When members of the ‘Ayn Academy began looking for environmental volunteer opportunities, they found it difficult to identify an organisation with a longer-term vision. This local Islamic community group is dedicated to knowledge and good works, and found an instant connection with TFL’s Bush For Life program.
“The ’Ayn Academy believes that in order for knowledge to become beneficial, it must be put into action,” says director Sumeja Skanka. “Thus our desire to become involved in on-ground environmental works. We first attended a Bush For Life workshop, then adopted Bridgewater Reserve. Our group has been holding regular bushcare days ever since.”
Members of the group volunteer two hours each month, working alongside a BFL Regional Coordinator to treat environmental weeds that threaten native species.
The group admits it was challenging at first to identify weeds. With help from their Coordinator, they can now spot the notorious bulbil watsonia from a distance, and realise at once that it simply doesn’t belong. Sumeja commends the simple yet very significant message of Bush For Life: to tackle isolated weeds first to preserve areas of good bush.
“We choose not to use herbicide, so our work is purely physical, which translates into good exercise,” Sumeja says. “Through BFL, it is wonderful to have been allocated a site to look after.
“This enables all of us to connect better with our patch of land and feel like we are indeed doing our bit for environmental conservation. The sense of achievement we get when we see an entire area weed free can only be described as heartfelt joy.”
She sees that the collaborative effort has offered a deeper meaning to the group. “Muslim women in Australia often feel alienated, but through our work at the site, we have discovered a feeling of belonging to the land.”
The group’s BFL Regional Coordinator, Angela Cullen, has been very impressed by the team’s dedication and enthusiasm. “Most of the members are immigrants who don’t know too much about the Australian bush and that, in fact, is great because it has made the group all the more keen to learn about native plants,” she says.
Angela recalls the morning when the team was first introduced to the Bridgewater Reserve, situated within a stringybark forest. “A large flock of black cockies perched on a tree right besides us, and the whole group was excited to see them. Many had never seen a black cockie before and that made it an amazing moment – quite like a sign!”
The Bush For Life program is open to all community groups interested in actively helping to preserve our fragile native environment.