Sometimes I have to pinch myself how lucky I am to live and work in a city as beautiful as Sydney. I am also extremely blessed to work in a role that supports big business to make a positive difference in the community.
Some days, my job is an absolute pleasure… and this was one of those days. Together with a passionate group of colleagues I volunteered my time to support Landcare Australia– a national network of thousands of locally-based community groups who care for the natural resources of our country.
We began the day at our meeting point in Mort Bay Park in Balmain where we were allocated kayaks to paddle over to Goat Island. With bright sunshine a soft morning breeze, Sydney Harbour was at its best and we were eager to get out on the water. I was a little nervous at first because the route to the island crosses a number of ferry routes but we had safety in numbers and our kayak guide was great at directing us to avoid any possible stand-offs!
It was fantastic kayaking in Sydney Harbour and we felt so much more connected to the environment than had we just got a ferry or boat to the island. Soon after arriving at Goat Island we were met by the local Sydney Harbour National Park Ranger. She was responsible for the care of all Sydney Harbour’s islands and she took some time to explain some of the environmental and heritage challenges she faced.
Our task for the day was to support her with bush regeneration, removing weeds that had over-powered the native species on the island. It was a very hot day but with views across the Harbour toward the city and the Harbour Bridge, none of us were complaining! We managed to completely clear a 10msq area of weeds in a couple of hours between the ten of us. It was challenging work and it brought home to us the extent of work that the Rangers have to manage and how important volunteer groups such as ours are for the continued regeneration of our Harbour islands.
We were treated to a good old Aussie BBQ lunch then we began a tour of the island. What I was not expecting was the amazing history of the island and exactly how much of that history is not currently being preserved due to lack of government funding. I actually found it quite shocking to see gorgeous heritage sandstone buildings and beautiful hand-painted wallpapers falling apart- such a shame.
Roaming around all of the old buildings, including the explosives store, convict quarters etc I was envisaging the wasted potential of this beautiful place- if only the dollars could be available to make the most out of this amazing and special Sydney destination. In the mean time, I have massive respect for the Rangers who passionately do what they can with their minimal resources to maintain the Island.
With our bodies tiring after a pretty physically active day, and our heads swirling with all we had learned about a special part of our city’s backyard, we paddled back to the mainland. I would highly recommend volunteering with Landcare and National Parks & Wildlife- not only is it a great way to ‘give back’ but it is great fun and a fantastic way to learn more about our natural environment and our city’s rich history.