League has varied interests and concerns
and organises nationwide activities such as Arbor Day,
Bird Month, Wattle Day, amongst other things. The Gould
League is a useful focus if you have a general awareness
about environmental issues but do not have a particular
local concern. It publishes many identification guides
and activity booklets.
The Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union organises an Australia-wide bird census each year. This consists of a number of surveys. Participants send information to the RAOU in Sydney about the latitude and longitude of their survey site, weather and types of plants and birds seen. The information is kept on a computer and is available to the public and to scientific institutions. RAOU wish to increase the number of people involved in these surveys to cover as much of Australia as possible. Contact an ornithological group if you are interested. Your data may be added to the national register.
The Threatened Species Network focuses on community action to conserve threatened flora and fauna at a local level. Local groups can assist with monitoring populations, rehabilitation of habitats, eradication of pests and general community education. This network offers advice about forming community groups which can interact with their programs.
The Australian Association for Environmental Education brings together people interested in environmental education. Many of its members work in schools and Universities, State agencies, private organisations or the tourist industry but any interested people may join the association. Newsletters provide calendars of events which may focus your interests.
The Marine Education Society of Australasia (MESA) is a national body with interest in all things marine, at community level and within schools. Each year they reach thousands of Australians via Seaweek, expressing concerns about Australia's oceans and coastlines.
The Coastal Environment Centre at Narrabeen (in Sydney) has a reference library which can be used on site, although they cannot lend out material. They also have a number of events each year, especially in the school holidays, which introduce people to different coastal habitats and the problems that such habitats face amid the urban sprawl. These events are open to schools, community groups and visitors and the Centre encourages co-operative study with other groups.
Local Councils may serve as a focus for people with awareness in their local environment. Many have Environmental Officers or Committees to liaise between community groups and local government. For example, the Manly Environment Centre co-operates closely with the Manly Council. Pittwater Council supports the Coastal Environment Centre at Narrabeen and has been extremely supportive of Project Aware - a community-based group focusing on the protection of local rocky shores. Sutherland Shire Council employs a full-time bush regeneration officer who provides advice and equipment to local residents. Council may also provide leaflets for letterbox drops explaining how to become bushcare volunteers. At present there are a number of committees of interested residents restoring bushland that has been invaded by weeds. Most local councils are now interested in environmental issues and may offer assistance or advice for your programme. Approach your local council with your ideas.
Government Agencies may also be able to assist your group by offering advice or a focus.
The Federal Government is active in promoting community involvement in environmental issues. The Marine and Coastal Community Network was established with funds from the Federal Government to promote and coordinate community involvement in the protection of coastal habitats around Australia. The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in Canberra is setting up a national data base called the Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN). They plan to have a data base of distributions and numbers of animals and plants and measurements of environmental variables for many different habitats. This will eventually be available to provide information to and obtain information from the community.
In addition, practicing ecologists and environmental scientists in Government agencies and Universities have much to offer. For example, the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sydney may assist with the identification of plants. Scientists are usually aware of recent information published in the scientific literature and many have extensive skills and background knowledge of environmental problems. If they cannot help you themselves, they can often direct you to the best place for help.
As pointed out earlier, however, most of these people are busy with their own research and jobs. Make sure that you are clear about what you want to know and listen to what they have to tell you. Then many will be only too willing to help.
Sheet 8 also lists organisations that may assist you.
© Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities