With group members hailing from Thornbury, Heidelberg West, Reservoir and Bundoora, Friends of Darebin Creek is a dedicated conservation group whose work spans an immense fifty kilometres of creekside habitat.
With an emphasis on diverse projects and community relationships, Friends of Darebin Creek is constantly working towards building healthy native ecosystems to allow the Darebin Creek and its communities to thrive.
Group president Margaret describes this cohort of conservation volunteers as ‘a quiet bunch of committed environmentalists who not only have opinions about what’s happening in the environment but who work hard.’ Margaret’s initial involvement with the group began because she ‘…wanted to put plants in by the creek on a Sunday morning.’ It then evolved into something where she found herself ‘going to workshops about water and waterbugs… so what I initially started with has become bigger and more interesting.’
One of their most exciting yearly events is National Tree Day. On this occasion, the group returns to the same area they plant in each year. Located in Reservoir, the evolution of this project is obvious, as the success of each year’s plantings can be viewed by any who visits the now green-filled space.
One of the unique traits of Friends of Darebin Creek is the group’s ability to move between suburbs, working on various revegetation plots along the creek. As well as the plot in Reservoir, volunteers have been working on a Thornbury bush plot for two years, as well as the Southern Road wetlands and a section of bushland in Ivanhoe called Napier Waller. Darebin River supports so many ecosystems along its fifty-kilometre stretch all the way out to Whittlesea, so it’s no surprise that the Friends group has its work cut out, although they’re more than capable of meeting the challenge.
Sheryl, the committee treasurer, says that they would love more people helping out; however, as with other conservation groups there is sometimes a limit to how many volunteers can be effectively managed on any given planting day. ‘We are getting a good number at our plantings,’ says Sheryl, and the diversity of participants is impressive; retirees, families and young adults are just some of the kinds of people who choose to spend their weekend morning involved in an incredibly satisfying community activity. Despite the healthy numbers, though, new members are always welcome, especially because there is always work to be done to maintain the various plots that the group manages.
The Banyule and Darebin Bush Crews are also a vital part of the conservation process, being responsible for site preparation. Sheryl explains that the Bush Crews ‘…know what plants are indigenous to that area [and] we come along and do what they need and hopefully we learn a lot.’ The knowledge that the council staff provide is invaluable, especially due to the many indigenous species that can be found along the Darebin Creek and nowhere else. ‘The Northern Grasslands in West Heidelberg, there’s plants that only grow there in Melbourne and nowhere else,’ committee member Michael says. The appreciation that the Friends show for the Bush Crews is palpable. ‘They’re fantastic,’ Sheryl says. ‘The Bush Crews are so enthusiastic.’
Todd has been with Friends of Darebin Creek for about seven years, his role beginning as the social media manager. He is now one of the core members and dedicates much of his time organising events and promoting the work of the group to the general public. ‘I’ve always had a strong drive to help out in the community where I can and I just saw the opportunity there,’ Todd says. ‘Seeing that the creek had a Friends group, I thought that was a brilliant opportunity to get involved and offer some of the things I know about bushland.’ As one of the City of Darebin Bush Crew that works along the creek, Todd has been able to offer his expertise to the group’s conservation work, and has gained a greater appreciation for the array of species and communities that the area supports.
‘I think one of the most special things about the creek is the diversity,’ Todd says. ‘You’ve got this beautiful riparian vegetation along the edges of the creek… and then you get into some really nice remnant areas. They’re places that would have existed before colonisation. Really nice grasslands and really nice open spaces with all the animals and plants to go with it.’
Night walks held by the Friends also allow volunteers to encounter some of the rarely seen species that inhabit the space that they spend time caring for. Those who attended a recent walk were lucky enough to spot two Sugar Gliders and a Tawny Frogmouth in their travels, emphasising the importance of retaining the native habitat along the creek for these and other species .
‘There’s a real diversity of people as well,’ Todd says. Peter, another long-term member of Friends of Darebin Creek, says that he works with the Friends not only because it’s part of his job with the Darebin Creek Management Committee, but because it’s ‘a really great bunch of people to work with and it’s a very important part of working with the community.’
During one particular planting session, Debbie and Edie, a mother and daughter volunteer team, were quick to praise the Darebin Creek area as a fantastic green space for kids to play in. Debbie says that it’s also ‘a beautiful feeling’ watching the plants grow, knowing that you’re the one who’s contributed. The benefits of this kind of work are therefore two-fold – there is the opportunity to meet and socialise with others keen to invest in the future of a vital waterway, and there is the long-term advantage of enjoying the restored green space for years to come. This in many ways represents the various people who make up Friends of Darebin Creek: the hard-working conservationists restoring the much-needed green space and the nature lovers who enjoy the simple act of getting outdoors. If you’re either of these people, then Friends of Darebin Creek is the conservation group for you.
Friends of Darebin Creek holds bi-monthly events on Sunday mornings, as well as a number of mid-week meetings throughout the year. Visit their website for event listings and more.
This story was originally featured in the Banyule Community Conservationists magazine published by Remember The Wild and supported by Banyule City Council. You can view the magazine in full here.
Banner image courtesy of Chris McCormack.