The valuable contributions from communities
Communities across the Port Phillip and Western Port region provide an immense pool of knowledge, skills, services and funds that play a vital role in the successful achievement of a better environment for the region.
Activities of the broader community – groups undertaking on-ground works, landholders improving farm practices, council activities, indigenous involvement in environmental projects and organisational support to improve the environment – are all key pieces that help make our region a better place to live.
2.3 million (or 42.1% of) people over 15 years of age volunteer in Victoria, each contributing an average of 224 hours a year or 4.3 hours every week with and for their fellow Victorians. In 2019, the value of volunteering to Victoria was $58.1 billion dollars.
The role of our community groups in educating and encouraging others cannot be underestimated. These groups provide others the opportunity to act responsibly, to influence others, to develop new skills, knowledge and employment, and they to provide leadership in improving our catchments, coasts and seas.
Policy and planning
The Victorians Volunteering for Nature – Environmental Volunteering Plan recognises that volunteers contribute significantly to Victoria’s environment, local communities and economy and that environmental volunteer groups play a critical role in managing, protecting and improving the natural environment. The Victorian Government has established the plan to maintain, support and grow the environmental volunteering sector.
Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is the Victorian Government’s plan for the future of Victoria’s biodiversity and includes goals for ‘Victorians Valuing Nature’ which aim to increase community awareness and understanding and encourage more Victorians to enjoy our natural environment and participate in caring for biodiversity.
In line with these state-wide polices and plans, and specifically providing support for the Landcare and Coastcare movements, the Victorian Landcare Program and Coastcare Victoria provide services and initiatives with the goal to strengthen community groups and networks across Victoria. Support includes funding on-ground facilitators who empower locals to act for their environment and provision of grants.
Landcare Victoria is the peak statewide body directly representing the grassroots Landcare movement. Its Landcare Victoria Strategic Plan 2021-2024 outlines its vision, goals and priority activities.
Community support and engagement is also part of a broad aim to ensure all natural resources are managed in a coordinated and integrated way. Outlining this approach, the Victorian Government’s Our Catchments Our Communities: Building on the Legacy for Better Stewardship statement particularly encourages ‘catchment stewardship’ – achieving public benefit (adding environmental, economic, cultural and social value) and going beyond basic duty of care to leave our natural resources in better condition than their current state.
Landcare, Friends and other environmental community groups
At the end of 2018-19, there were 88 Landcare groups and 13 Landcare networks active in this Port Phillip and Western Port region, as well as an estimated 490 Friends of and other community environmental groups.
While bringing significant benefits to local areas and communities, collectively these groups also make substantial contributions to improving environmental outcomes. Their work includes activities such as native vegetation management, revegetation, water quality improvement, native animal care, land and soil management, coastal rehabilitation and community education.
Landcare groups and networks
Landcare groups are typically formed by neighbouring private landholders who share a common desire to protect the natural assets on their properties and in their local district. They work together to tackle issues such as managing weeds or rabbits, reducing the impacts of erosion, or to contribute to broader landscape issues such as vegetation connectivity.
Many of the Landcare groups in this region have come together and formed Landcare networks as a way to share and learn from each other and work together on large-scale initiatives. To find a relevant Landcare group or network visit the Victorian Landcare Gateway.
The Landcare groups and networks contribute an estimated 100,000 hours of volunteering per year, conservatively worth over $3.3 million, as summarised in the table below. Further data is available on the Community volunteering data tables section of this website.
Number and contribution of Landcare groups and networks by Local Area (2019)
The health of Landcare groups has been monitored over some years through annual surveys of the groups. The average group health in this region has been relatively consistent over the past 20 years, averaging a score of 3.5 and ranging for most years between 3.4 and 3.7. The score for each group is a self-assessment using the following broad score categories:
- 5 – Trailblazing
- 4 – Rolling Along
- 3 – Moving Forward
- 2 – Struggling Along
- 1 – Just Hanging On
‘Friends of’, Coastcare, Coast action and other environmental community groups
Friends groups typically consist of people who share an interest in protecting or improving the integrity of a local place on public land. This might be their local bushland reserve, creek or an endangered species found near where they live or like to visit. To find a friends group, your local council is a good place to start, but many also have their own website or are listed on the Victorian Landcare Gateway or be part of the Victorian Environment Friends Network Incorporated.
Coastcare groups are formed by volunteers seeking to protect or improve coastal and marine environmental assets. These groups tackle problems like dune erosion, loss of native plants and animals, storm water pollution, weeds and control of human access to sensitive areas. To find a Coastcare Group, visit the Coastcare website.
There are also many non-government organisations active in the environmental sector in the Port Phillip and Western Port region including:
- Conservation Volunteers Australia
- The Nature Conservancy
- Victorian National Parks Association
- Environment Victoria
- Australian Conservation Foundation
- Greening Australia
- Western Port Biosphere
- Seagrass Partnership
- Committees of management.
These organisations play a variety of roles including lobbying regarding environmental policy, community education, volunteer mobilisation, research, partnership generation, fund raising and on-ground works.
Collectively, all of these organisations and their volunteers make a significant contribution to the health of landscapes and communities as summarised in the table below. Further data is available on the Community volunteering data tables section of this website.
Number and contribution of Coastcare, Parks Victoria volunteers, Committees of Management and community nurseries by Local Area (2019)
Coordinated community action
There are well established links between the environment and physical and mental wellbeing – increased physical activity, reduced air pollution, connection with nature, growing and eating fresh food, and making homes warmer and healthier. We also know that taking part in environmental action can create a range of tangible personal benefits – from saving money, reducing waste and gaining new knowledge and skills, to a greater sense of belonging and connection, and of course, reducing CO2 emissions.
We recognise that communities face challenges and barriers to tackling global problems through local action, but know that ‘think global, act local’ still has meaning and resonance. People and communities can and do make a difference through their actions and choices
Work at individual and community level can be both empowering and significant enough to make a difference. Community action can deliver real impact in terms of reducing CO2 emissions, waste reduction and reuse and redistribution of food, furniture, clothing, toys and material. And in doing so it generates important wider benefits: improving health and wellbeing, increasing community pride and supporting skills, training and jobs.
Collectively, volunteers make a significant contribution to the health of landscapes and communities through various avenues as summarised in the table below. Further data is available on the Community volunteering data tables section of this website.
Number and contribution of other volunteer groups (sustainable living, citizen science, wildlife rescue, recreation/nature experiences, advocacy and networks) by Local Area (2019)
Communities at home and work
How each of us think about the environment, how we use energy and water, how we manage our litter and waste and how we travel to work all contribute to the size of our individual and collective ecological footprint.
Research commissioned by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning identified five priority behaviours that any Victorian can adopt now to make a difference for nature:
- Spend time in nature: be a person who connects with and acts for nature
- Volunteer for nature, or try some Citizen Science: you can actively take care of nature and monitor its health.
- Tell stories and be a champion for nature: you can inform and inspire others to connect with and act for nature.
- Plant native plants, or keep a wildlife garden: you can provide habitat and refuge for native species.
- Keep pet cats contained, and keep dogs on a leash when visiting natural areas: this reduces a direct threat to wildlife in the area.
Other ways for householders and community members to make a difference include the following:
Improve your home’s energy efficiency
There are many things you can do to help your house become more energy efficient. From installing weather stripping and window coverings to help maintain the internal temperature, to upgrading to energy efficient appliances, there are large and small ways to save energy. Not only does an energy efficient home help the environment, it lowers your monthly utility bills.
This may seem obvious, but there are still many people who unconsciously waste litres of water every day. It can be lots of small daily things that add up over time: running the water while brushing your teeth, over-watering your lawn or not fixing a leaky faucet. Making the effort to conserve water greatly helps the environment and also keeps your monthly water bill low.
Urban greening and gardens for wildlife
Homeowners are increasingly turning to indigenous plants to beautify their gardens, reduce water use and provide a refuge for native animals. Local councils are are also using indigenous plants to revegetate degraded nature reserves and parklands. Gardens for Wildlife Victoria is one of the organisations championing this movement.
Many food production systems place an enormous strain on the environment. Shipping food all over the world requires immense quantities of fuel, not to mention the additional pollution and carbon emissions. You can help combat this by choosing locally-grown food as much as possible.
Farmer’s markets and farm gate offerings are all great resources for local food. The more people support local, small farmers, the more incentive there is for the inefficient and unnatural food production system to improve.
Fossil fuels greatly impact the environment and contribute to pollution and global warming. You can help the environment by driving less and using more eco-friendly modes of transportation instead. Riding a bike or walking are excellent choices and provide the extra bonus of helping you stay in shape. You can also choose public transport. If your lifestyle requires lots of driving time, consider investing in a hybrid or electric car.
Citizen science involves the public contributing to scientific research with an aim to increase scientific knowledge. You can contribute to a range of important citizen science projects by submitting your observations of nature, simply by using your smart phone.
- Record frog calls for Melbourne Water’s frog census
- Birds sightings for National Bird Week in October using the Birds in Backyards app
- Platypus sightings to PlatypusSpot
- Echidna sightings using the Echidna Conservation Science Initiative (CSI) app
- Wombat sightings
- How nature is responding to climate change with ClimateWatch
- Create your own species list for favourite sites or projects at BowerBird
- Map feral animals in your local area.
Challenges for community volunteerism
Finding and retaining volunteers
In 2020, Victorian research found enormous ‘latent interest’ in the community to get involved in environmental volunteering whilst also identifying barriers to action that include:
- Perceptions of ‘not having time’ to meet expectations of requirements for ongoing commitment
- Perceptions that individual’s contributions won’t matter
- Not having been asked clearly or asked at all.
Recruiting volunteers for non-profit organisations is usually a time-consuming and ongoing process. There is often a high turnover of volunteers – some leave after losing interest in the volunteering work while others resign because of changes in their work or personal circumstances. Attracting younger volunteers to replace retiring members can also be a significant challenge.
Training new volunteers and leaders
Most non-profit organizations operate on tight budgets, however, some need volunteers to undertake specialised tasks that require extensive and costly training.
Environment is a priority concern for many young people but their participation in environmental decision-making and action is relatively low. Many Councils conduct Youth leadership and Youth Council programs to foster young adult engagement in Local Government. These and the models they suggest could help environmental organisations and agencies engage more young people in community action for land, water and nature conservation.
Red tape, regulations and liability
Many volunteer organisations express frustration at growing red tape, regulations and liability issues which take up considerable time and effort. Funding applications and associated reporting requirements can sometimes overburden smaller organisations.
More information on the extent, nature and challenges of volunteering in Victoria can be found at the State of Volunteering in Victoria website.
Vision and targets for the future
Landcare Victoria supports Landcare to be strong, connected and effective. Its Landcare Victoria Strategic Plan 2021-2024 has the following vision:
Rich and diverse Victorian landscapes, supporting productive farming, healthy ecosystems and thriving communities.
The Victorians Volunteering for Nature – Environmental Volunteering Plan looks at how we can support and sustain the existing environmental volunteering sector, while encouraging more active involvement from Victorians by making the sector more relevant and accessible. It aims to:
Support and foster a sustainable, modern, effective and valued environmental volunteering sector in Victoria.
One of the goals from the Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 plan is:
Victorians value nature and understand that their personal wellbeing and the economic wellbeing of the state are dependent on the health of the natural environment.
Regional Catchment Strategy targets
The following targets reflect the significant and valuable contributions to natural resource management that are continuously made by the Landcare movement and community volunteers of this region and the potential to improve the engagement of the broader community here including the urban Melbourne community.
Achievement of these targets will contribute to realising the state-wide visions outlined above.
These targets reflect a desire to:
- Retain and enhance community volunteerism
- Provide many and diverse opportunities for community involvement and volunteerism
- Secure ongoing funding at appropriate levels to underpin community volunteers and community engagement programs
- Engage new sectors including youth
- Make it easier for communities to engage
- Help community voices be more influential
- Encourage ‘catchment stewardship’ to leave our natural resources in better condition than their current state.
Target 14.1 – Landcare group health
Target 14.2 – Community volunteering
Target 14.3 – Community participation
The health of Landcare groups across the region will continue to be monitored through an annual statewide survey led by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. The same survey has recently been expanded and will also provide the data to enable future monitoring of membership and hours volunteered for various avenues of community volunteering. The level of community participation in natural resource management activities will be monitored by annually seeking this figure from key natural resource management organisations in the region such as councils, water corporations, Parks Victoria and relevant government departments.
The following organisations formally support the pursuit of the visions and targets for communities. They have agreed to provide leadership and support to help achieve optimum results with their available resources, in ways such as:
- Fostering partnerships and sharing knowledge, experiences and information with other organisations and the community
- Seeking and securing resources for the area and undertaking work that will contribute to achieving the visions and targets
- Assisting with monitoring and reporting on the condition of the area.
- Port Phillip & Westernport Catchment Management Authority
- Parks Victoria
- Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA)
- Trust for Nature
- Phillip Island Nature Parks
- Sustainability Victoria
- Melbourne Water
- Victorian Planning Authority
- Southern Rural Water
- South Gippsland Water
- Yarra Valley Water
- Wyndham City
- Hume City Council
- Macedon Ranges Shire Council
- Monash City Council
- Bayside City Council
- City of Casey
- Western Alliance for Greenhouse Action
- Maroondah City Council
- City of Greater Dandenong
- Whitehorse City Council
- South Gippsland Shire Council
- Association of Bayside Municipalities
- Eastern Region Pest Animal Network
- Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
- The Nature Conservancy
- Conservation Volunteers Australia
- Birdlife Australia
- Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Centre / Odonata
- Gardens for Wildlife Victoria
- The People and Parks Foundation
- Native Fish Australia (Vic)
- OzFish Unlimited
- Dolphin Research Institute
- Victoria Walks
- Bass Coast Landcare Network
- South Gippsland Landcare Network
- Loch-Nyora Landcare Group
- Mt. Lyall Landcare Group
- Poowong & District Landcare Group
- Triholm Landcare Group
- Friends of Dandenong Valley Parklands
- Kooyongkoot Alliance
- Friends of Olinda Creek
- Abbotsford Riverbankers Inc
- Rewilding Stonnington
- Main Creek Catchment Landcare Group
- Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation
- Westernport Swamp Landcare Group
- Port Phillip EcoCentre
- Werribee River Association
- Federation for Environment and Horticulture in the Macedon Ranges
- Little River Community Landcare Inc
- Friends of Lower Kororoit Creek Inc
- Hobsons Bay Wetlands Centre Inc.
- Yarra Ranges Landcare Network
- Northern Yarra Landcare Network
- Middle Yarra Landcare Network
- Nillumbik Landcare Network
- Nangana Landcare Network
- Johns Hill Landcare Group
Add your organisation as a supporter and partner
If your organisation supports these directions and targets and wishes to be listed as a partner organisation, you can request to be listed as a partner organisation. Adding your organisation to this list will:
- Enable your organisation to list one or more priority projects in the Prospectus which will describe how your priority project will pursue the targets of this Regional Catchment Strategy and potentially make your organisation’s project more attractive to investors by using the strategy to highlight its relevance and value
- Demonstrate your commitment to a healthy and sustainable environment
- Demonstrate the level of community engagement and support for this work.
Priority projects to move forward
There are significant ongoing programs and initiatives undertaken by many organisations in this region that are vital for supporting community involvement in natural resource management and are priorities to continue. These include programs led by Councils, Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, community groups and non-Government organisations.
In addition, there are numerous project proposals that, if funded and implemented, can contribute to achieving the Regional Catchment Strategy’s visions and targets for communities. Project proposals include:
- Environmental education and community action in the Bass Coast proposed by the Bass Coast Landcare Network
- Nairm Catchments Network proposed by the Port Phillip EcoCentre
- Inclusive conservation of Wetlands proposed by Birdlife Australia
- Native fish tanks in schools led by Native Fish Australia (Victoria)
- Nature Locator proposed by the People and Parks Foundation
- Nature Dose proposed by the People and Parks Foundation
- Marine Litter Project led by the Marine Mammal Foundation.
A list of project proposals across the region and their key details can be viewed on the Prospectus section of this website
Propose a new priority project
As part of the ongoing development and refinement of this Regional Catchment Strategy, additional priority projects may be considered for inclusion in the Prospectus.
If your organisation supports the directions and targets for communities, and has a project it would like highlighted and supported in this Regional Catchment Strategy, please submit a Prospectus Project Proposal.