Volunteering Innovation Fund round four recipients

Twenty one innovative volunteer projects have been awarded more than $750,000 to support people from all walks of life to volunteer in our parks and forests, benefiting the environment, volunteers and the community.

Read about the successful projects from Round Four, selected by our panel of assessors.

Conservation and Science

Port Phillip Heads Marine National Parks marine monitors program

Southern Ocean Environmental Link - $40,650.00

Southern Ocean Environmental Link (SOEL) is a not-for-profit organisation. SOEL works alongside key marine tourism businesses, universities and community groups to facilitate exciting marine education programs, designed to lead ocean advocacy and improve the overall health of Port Phillip Bay.

SOEL will work with Great Ocean Stays’ (GOS) individuals living with disabilities, to lead a biodiversity assessment of fish and seabird species inhabiting Port Phillip Bay. Volunteers will be engaged in fieldwork in areas that are largely inaccessible by the public, yet areas of high importance.

Data obtained from physical and digital counts will be diverted to 10 Deakin University citizen scientists for comparative report-writing purposes. The study will determine fluctuations between physical and digital counts. This information will be used to determine which collection method is more successful in monitoring biodiversity in Port Phillip Bay.

Investigating the extent of Australia’s rarest fungus on French Island

Michael Amor - $49,872.00

I am an early career research scientist specialising in field surveys and genetic analyses of threatened species. I completed my PhD in 2017 and I have since been employed at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV), where I have worked on conservation-based projects for plants and fungi.

Australia’s rarest fungus, tea-tree fingers (TTF) (Critically Endangered; IUCN), was discovered on French Island in 2021 by RBGV staff and volunteers. French Island represents a species stronghold (the only known population within a protected National Park). This exciting discovery has already influenced land management and planned burning practices in areas surrounding known populations. In partnership with RBGV and Zoos Victoria, we will train existing and newly engaged volunteers in best-practice threatened fungi surveys and to extensively search French Island to determine TTFs extent and abundance.

The project will be a key follow-up step towards TTF conservation. With support from Fungimap and MYCOmmunity, we can empower a diverse group of Victorian fungal conservationists. Our broadly applicable approach to surveying emphasises collection of robust presence and absence data, which can inform conservation and predictive habitat modelling for threatened fungi.

Wonyip Biodiversity Survey - Volunteers, Experts and Technology Unite for Impact

Wonyip Landcare Group - $50,000.00

Established in 2016, Wonyip Landcare Group (WLG) is focussed on protecting Wonyip’s high value biodiversity, both on private land and in neighbouring Brataualung Forest Park and the wider Strzelecki's.

The Strzelecki Ranges are recognised for their high biodiversity value and home to an increasing number of iconic and endangered species (gang gangs, black cockatoos, slender tree-ferns, platypus, Strzelecki Koalas, owls, greater gliders, bogong moths, burrowing crayfish...), but we lack data on our precious flora and fauna. Similarly, we have no measure of the growing impact of deer and other invasive species. In partnership with the Norman Wettenhall Fund, WLG will conduct a community-led biodiversity survey in the cool temperate forest of Strzelecki Ranges and adjoining private lands.

We will bring together experts (Traditional Owners and western scientists) and volunteers, with cutting-edge technology in an exciting and fun citizen science project. The survey will establish baseline data on Wonyip's many species and use this data to inform future conservation efforts across the region.

Creating opportunities for student pathways and mentorships in conservation

Australasian Native Orchid Society - Victorian Group - $49,598.00

The Australasian Native Orchid Society - Victorian Group promotes the conservation of native orchids through cultivation and through preservation of their natural habitat

Current action plans for our native endangered and threatened orchids are driven by government and community groups predominantly comprising senior citizens and retirees. This lack of knowledge transfer will hamper future conservation efforts. Our project will connect botany and environmental students (RMIT) with government (Parks Vic, DELWP) and community (ANOS, Friends of Warrandyte) groups to conduct citizen science on two endangered orchids namely Diuris fragrantissima and Caladenia amoena. Students from botany and environmental courses will be mentored to conduct vegetation surveys and plant identification using digital technology and field tests to assess plant and ecosystem health during mid-spring.

The surveys will generate a field guide for the sites to be shared with the conservation working team to assist in site assessments and management. Students will then be selected to conduct more advanced skills including laboratory scientific research (transplantings, revegetation, genomic and proteomic assessments, climate change analysis, bio mapping, predictive modelling) and advanced communication skills to inspire the community.

Implementing an ongoing landscape scale citizen science bird monitoring project

Trustee for Nature Glenelg Trust - $49,500.00

Nature Glenelg Trust is established as not-for-profit (and registered charity) environmental organisation to protect and enhance the natural environment, with a particular emphasis on wetland conservation and restoration activities.

This project will establish the on-ground monitoring program that supports people to engage in science based volunteering at over 100 parks and reserves by: Establishing a volunteer steering committee; Training community members in bird identification and monitoring; Conducting citizen science workshops; Establishing and monitoring 250 bird sites; Reporting on the program methodology and results.

The project will build connection to sites, encourage volunteers to spend time in nature and support volunteers in an innovative approach that uses and builds skills within a supportive framework.

Community Coastal Champions: ambassadors for protecting local birdlife and habitats

Friends of the Hooded Plover Victoria - $49,157.00

The Friends of the Hooded Plover Victoria's core objective is to assist in the successful implementation of BirdLife Australia’s Beach-nesting Birds Project at a regional level. Volunteers within Friends of the Hooded Plover groups work with community to ensure the sustainability of Hooded Plover conservation over time.


We will create a tailored Community Coastal Champion monitoring program to expand our monitoring to other bird species and other coastal habitats including threatened migratory and coastal birds. Participants will record threats in each habitat type to help shape future management of the site and assist land managers with presence of introduced predators and key sites for weed control.

Our vision is to create better support networks for volunteers by having a locally-based coordinator, and to build a sense of belonging for volunteers to a group that they are local to the region. Having a local presence fosters the local community’s adoption and ownership of Hooded Plovers and their conservation.

Bird Nest Log and Nest Box Supplementation in Northern Reserves

BirdLife Australia - $31,290.00

BirdLife Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organization and Australia's largest bird conservation organization. Our mission is to make a real and positive difference and create a bright future for Australian birds.

Through engaging community groups/volunteers, we hope to restore habitat for iconic woodland species. This project will integrate volunteers into the development, installation and monitoring of artificial nests/roosts used by birds and other fauna on reserves in northern Victoria. The project will provide artificial nesting sites to increase nesting opportunities and ultimately abundances of threatened Turquoise Parrot (Neophema pulchella) and Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picummus). Volunteers will set-up plots within each reserve, to determine if hollow-dependent birds, show a preference for the more ‘natural’ nest logs or long, narrow nest boxes and if this preference is influenced by orientation. Temperature sensor buttons will compare temperatures inside nest logs and boxes with temperatures in natural tree cavities/hollows to determine how the thermal properties of logs and boxes compare with natural hollows.

Bird count data collected pre- and post-installation of hollows will enable an evaluation of effects of artificial hollow enhancement on hollow-dependent bird species populations.

Enhancing current and future volunteer participation in spider crab research

Deakin University - $49,594.00

At Deakin University we place sustainability at the centre of all our research. Whether out in the field or harnessing state-of-the-art equipment in our labs, our world-leading environment and sustainability experts are helping to protect Australia’s vulnerable ecosystems from disease, rapid development and climate change.

Every year in Port Phillip Bay a unique phenomenon unravels: the massive gathering of Great spider crabs on a mission to moult to grow bigger. This spectacular natural event has very little information available about the locations and durations, what triggers them and what their role for a healthy Bay is. In 2022, we trialled methods to collect important spider crab data through citizen science, with two “Spider Crab Watch” pilot projects. This project will leverage the projects and purchase timelapse cameras to trial the methods and engage citizen scientists to launch an improved and inclusive program suitable for long-term monitoring of spider crabs in the Bay.

This project offers a great opportunity to educate locals (and citizen scientists around the world) about the uniqueness of the phenomenon and the importance of gathering scientific data to help understand/manage it. the project allows for the community to digitally connect with spider crabs and more generally the marine environment. Citizen scientists can choose to spend as little or as much time as they want on the Zooniverse portal, from their own homes. The images collected provide an excellent opportunity to discover what lies below the waves in Port Phillip and learn about Victoria’s amazing biodiversity in sessions that might only take a few minutes.

Hoddle Range Flora Reserve Flora and Fauna Surveys

Prom Coast Ecolink - $15,257.00

Prom Coast Ecolink is a volunteer-run group working to connect and extend the patches of remnant and regenerated native vegetation on private and public land in South Gippsland. Our aim is to sustainably protect and enhance the existing biodiversity of the region.

Through this project we will Collaborate with the Foster Parks Office to map the biodiversity values of the Hoddle Range Flora Reserve and increase community awareness of our local natural gems. We will engage consultants to do a general flora and habitat survey of the target site and a species specific citizen science collaboration (burrowing crayfish). The consultants will provide community education days to train volunteers in the use of new technology. The targeted citizen scientist observations will then feed into the consultants' reports.

A significant number of conservation-listed species are known to be in and around the Hoddle Range Flora Reserve. Our project will support scientific research by Federation Uni into Burrowing Crayfish and also give an indication of the current status of all species within the Reserve.

Finding Forgotten Flora

The Basalt to Bay Landcare Network Inc - $20,989.00

The Basalt to Bay Landcare Network works to increase the health, extent, and connectivity of native vegetation across tenure in Moyne Shire.

For the first time in the Woolsthorpe area this project will engage Royal Botanic Gardens (Vic) staff to conduct a flora survey in Spring 2023 in the Woolsthorpe Nature Conservation Reserve. Botanists will be partnered with representatives from Traditional Owners, regional botanic gardens, Australian Plants Society, Landcare Groups, council environment officers, indigenous plant nurseries, Parks Victoria & Department of Environment Land Water and Planning staff - so that flora identification skills can be strengthened in the region. All data will be added to databses as verified records. An online plant guide to the reserve will be produced by a local flora author for schools and stakeholders to use.

This project takes a standard flora survey and transforms it into a deep lasting legacy of participation, engagement, and education that will strengthen State, Regional, and local knowledge and skills. This scale of specific site, detailed knowledge and skills will bring a diverse range of community experts, Traditional Owners, and the broader Natural Resource Management industry together that is unique in the South West.

Ecological Connectivity Between Gresswell Nature Conservation Reserves and Darebin Creek

Darebin Creek Management Committee - $49,626.00

Darebin Creek Management Committee’s (DCMC)mission is connecting nature and people. This involves: improving connectivity in urban bushland; building connections between people and nature; and bringing people together for the natural environment. The geographic scope of our work is the entire Darebin Creek catchment and associated bushland habitat areas.

Beardsell’s 1997 “NEROC” report identified the ecological link between Gresswell Forest and Darebin Creek Woodlands as one of few intact transition zones between these related ecological communities and urged conservation action to maintain that link. This citizen science project addresses the question: for wildlife, does that link still exist, and for which species?

Volunteers will be trained in the field identification of a range of vertebrate species and will record the location of these throughout the wildlife habitat link. Nest boxes will be supplemented to fill gaps and monitored with pole cameras to record use. The project will advance DCMC’s experimental use of drone-mounted cameras to monitor nest boxes and tree hollows in mature trees. Associated project data will be gathered on the impact of noisy miners, the problem of overabundant possums and the status of Growling Grass Frogs.

The project will be a first step in a citizen science study of ecological connectivity in this transition zone to inform on-going conservation actions. Our long-term goal is to improve connectivity between Gresswell Nature Conservation Reserves and Darebin Creek Bushlands. The project will help broaden the activities of and build collaboration between existing Friends Groups, La Trobe University, Parks Victoria, and Councils.

Modern in the Loddon

Wedderburn Conservation Management Network - $14,400.00

The Wedderburn Conservation Management Network (WCMN)is a network of interested people, who work together to promote shared aims. Working with the general community to promote profitable, productive, and sustainable human enterprises while conserving and enhancing biodiversity.

The Modern in the Loddon will comprise of four, full-day adventures that include training workshops, and then a practical walk-shop on Parks sites in the afternoon. These workshop/walk-shop combinations will be held during autumn and spring. The walk-shops will focus on the Malleefowl monitoring program in the Wychitella NCR and the Spring Soaks of Kooyoora State Park.

This project will build on volunteer's knowledge and expertise to revolutionize their effectiveness using technology and data recording, and to improve knowledge sharing for citizen science programs. The program will utilise WCMN’s past works and educational workshops, tying into the network’s seasonal Malleefowl monitoring program and Citizen Science monitoring of grazing pressure of the district’s spring soaks.

Friends of the Forgotten Reserves of the Strathbogie Ranges

Strathbogie Ranges Conservation Management Network - $45,000.00

Our purpose is to tackle conservation, biodiversity and land management issues with a focus on the most threatened ecosystems in the Strathbogie Ranges.

This project will recruit and train a team of local volunteers interested in stopping the decline of biodiversity in the "Forgotten Reserves of the Strathbogie Ranges". These small and scattered reserves are seldom visited, isolated and in hard to access locations. They support a range of endangered species and threatened plant communities. Many are in unloved and neglected condition, having suffered from recent bushfire and the effects of climate changes as well as invasion by feral plants and animals. Strathbogies Ranges CMN will work with local landcare groups and community to recruit volunteers with the skills needed to locate and visit these small reserves, assess their condition by undertaking flora and fauna surveys, identify the important biodiversity assets and note the key threats to these important habitat areas.

A list of management priorities would be developed and activities to improve the condition of these reserves will be planned and carried out. Opportunities for community contributions to the management of these areas will be identified to ensure they maintain their biodiversity values.

Healthy Parks Healthy People

Kara Kara: Enhancing Community Connection to Place

Buloke and Northern Grampians Landcare Network - $31,200.00

The Buloke and Northern Grampians Landcare Network (BNGLN) has a membership of 18 Landcare and other groups, located across those areas of the Victorian Shires of Buloke and Northern Grampians that lie within the North Central Catchment Management Authority region. The Network’s purpose is to support community-based Landcare, and the building of sustainable, rural communities and a healthy, diverse and productive environment.

We will host a four-week festival (with separate activities leading into it) in Spring 2023, coinciding with the Victorian Nature Festival. The festival will attract a new core of volunteers to assist us with expansion of our projects, which has previously not had the same focus as other Landcare on-ground management activities. The festival will include music, art and relaxation therapies, nature, community and Cultural walks, talks and citizen science activities.

Participants will immediately see the benefits of, and make the connection to, environmental volunteering and the positive impact they can have through volunteering.

Supporting Nature’s Future

Implementing change through the intersection of environmental challenges and digital design

Landcare Western Port Catchment Network - $41,520.00

The Western Port Catchment Landcare Network (WPCLN) is a community based not for profit organisation. We aim to preserve, protect and enhance the Western Port Catchment by working with Landcare groups, farmers, individual landholders, government agencies and local businesses to achieve improved environmental & and sustainable agricultural outcomes.

We will design and deliver an education program and competition, inviting schools in the WPCLN area to participate. Students will identify an environmental issue relevant to their local area and research: Traditional Owners practices to manage; climate change; and solutions. Students will then build their proposed solution using digital gaming software and present to the school. One student from each school will present with all schools in the program. Students from each of the 14 winning teams will decide on a volunteer model to implement in each of their areas. The Model will be used for the project and reflected upon after each volunteer session.

The project facilitates students taking responsibility and control of their local area leading to lessening the impacts of environmental biodiversity damage. Handing students control of the issue ensures they are interested and driven to continue exploring and addressing environmental issues both in their local area and globally.

Sunraysia River Repair Bus – delivering social and environmental benefits

OzFish Unlimited - $39,000.00

OzFish Unlimited is a national not-for-profit environmental charity whose mission is to engage fishers in taking action to restore their local waterways and ensure the future of fishing is sustainable. As an inclusive organisation, OzFish welcomes everybody, and our aim is to provide benefits to all our volunteers, all while achieving our over-arching objective to improve the health of NSW and Australian waterways.

OzFish are well established across the Murray Darling Basin region. This project will create important opportunities for a broad range of demographics and community groups to carry out on-ground works in three major Northern Victorian parks. Working with over 200 volunteers, the project will utilise the renowned OzFish Unlimited ‘River Repair Bus’ to carry out on-ground works, including exotic/noxious weed control and rubbish removal. All works will be centred within riparian zones benefiting both aquatic and terrestrial species and the broader ecosystem function.

This project will be run under the OzFish River Repair Bus and provide up-skilling opportunities for volunteers, Traditional Owners, retirees, and Centrelink participants, giving them the opportunity to learn practices in conservation and practical skills in restoration including weed control and species management. This will ensure long-term skilled volunteers are available to continue to make a difference to the river environment across Northern Victoria.

Knowing and Supporting Our Parks

Rejoice Community Centre - $50,000.00

The mission of REJOICE organization is to support Chinese migrants integrating into mainstream lifestyles. Protection of parks will help to build up the Australian identity and commitment of the migrants to this country. Educating and providing hands-on interaction with the environmental protection of parks will be in line with the mission of REJOICE.

The project will educate Chinese migrants in understanding Warrandyte State Park, participating in environmental protection activities and finally setting up a volunteer group to do re-vegetation in a park. The project will consist of: promotion and education - targeted media, workshops; Series of volunteer re-vegetation activities; community exhibitions; and forming a Chinese park protection volunteer group.

The project will involve migrant communities in environmental protection. Inclusiveness should be the base of success in including ALL Victorians, no matter where they have come from, to protect and build up Victoria. This project help address the issue to educate newcomers to become volunteers.

Sharing Nature’s Stories

New connections - in and for nature of the Bendigo region

Bendigo Family Nature Club - $7,676.00

The Bendigo Family Nature Club is a volunteer organisation helping families in Bendigo to discover more of their environment. Presented in partnership with Bendigo Sustainability Group and the Bendigo Field Naturalists.

The project will deliver four pilot events and invite families to volunteer to protect the natural environment. These events will explore threatened species, biodiversity threats, revegetation and the role of citizen science. The project will leverage personal relationships between volunteer groups to create stronger organisational relationships and working methods. We will build on our practice of pairing experienced field guides with children to identify flora and fauna by looking at the role of citizen science to help record and monitor threatened species and their predators. We will produce a 2024 calendar using the photos and artworks of children from the 2023 activities. This will include key dates for volunteering opportunities for the following year and general information on how to stay involved. It will be launched alongside an exhibition of children’s artworks and responses to volunteering at the Bendigo Library.

Through this work we will establish biodiversity priorities for each group/site that are best suited to contributions from children and their families. Furthermore, this project will enable us to us to approach and engage experts, including artists/musicians and Traditional Owners. This will provide a starting point for developing a relationship with Traditional Owners whereby more culturally appropriate work can happen in the future.

Google & clean up

Accelerated Evolution - The Break Inc - $37,320.00

The Break is a non discriminatory not-for-profit run by volunteers. We are a mental health, addictions and wellbeing recovery provider, helping people to get back on their feet and live their best lives by thriving, not just surviving. The Break’s mission is to build and support a prosocial and proactive fully inclusive community, focused on developing resilience and connection, to ensure no one falls through the gaps (including our flora and fauna).

Akin to Google maps which provides a site map of pertinent man-made locations and a street view of the elevation view of houses, we will create Google River. Our Google River project will map the Yarra River from Dight Falls to Port Phillip Bay. This will video down the river and along the river. It will also geo-tag all significant plants along the way with pertinent information on each plant. Every plant along the river will be geo-tagged, creating a website that lets viewers click on a plant and get pertinent plant information. We will take note of the erosion, allowing authorities and the public to identify where interventions need to be implemented to protect the environment for future projects. A secondary gain advantage of undertaking this activity from tandem kayaks is that we will be able to bring extra kayaks beyond Google River capture boats, to remove rubbish from the reeds, which current river capture contraptions are unable to effectively clean.

This project will see Melbourne’s main river mapped, not just roads, elevating nature to be considered as important as streets and houses.

Volunteering for Nature - Let's make it accessible!

Remember The Wild LTD - $30,000.00

Remember The Wild is Australia's leading nature connection charity. We are driving a values shift to a more caring and connected world where people and nature thrive together. We are evidence-based, apolitical and dedicated to enriching human-nature relationships. We connect people to nature through immersive storytelling.

This project will make nature volunteering more inclusive by highlighting the importance of creating opportunities for people living with disabilities to participate. We will produce a short promotional film and complementary online resource guide to inform and upskill ‘Friends’ groups and community groups to make their initiatives more accessible. We will work with people with lived experience, experts and organisations who conduct accessible nature-based programs to create these resources. We will create an ongoing directory of environmental organisations who have accessible volunteer opportunities and promote it on our website, networks and social media for any potential volunteers to use as a resource.

Our project will enable environmental community groups to facilitate opportunities for more Victorians to volunteer by developing accessible ways for people to act for the environment. Through the power of storytelling, we will communicate and celebrate efforts of volunteers from diverse backgrounds and abilities to show how they are making a difference in conservation.

Managing Country Together

Training Traditional Owners to protect and enhance biodiversity in Grassy Eucalypt Woodlands

Friends of Bannockburn Bush - $19,551.00

Friends of Bannockburn Bush supports the Ballarat Environment Network in the management of the Bannockburn Bushland Reserve. This includes management of pest plants and animals, community and school engagement, tree planting, forestry (coppicing) rubbish removal and wildlife monitoring.

The 435 Ha Bannockburn Bushland Reserve has approximately 60% Forestry Plantation and less than 41% Native vegetation. Sugar gum and Pine wildlings are invading the nearby Indigenous vegetation and decreasing biodiversity values due to poor understorey and habitat. We have a team of members and volunteers who help with pruning the regrowing Sugar gum stumps to the strongest, straightest stem to be harvested in 10-15 years time. Several members of the Geelong Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative have been part of this team. This project will train and equip further Wathaurong Volunteers to enable them to conduct the new wildling removal project.

This project will provide a mechanism for new volunteers to become trained in chainsaw use and forestry management that will improve local biodiversity and potentially lead to gainful employment. Training in Pest Plant and Animal management will also be available. Furthermore, the area will be available to replant indigenous species such as Manna gum for Koala and Yellow gum for the Swift Parrot.

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