Keeping weeds at bay

'Totally accidental' is how Penny Roberts describes her initial involvement in Landcare.

When Penny and her husband Hilary moved permanently to their 40-hectare property overlooking the Macedon Ranges at Newham they were relatively inexperienced in rural land management issues.

So they turned to nearby property owners, door-knocking to see how they were managing issues such as rabbits and weeds.

'It was really about meeting the neighbours and seeing how we could work together to solve common problems,' says Penny.

This was the beginning of the Newham and District Landcare Group, which has grown from a membership of 23 to 110 households since May 2004.

'Establishing the Landcare group provided a focus and connected people who have similar interests, none of us knew a lot about biodiversity,' she says.

Penny has served as president and vice-president of the Landcare Group and has worked tirelessly to support her local natural environment.

Significant achievements include protecting remnant vegetation and revegetating to create links between the remnants, planting tens of thousands of plants. She found and propagated a threatened plant species, expanding the local population and has been instrumental in securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for a range of environmental projects.

With a view that Landcare should be 'fun and inclusive', Penny has also played an important role fostering the social aspect of being involved in the group.

Currently Penny's focus is on expanding programs in local primary schools to 'encourage an interest in the natural environment in children.'

Her 'pet project' is an initiative where parent volunteers grow and supply plants that are needed for local rehabilitation programs, providing much-needed fundraising dollars for the school.

While her husband isn't convinced that she'll be able to easily wind down her work with Landcare, Penny is determined to reduce the 15 to 20 hours she volunteers each week to spend more time with their three young grandchildren.

She will act as an advisor and mentor and continue her involvement with schools.

While the past eight years at Newham have been incredibly busy for Penny, there is a sense of satisfaction when she looks over her property from her lounge room window.

'It's incredibly satisfying to look out at the landscape and see the results, which are evidence of the work we're doing,' she says.
And there is not a rabbit or weed in sight.

There are more than 700 Landcare groups operating throughout Victoria and these groups are dedicated to raising awareness of, protecting and enhancing, the local environment. Landcare is a joint effort between landholders, communities, government and businesses to protect and repair the environment.


To volunteer or to join your local Landcare group go to www.landcarevic.net.au