Grey nomads can go positively green for the environment

GO GREEN: Volunteers help ecologist Angela Sanders set up new phascogale nesting boxes on Kojonup Reserve, West Australia.
GO GREEN: Volunteers help ecologist Angela Sanders set up new phascogale nesting boxes on Kojonup Reserve, West Australia. Bush Heritage Australia

OUT there in the vast, wide land of Australia are opportunities for grey nomads to make a difference to their future and that of their children by contributing to environmental projects.

Bush Heritage welcomes volunteers to help the not-for-profit organisation work to protect long-term Australia's natural environment through acquiring and preserving reserves that it determines have high conservation value or environmental significance.

Its 37 reserves and partnerships are across all of Australia taking in six million hectares.

The Bush Heritage team work principally in what it coins its 'priority landscapes' which are selected based on national biodiversity priorities, the location of its existing reserves and where the organisation wishes to establish strategic partnerships.

Community engagement officer Jo Axford said Bush Heritage always has room for more volunteers.

"Last year we had a big increase in volunteer registrations, with 480 active volunteers doing 270 activities," Ms Axford said.

Most of the volunteers are aged 56 and over.

Skills needed

  • Some positions require specific skills while others require a can-do attitude.
  • There are positions to be filled at reserves, home-based and in the Bush Heritage Melbourne office.
  • The desktop roles at home are usually where a volunteer works on photo monitoring.

"We end up with some people who are highly skilled working on high-level documents and policies, and then we have others who just want to get out and meet people and pull some weeds, and learn something new," Ms Axford said.

Most of the reserves are remote, as much a two-day drive from a major centre, so Ms Axford advises volunteers must have their own transport.

"If we are not the right organisation for a person, we sometimes recommend other organisations that will better align with a person's availability and skills," she added.

How to apply

  • Applications are taken online during March to November each year.
  • The volunteer coordinator calls applicants for a phone interview and if possible, then meet with the applicant.
  • Applications are normally processed within two weeks of receipt.
  • Once a person is registered with Bush Heritage they will be advised when new volunteer roles arise.

Choosing a location

  • You can request a location.
  • Some people have a strong affiliation with a reserve and will return to it several times during the winter season.
  • For others who travel, they can ask for volunteer placement in reserves that are on their travel path.
  • For caretakers, there is a field safety system which requires volunteers to call into a central communication point each day.

How long is a volunteer assignment

  • The length of an assignment varies greatly.
  • A weed working-bee could be only one week where a caretaking position is normally more than two weeks.

"I have a chap that runs our sand pad monitoring which he does four times a year," Ms Axford said.

"It takes him a week each time."

What do you need to bring with you

  • Most of the reserves have accommodation options, but if not, people need to bring a caravan or camping gear.
  • The supplied accommodation has a fully-equipped kitchen and shared ablutions.
  • All reserves have internet and phone connections.
  • A volunteer must have their own transport.

"Most volunteers do it because they love the opportunity to make a difference," Ms Axford said.

"They get to contribute to the conservation outcomes of a national not-for-profit.

"They get to use their skills and apply knowledge, and get out into the bush.

"And it's a great opportunity to combine travel and meeting new people."

For more information on Bush Heritage, go to

Topics:  camping caravanning general-seniors-news grey nomads lifestyle travel travel-australia

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