Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

PO Box 440
Jamison Centre
Macquarie ACT 2614


Standing Committee on Environment, Climate Change, and Biodiversity
ACT Legislative Assembly
GPO Box 1020

Dear Sir/Madam

Inquiry into Environmental Volunteerism

Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.

Terms of reference 1: type and nature of environmental volunteerism

For almost 30 years FOG’s vision has been to protect and conserve our unique native grassy ecosystems (see attachment). We have done so by undertaking a range of volunteer activities which include:

Terms of reference 2: opportunities to improve environmental volunteerism

FOG would support any program that would “improve environmental volunteerism in the ACT, including encouraging the involvement of young people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and improve community stewardship”. 

However, to achieve this, the government needs to

All these policies are already practiced in at least some form. However, the government also needs to stress through the media what is occurring, commit to greater resourcing of nature management and stress the joy and ethic of community and individual stewardship. Simply, if government wishes to encourage volunteerism it should, leading by example, make nature management a priority.

Terms of reference 3: managing relationships

Volunteer groups like FOG operate purely on a voluntary basis with mutual sharing of decision making, training and participation. When working with government and other partners, our aims are to choose what tools and herbicides to use (these are normally supplied by the partner); to enter into a proper understanding (or memorandum of understanding) with the partner; to arrange for the partner to supply professional work teams to do the heavy lifting (while FOG provides land management expertise and finely tune on-ground work). This approach works well for us. 

Currently in ACT there are a plethora of government units and governance arrangements concerned with land management – Parkcare, Landcare, TCCS groups, Catchment Groups, ACT Cemeteries Trust, and National Capital Authority. In addition FOG has arrangements with the Ginninderry Trust, Bush Heritage Australia and universities for on-ground and training projects. This may or may not be a good thing. However, we have found that differing risk management approaches by different government units, and unnecessary restrictions on what volunteers may or may not do (even volunteers with current and documented training and experience) can lead to inconsistent and/or very restrictive rules which may be inefficient and frustrating in our land-management efforts.

Terms of reference 4: impact of current policy or regulatory settings

FOG has over many years made submissions stressing the need for government to do more on biodiversity and do it better. Examples include creation of a unit with Bush Regeneration skills; creation of seed orchards; community and school education programs on practical (local) biodiversity; better mowing protocols; development and publication of properly formed biodiversity statistics and indicators for monitoring of effort; and integration of biodiversity opportunities in open spaces. However, it is our view that the lack of a simple clear vision of protecting grassland biodiversity has resulted in increments and amendments to programs rather than a clear commitment by government on these matters.

Another issue is that of providing better long term protection to sites of conservation value so that volunteers will feel confident that their on-ground work is of long-term benefit.

FOG would be pleased to elaborate on any of these issues if requested.

Yours sincerely


Naarilla Hirsch
Advocacy coordinator

5 February 2022

Attachment: FOG’s vision

Healthy, biodiverse and connected remnant native grassy ecosystems continue to support life on Earth.

FOG will achieve this vision by:


Native ecosystems and their biodiversity have intrinsic value.

Resilient native ecosystems are vital to our physical well-being through the provision of ecosystem services.

Human connections and interaction with nature and biodiversity are vital to our mental well-being.

The cultural traditions of Aboriginal peoples underpin our unique native habitats and guide the principles and implementation of sustainable and conservative use of our grassy ecosystems within the broader landscape.

Biodiversity cannot be sustained in isolated remnants.