24/7.
“She is also an active member of Help for Wildlife a state-wide volunteer organisation and charity.
“Maxine has a strong sense of community and has also been a volunteer at other local charity groups.”
When asked to list three words to describe Maxine, Sue chose dedicated, ethical and compassionate.
After meeting Maxine, it is hard to disagree with Sue’s words.
When I first asked Maxine her  thoughts about winning the award, she seemed perplexed.
“Because it was two volunteers being voted on, I thought that was a bit odd because volunteers do what they do for a different thing.”
But, as Lance Ward, Managing Director of Warrandyte Community Bank, told me — it is because of this that Maxine is the ideal recipient for this award.
“Working in and for the community, our directors see first-hand the good work being undertaken by volunteers and as such our Board decided to acknowledge and celebrate those wonderful folk who demonstrate the values of Community Spirit.
“There are many unsung volunteers working quietly from their homes and within community groups and clubs, the Community Spirit Award was created to put a spotlight on those working behind the scenes.
“Maxine is a shining example of a volunteer who has worked tirelessly ‘above and beyond’ for many, many, years.”
Maxine has had a passion for wildlife since she was a little girl in Eltham, where she used to visit a local wildlife carer and artist who looked after wild birds.
“There was a lady there and birds would fly through her windows… I was always finding an excuse to go up that street to be invited in to have a look.
“I think my fascination with birds started there.”
In 1998, Maxine moved to North Warrandyte and, under the guidance of renowned wildlife carer Ninon Phillips, learnt how to look after wild birds and other wildlife.
Maxine joined Help for Wildlife after receiving her wildlife shelter permit and has an aviary set up on her North Warrandyte property where she rehabilitates birds.
But Maxine’s compassion for birds does not just come from a childhood passion.
Maxine had a career in aviation but had to give it up for medical reasons and said “because I was winged, I can help them get their wings back.”
But work as a wildlife rescuer is emotionally taxing and there are, unfortunately, more bad news stories than good.
Maxine recounted several experiences where the animals had been involved in road accidents, animal attacks (from domestic pets) and of birds who end up tangled in barbed wire fences.
“There are rules of what gets saved, they have to be viable – the eyes have to be open, the ears have to be up and it is really hard to tell someone ‘I know it is alive but the chances that they will not make it are very high’.
“So we have to deeply think about that and how it will affect the public, but all of this is because of the public,” she said.
She said that nature and society living in close proximity is a large part of why these animals come off second best.
Bushfire can also inflict extended suffering on Australia’s indigenous species.
“Two months after the Bunyip fires we were getting called by farmers to come down and assess some of the larger roos — they had obviously been burned two months before, but it takes that long for the infection to get up their legs and then they just can’t move, and then it goes to organ failure and it is quite a long, torturous death actually.
“So we would go down there every weekend for a few months there and that will never leave me.
“And they weren’t all big old ones, they were little ones too — but it’s the kindest thing to do.
“There is a lot of that in what you do.”
While there is some support for wildlife shelters, carers and rescuers — Maxine spoke about a compassion fatigue session she attended, run by Help for Wildlife, which allowed Maxine and her peers to “get some things off their chest”.
The job is often distressing for both the carers and the wildlife and the opportunities to vent are limited.
Which makes Maxine’s recognition even more significant.
She also spoke about the recent bushfires in New South Wales and Queensland and the devastating impact that has had on the koala population.
“The politics involved in the koalas getting all that money has put a lot of other groups out, but that money can set the reseeding of that area with the koalas for the next 25 years and that is a wonderful thing.
“If I lived up there and looked after another species there is no way I would be jealous or anything like that – it’s all in.”
She says she tries to avoid the politics.
“It’s also an area that has a lot of politics in it, but working on my own I never got to see that side — really — so much time and effort goes into [politicking], you could be doing something else that is beneficial.”
While Maxine’s work and attitude is inspiring, she recounts how she is also inspired by some of the random acts of human kindness she has witnessed.
From donations by locals to Help for Wildlife to the community of Doreen who rallied together, with help from the Doreen Produce shop who bought vital food and equipment to help farmers affected by the Bunyip bushfires.
Maxine dedicates her life to helping injured wildlife and making sure the other Help for Wildlife shelters around the State are OK.
She liaises with Sue Kirwan during the summer, keeping her informed on the fire danger rating and weather conditions.
Maxine offered her congratulations to co-finalist Louise Callaghan on her  nomination and wished her the best for her community projects, and gave thanks to the Warrandyte Community Bank and to Sue for her nomination.
Maxine does not expect recognition for her passion which is why she is fully deserving of this award.