Volunteering Innovation Fund round one recipients

Twenty innovative volunteer projects have been awarded more than $300,000 to increase the diversity and number of people volunteering in our parks.

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

map of victoria with icons marking successful applications

Conservation and science

White bird with black beak and legs, standing over smaller brown birds in the water.

Citizen scientist-led ecoacoustic monitoring of wetland soundscapes

BirdLife Australia - $20,000.00

To create a bright future for Australia's birds.

We are proud to be the nation's largest bird conservation organisation. We have been a voice for Australia's birdlife for well over a century, protecting birds and their habitats. As an independent, not-for-profit organisation, our members, volunteers and supporters all share the same passion.

Our project will:

1. Recruit & train volunteers to establish & maintain 3x long-term acoustic monitoring stations across Glenelg-Hopkins Catchment.
2. Assign stewardship volunteers an acoustic monitor to deploy at local wetlands & form a network of satellite monitors.
3. Upload recordings to the ‘Glenelg-Hopkins Soundscape Project’ on Arbimon. Volunteers will listen to recordings & identify species.

By listening to our wetlands, we will uncover the often-overlooked stories of wetland birds, particularly difficult to detect species, like the Australasian Bittern. This is a step towards a new, sustainable model for volunteering as volunteers have increased agency in the monitoring of their environment.

A woman in a rain jacket with plaited hair and a beanie looking down at a portable tablet device in front of trees and shrubs.

Tracking Success, threatened species citizen science project.

Threatened Species Conservancy - $19,985.00

To save Australia’s plants and animals from extinction.

We are Australia’s only not-for-profit organisation dedicated exclusively to preventing the extinction of the nation’s threatened plants and animals. Our current programs operate across Victoria and New South Wales. As long-standing practitioners of threatened species recovery, we use our ecological expertise to help threatened species thrive.

We are developing a citizen science project using geographical information software to help community volunteers monitor and survey the rare Fryerstown Grevillea. This data will aid design of threatened species recovery programs to prevent extinction using the most up to date information about population survivorship and threatening processes.

The field trial will be an opportunity for us to evaluate and improve future monitoring projects. The tools and protocols developed will provide a methodological and technological framework to grow the program and monitor data across a range of Victoria’s threatened plant and animal taxa.

Pelicans and water birds gathered in the wetlands.

Saltwater and Kelly's Swamps Citizen Science Project

Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network - $20,000

Warrnambool appreciate a beautiful, healthy and diverse natural environment.

We are a network of landcare groups that improve biodiversity in Warrnambool and district and advocate for protection of our natural environment. Our volunteers increase community awareness of key environmental issues and provide opportunities for people to develop ecological skills through participation in community environmental projects.

Our project will host a range of citizen science activities to collect data on the biodiversity of swamps within the Belfast Coastal Reserve. Volunteers will work with scientists from Nature Glenelg Trust to collect data through surveying fish, 'water bugs', birds, other fauna, mapping swamp fringe vegetation and innovative vegetation photo surveying.  Volunteers will include groups such as kayak and boating clubs, fishing groups and schools many of whom will be conducting environmental surveying for the first time.

On completion of the project we will produce a publication comprising of photos and data of 'The Flora & Fauna of Saltwater & Kelly's Swamps' and foster connection between people and the local environment.

Two people leaning over and looking at something in the rockpool.

In-App Wayfinding for ClimateWatch in Parks Trails

Earthwatch Australia $20,000.00

A society that lives within its means and in balance with nature.

Earthwatch empowers people to save the natural world. We envision a society that lives in balance with nature. We do so by building the scientific & environmental literacy of people and organisations for a deeper appreciation and connection with nature & the challenges it faces.

ClimateWatch is a citizen driven wildlife phenology tracker. The new ClimateWatch app trails feature will enable volunteers to walk within nature, record their own observations and view others, connecting with a broader volunteer community. Visitor data will help inform how climate change is impacting rhythms of life.

Engaging people from all walks of life in real-world scientific field research supports a deeper connection with the natural world.  Through the actions of many, we can live in balance with nature.

A split view above and below the water at sunset.

RECON – Engaging recreational users in nature based citizen science

Victorian National Parks Association - $19,800.00

Victoria is a place with a diverse and healthy natural environment protected, respected and enjoyed by all.

The VNPA is Victoria’s leading nature conservation organisation. We are an independent, non-profit, membership-based group, which exists to protect Victoria’s unique natural environment and biodiversity through the establishment and effective management of national parks, conservation reserves and other measures.

Our ReefWatch program will host partnered community marine bio-blitz events. Professional snorkel instructors will provide willing anglers with equipment, knowledge and skills to transition from above water spectators to below water observers and marine citizen science volunteers. Once participants are comfortable, they will be buddied with ReefWatch snorkelers and encouraged to photograph as many marine species as they can.

The project will break down perceived barriers between recreational anglers and underwater enthusiasts and gather valuable marine data from select locations and contribute to marine biodiversity database ‘Marine life of Victoria’.

Image: Sam Glenn-Smith

A group of people surveying the grassy landscape.

New Tech Volunteering: Novel citizen science for Grampians wetlands

Nature Glenelg Trust - $19,997.00

Positive action to benefit the environment and community.

We are a not-for-profit environmental organisation in south-eastern Australia, established and operated by a group of dedicated, professional ecologists. We believe in positive action and leading by example, to benefit the local environment and community.

Our project will build and support a volunteer-based passive environmental monitoring program to enhance understanding of and appreciation for ecologically-rich wetland systems in south-west Victoria. Volunteers will lead novel citizen science; collecting, organising, and analysing environmental data from remote technologies.

We will use the data collected to further understand ecological responses to hydrological wetland restoration works and increase wider understanding and awareness of the Gariwerd landscape. Remote monitoring technology will allow a broader range of people to participate in environmental volunteering.

Three adults and a child standing, surrounded by bush.

Bellarine Nature Search

Friends of Ocean Grove Nature Reserve- $9,951.00

Ocean Grove Nature Reserve is a haven for native plants and animals.

We are an active and committed group. We play a role in Reserve management, contribute to Reserve maintenance, perform a wide range of ecology-focussed projects and undertake promotional and community engagement activities.

Our project will see the creation of a new web app to adapt and expand the capability of an existing web app called Surf Coast Nature Search. Volunteers will work together to choose pictures and text that will be on the app and learn to load information to maintain once developed. Volunteers will collect photos, information and actively contribute to building a database of the organisms within Bellarine reserves.

Visitors, educators, students, and volunteers will have a new resource to identify flora, fauna, and weeds on the Bellarine and be able to actively participate in flora and fauna monitoring and management. Our project will reach out to new volunteers and engage visitors in citizen science. “We can’t hope to protect local species unless people get to know them”.

Healthy Parks Healthy People

People in hi-vis vests walking down stairs and looking out over the water, with boats and cityscape in the background.

Nature Space

headspace Early Psychosis - $17,112.00

To provide evidence-based holistic care for young people experiencing early psychosis.

headspace Early Psychosis offers free, confidential support for young people experiencing, or at risk of developing psychosis through specialist clinical care coupled with peer and family support, to help young people achieve their goals.

The Recovery Team at headspace Bentleigh are partnering with the Port Phillip EcoCentre to design and implement a ten-week volunteer program for young people to explore connection to land, volunteering pathways, self-development & sense of community.

The project offers young people an opportunity to explore career opportunities and establish a blueprint for future pathways into environmental volunteering. 

Overhead view of a yellow teapot and cups of tea on a colourful tablecloth.

Bush Connections at Gresswell Forest Wildflower Patch

Bush Connections - $16,482.00

Inclusive connection to nature, community and self.

Bush Connections approaches time spent in nature as a therapeutic tool. We combine Forest Therapy and conservation volunteering. We design programs to be inclusive and accessible to people who have a range of disabilities. 

The current program works in collaboration with Parks Victoria, Wurundjeri Narrap Team and Friends of the Wildlife Reserves to offer environmental volunteering projects, many of whom have various disabilities. This project will build on the ecological restoration of the Gresswell Forest Wildflower Patch to:

  • reintroduce rare & threatened flora 
  • learn about the holistic Wurundjeri approach of land management
  • record nature observations

We recognise that in facilitating a stronger connection to nature, we support the environmental values and biodiversity of the park we work in & the health and wellbeing of participants. We aim for our participants to build solid connection and understanding of the land in the wildflower patch. Through this their health and wellbeing increase. The biodiversity of the area will also improve.

Supporting nature's Future

People wearing hi-vis vests, safety hats and equipment on a forest path surrounded by plants and trees.

Re-engage volunteers in a post COVID era

Bushwalking Victoria Inc, BTAC Volunteers - $4,120.00

Better Bushwalking for Victoria.

We are a not-for-profit organisation run by a dedicated band of volunteers. We aim to inspire people to walk in Victoria’s natural environment for enjoyment, health & well-being. Our members:

  • Undertake track maintenance & conservation projects
  • Engage in environmental advocacy
  • Liaise with Government & land manager representatives
  • Represent the bushwalking community on the governments Bushwalking Advisory Committee
  • Monitor government proposals that impact bushwalkers & bushwalking & prepare submissions

Our project will host authors to discuss their books at a 2-day volunteer track cleaning event on the Australian Alps Walking Track in Baw Baw National Park. Anthony Sharwood, Walkley Award-winning journalist & author of From Snow to Ash & bushwalking guidebook authors John & Monica Chapman will discuss their bushwalking guide book. Volunteers will be provided a copy of Anthony’s book, a guide book of their choice & dinner under the stars.

We will use this project as an ongoing model to expand & encourage increased participation in our events, by combining with activities that celebrate & reward volunteering.

Hooded plovers under shelter in the sand.

Strengthening current and future volunteer participation in Hooded Plover conservation

Friends of the Hooded Plover, Bass Coast - $8,788.00

Inspiring local communities to protect beach-nesting Hooded Plovers.

We are a group of volunteers who monitor breeding Hooded Plovers along the mainland coastline between Inverloch and San Remo. Our dedicated team, work with BirdLife Australia to protect breeding sites and raise awareness among beach users.

This project will trial innovative approaches to strengthen volunteer participation in Hooded Plover conservation efforts. It includes:

  • creating short videos to demonstrate the value of volunteering
  • an event for volunteers to share knowledge and experiences
  • engaging local men’s sheds to make chick shelters
  • trialling different protective fences at Hooded Plover breeding sites

Volunteers are the backbone of our group and of the work to protect threatened Hooded Plovers. This project will help us broaden our network and the audience we reach which in turn will help with volunteer retention and recruitment into the future.

Ferns, trees and plants.

Restore Cool Temperate Rainforest in Sassafras Creek

Community Weed Alliance of the Dandenongs - $20,000.00

A weed free Dandenong Ranges.

We work with the community and government agencies to:

  • revegetate the Dandenong Ranges with high quality indigenous vegetation;
  • collaborate and integrate environmental planning and weed management; and
  • promote, educate and empower a whole of community approach.

Our volunteers will deliver an End to End project that continues mapping the Cool Temperate Rainforest in the Sassafras Creek Nature Conservation Reserve using drone photography & ground measurements to assess condition & develop a strategy for restoration. Education workshops will be run with scientists & Dandenongs

Community Nursery on the topics of Cool Temperate Rainforest flora & fauna & local conservation issues. Volunteers will propagate native flora & re-vegetate Sassafras Creek Nature Conservation Reserve.

Volunteering is both a means to an end, the restoration of Cool Temperate Rainforest, & a reward in itself, through the friendships made & enjoyment from working on something worthwhile. We plan to enjoy the work to the full & extend that enjoyment to as many other volunteers as possible.

A koala in a tree.

Dromana koala habitat restoration

Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation - $6,400.00

Secure the future of koalas on the Mornington Peninsula.

Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation are a group of volunteers working to improve the precious area we live in.  Our 240+ members raise awaren local communityess of the challenges koalas face by educating the community and providing suitable habitat and a safe environment on the Mornington Peninsula.

Arthurs Seat State Park is the home of many Koalas and one of the last strongholds of the population on the Mornington Peninsula. Local volunteers will work with Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation and students from Flinders Christian Community College to improve koala habitat on a site in Dromana by planting a diverse range of mid-storey and canopy species.

The legacy of our project will live on through a “Hands on Backyard” approach to local volunteering. Students, landholders (and their friends, family and neighbours), local businesses and community groups will learn the well-being benefits of helping nature and how conservation groups CAN make a difference.

An uphill forest path between trees and plants.

Rail Trail Regeneration

The Scout Association of Australia Victorian Branch- $20,000.00

To help build a better world.

Scouts operate a voluntary, non-political educational movement for youth open to all without distinction of origin, race or creed, in accordance with the purpose, principles and method conceived by the Founder, Baden-Powell. Contributing to the education of youth, through a values based on the Scout-Law, to help build a better world where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.

Scout Rover Units (age 18-26) will manage a project to rejuvenate and maintain the rail trails around Caringal Scout Camp. Scout Groups and members of the public will be invited to assist the project in return for free on-site camping at the Scout grounds.

This project will re-invigorate the rail trail so members of the public can again enjoy this space and continue to volunteer and maintain.

Sharing Nature’s Stories

People walking in small groups down a grassy hill.

Birding for beginners: Engage and celebrate volunteers in Central Victoria

Connecting Country (Mount Alexander region) Inc. - $16,350.00

For community to be proud of the landscapes that make Mount Alexander.

We are a community-based, not-for-profit group in the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria. We want to connect people and landscapes in ways that support a healthy, resilient and productive natural environment.

‘Birding for beginners’ connects people with nature. The project will provide a bird walk for beginners as a guided and signposted experience, through the recently restored landscape. The walk will be promoted with a virtual bird walk and celebrated with a launch event to attract new and celebrate current volunteers and associated works.


As a pioneer project, establishing this bird walk and associated online resources will provide a model to replicate across our region and beyond. Community will be inspired to engage with wildlife, restore landscapes and connect.

People kneeling on the ground, planting trees.

Re-Generating Volunteers: Connecting People to Parks

Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater - $19,985

Healthy ecosystems that support Helmeted Honeyeaters into the future.

We formed in 1989 when the wild population of Helmeted Honeyeaters reached a critically low 50 birds -there are now approximately 245 in the wild. We care for and act to protect and restore Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, home to many endangered species including 2 state emblems: the Helmeted Honeyeater & Leadbeater's Possum. 

Our project involves a series of co-designed activities, informed by the Wurundjeri calendar:

  • Habitat restoration: Children & their families
  • Certificate 1 Conservation Land Management: Assist vulnerable teens attain
  • Shared conservation journey: Neighbouring property owners
  • Fieldwork: Tertiary environmental science students 
  • One-day volunteering events: Adults from refugee/migrant backgrounds

The activities will collectively improve pro-conservation values and actions in the community, nurture the next generation of conservationists & leaders, and promote volunteering in nature as a way of encouraging resilience, enhancing emotional well-being and connectedness.

A group of five female friends hugging and posing on the beach.

Nature Calling Youth Program

Lord Somers Camp and Power House - $20,000.00

Creating a stronger, more inclusive society through service to others.

We are one of Victoria’s oldest volunteer-led community based organisations, operating since 1929. Focusing on supporting youth, we work with over 1300 volunteers from diverse backgrounds to design and run programs that develop leadership skills for vulnerable cohorts.

We are running a free 4-part series of environmental professional development and volunteerism programs for 50 young people aged 18-25 from diverse cultural backgrounds. The programs will consist of half day field-based, culminating in lunch and discussion. Participants will partake in a 90-minute development where they will present on topics such as environmental youth engagement strategies and cultural awareness recommendations.

This is a pilot program to create a blueprint for further reiteration. We will develop for use in future years to work with universities, enterprise learning opportunities and environmental volunteering support.

A group of smiling adults and kids with a Parks Victoria ranger posing between planted trees.

Roots and Shoots Victorian Leadership Experience

Jane Goodalls' Roots and Shoots Australia - $5,500.00

A global youth-led conservation network.

Founded in 1991 by Dr. Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is a youth service program for young people of all ages. Our mission is to foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs, and to inspire young leaders to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals, and the environment.

Our project is a year-long leadership program for fifteen 18-30 year olds co-ordinated by a culturally diverse team of young volunteers & participants. The program features:

  • Volunteering with local Friends Groups;
  • Leadership Camp in Dandenong Ranges;
  • Professional development and community engagement exercises;
  • Science communication and community leadership training;
  • Seed funding initiatives for environmental conservation mini projects that engage children; and
  • End of program celebration event.

Our pilot program aims to scale quickly to larger cohorts and regional locations, to create a community of young leaders across Victoria.  Participants will be skilled to pursue future career and employment in the sustainability sector and feel empowered to create solutions for environmental challenges.

Managing Country Together

Two women paused in their tree planting work on a grassy hill.

Diversifying Park Stewardship Program

Parklands Albury Wodonga Limited - $20,000.00

Bush parks and trails connecting community.

We are a community public land manager. We empower community participation, partnerships and facilitate volunteering and learning in nature so our bush reserves and trails can have a high standard of biodiversity and natural values.

Our project builds on the success of the Park Stewardship programs in North East Victoria through two new approaches:

1. First Nations river ranger program to deliver environmental volunteer sessions. 
2. Train and support volunteers to publish themed maps with photos and ‘treasure hunts

Videos of the First Nations led volunteer sessions and themed maps will be produced and published online.  The videos will accessible by locals, visitors, special interest groups, friends groups and schools, providing online volunteering and education opportunities.

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