One year after a Moruya not-for-profit started employing young people to help rebuild the natural environment after the bushfires, fruit is appearing from their labour.
Campbell Page created the EcoCrews social enterprise in July 2021 with the help of a $2.1 million grant from the NSW Bushfire Local Economic Recovery fund.
Their vision was to sow seeds of hope and resilience and help rebuilt the community in the wake of the bushfires through employing young people in the environmental sector along the south coast.
After 12 months of the project, the seeds they have planted have started flourishing, with 43 people having been employed through the program.
The EcoCrews have carried out 208 hectares of dune rehabilitation and erosion control, removed weeds from 355 hectares of native land, planted more than 12,000 natives and collected nearly three kilograms of native seeds to propagate.
Ms Turmine said the program had been extremely well received; she hopes to expand the EcoCrews program into other regions.
EcoCrew supervisor Kristen Kalkman saw the advertisement for EcoCrews at a time when she was ready for a new adventure in life, feeling like her work in communication, project management and research was holding her back from her true love: nature, animals and being outdoors.
"I could see it was a change to turn what I love into a living," Ms Kalkman said.
"From providing local people with sustainably grown produce during national food shortages, to helping property owners with bushfire recovery, and planting wildlife corridors for endangered and vulnerable species such as koalas, greater gliders and gang gang cockatoos - I've been able to give back to my community," she said.
Team member Aiden Watson has been with EcoCrews for two six-month rotations and said the program was life-changing.
He was studying at TAFE and volunteering and the local fire shed and was looking for a fulfilling employment opportunity.
"I've been able to get to know and work alongside some fantastic and knowledgeable people, see and work at beautiful locations, and I have learned so much about caring for the environment," he said.
He learnt how to prepare soil, propagate and grow crops and harvest vegetables for sale at markets, as well as how to identify and control weeds and pests and discern the best native plants to grow in different climates. He's also gained a Certificate II in conservation and ecosystem management through the program.
He hopes to one day work for NSW National Parks, and said EcoCrews had given him a head start into the industry.
The next EcoCrews intake in the Eurobodalla is at the end of July, but anyone can get involved and express their interest anytime at: www.ecocrews.org.au
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