Master of Environmental Science (Research)
School of Geography and Sustainable Communities
Marshall, Paul W., Strengthening biodiversity: Examining volunteer engagement in local government community nurseries, Master of Environmental Science (Research) thesis, School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong, 2017. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/154
Conservation volunteering has grown to become a vital component in national efforts to reduce the serious decline in biodiversity around the world and research has focused on documenting and evaluating its nature and extent, along with the barriers, limitations and motivations of conservation volunteers. Although academic research has examined aspects of this ‘movement’ and the volunteers who comprise it, various gaps remain. One of these is the role of the community nurseries which grow and supply a diverse range of local provenance native plants for use in revegetation and landscape rehabilitation, including enhancement of Endangered Ecological Communities. The establishment of community nurseries by local government authorities (LGAs) coincided with a legislative broadening of LGA responsibilities from compliance and enforcement roles to include expanded natural resource management and sustainability roles.
The case study research focussed on three LGA community nurseries; covering an urban, a peri-urban and a rural/regional context. The case study research used a survey and interviews to profile the community nursery volunteers and their motivations, volunteer contributions, barriers to volunteering, and their satisfaction with their volunteer experience in the community nursery. The research found that the community nursery volunteers represent an environmentally-aware, civic-minded, dedicated cohort; one that is comprised of active, older, retired or semi-retired, socially-engaged people with a significantly higher proportion being female. A high proportion also volunteer with Bushcare, Landcare and non-NRM groups, demonstrating strong social engagement.
Their motivations for volunteering in the community nursery are primarily to help conserve biodiversity. Another key motivation was enjoyment of the social aspects with volunteers expressing how the community nursery brings people together, gives them a sense of belonging and fosters community spirit. A high percentage of community nursery volunteers found the experience more satisfying, or much more satisfying, than other places where they volunteer. This is significant in that Australia has an aging population and keeping older people engaged in the community is as good for their own health and wellbeing as it is for the maintenance of a vibrant civil society.