WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY (GREEN) FRIENDS *

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By Bernadette Thomas

A few years ago, I left the City to spend some time living on the coast. As a newcomer who didn’t know anyone, the first, and best, thing I did was to join a local Landcare group. Joining the group put me in touch with a great bunch of people, who, like me, wanted to help protect the precious coastal habitat.

Joining with others to cut back lantana and bitou bush – two of the most wicked and prolific environmental weeds of the NSW north coast – gave me a sense of purpose, and an opportunity to contribute to my local community.

My knowledge and understanding of local flora species grew quickly, and within weeks I could tell the natives from the weeds, and over time could identify different plants in the field.

Not only did my plant knowledge improve out of sight, but so did my local knowledge. The group were a mixed bag of people from generational farming families, retirees, hippies, and escapees from the City, like me. Everyone brought something special to the group – knowledge, experience, enthusiasm – and all were willing to contribute.

I enjoyed many happy mornings in the middle of the bush, listening to the waves roll in, chatting with the others, learning about my new community – who were the movers and shakers in town, why after 20 years of trying we still didn’t have a coastal cycle path, and what the area looked like pre-housing development.

Lucky for those of us who live in the western suburbs of Melbourne, we don’t need to leave to find our kindred environmental spirits.

There are plenty of local environment groups to choose from, working on everything from waterway health, to habitat protection, community gardens, and waste reduction.

One way to find a local group is to contact your local council. They usually have a good relationship with Friends Groups, support community gardens, and run workshops on all things sustainability (Maribyrnong City Council produces the Sustainability and Environment Guide; Brimbank City Council produces the Environmental Friends of Brimbank group directory).

The Transition movement has groups in many local government areas – Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay have groups so check them out on FaceBook. More recently online groups have also sprung up, providing a platform for people who want to sharing ideas with like-minded others – try Zero Waste Westies or Turn it Round on FB.

So whether you want to get your hands dirty or to discuss the merits of plastic versus bamboo toothbrushes, now is the time to reach out, join with others and get active. Who knows, like me, you might just make some new friends.

*With thanks to The Beatles

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