In the spotlight - Isabelle Connolly
Isabelle Connolly is passionate about taking care of the environment. She has been a bushcare volunteer for over 20 years and is now Vice-President of the Bushcare Major Day Out committee.
When I was a teenager in the 1980’s my dad used to come home with gorgeous posters of the Tasmanian wilderness. I put them up all over my walls and would admire them constantly. I always thought it was impossible for humans to create anything more beautiful than nature itself. At the same time I felt bombarded by shocking statistics and stories from famous scientists and celebrities like David Suzuki and Sting who would regularly feature on the news about land clearing and loss of biodiversity. I felt gutted but also motivated to contribute in some way to stop this sorry trend.
When I was 20 I volunteered to do bushcare with my local council on Sydney’s leafy north shore. I would work beneath towering black butt and blue gums eucalypts that were part of the Blue Gum High Forest Endangered Ecological Community. It was my first taste of actually contributing to the improvement of biodiversity and I felt on top of the world when I was bushcaring. I also really enjoyed the camaraderie that our group had and the fabulous morning teas we would enjoy together beneath the trees. I remained in this bushcare group for years and then joined another one when I moved house.
Over the last few years I have helped a wonderful team organise the annual Bushcare’s Major Day Out (BMDO) each September where bushcare sites across Australia have an “open day” and invite volunteers to get involved. Don Wilson came up with the idea six years ago, after being inspired by the huge national participation in Clean Up Australia Day. His vision is to increase awareness of the threats facing our bush and to improve the levels of community participation in bushcare across Australia. His local council of Willoughby and Landcare Australia embraced Don’s idea. Since then the number of sites participating has grown across Australia from 12 in 2010 to 247 sites in 2015, many of which were in NSW.
The need for more volunteers could not be more pressing as Australia’s biodiversity is in decline. Here in NSW, bushland is constantly under the barrage of weed infestation, where 340 weeds have been found to impact 419 threatened plant and animal species. Bushcare has made some real differences with the removal of invasive weeds, allowing native flora and fauna to re-establish and I am proud to be part of it.
This year Bushcare’s Major Day Out will be held on 11 September, just after National Threatened Species Day (which is on 7 September). So how about getting involved? Bring friends or family along to share in a special day where you can make a real difference to our biodiversity. I hope to see you there!