Friends groups see opportunities where other people see only the challenges. A degraded landscape, a neglected patch, a weed infested corner – these are grist to the mill for Friends groups. It is this dogged determination which has led to the transformation of places, large, small, and in between.
In our series of 11 ‘Friends’ portraits we explore these themes in words and pictures.
Friends groups bring the attributes of friendship to care for places. Getting to know places and their requirements closely, being committed to them over time, standing up for them are some of the qualities Friends groups demonstrate. Their willingness to go above and beyond what is expected is routine. Friends groups work respectfully with the management authority.
Friends groups are versatile – drawing on the experience and expertise of their members and learning new skills that might be required. Because Friends groups stay with places over time, they learn to observe them closely, their seasonality and requirements.
Friends of groups seek out additional resources – both financial and in kind.
Not only do places and their surrounding communities benefit, but so do the people involved. Friendships between people are strengthened and new relationships formed. There is a role for everyone in a Friends group. There is the benefit of physical activity but there is also the growing importance of communication within and beyond the group.
The beauty of the Friends model is its adaptability. There are Friends groups of the tiniest urban bush fragments to the largest metropolitan parks. Friends groups vary in their governance and organisational structures but are imbued with an ethic of care for places.
Places, like people, benefit from care. Following removal of litter and weeds, and revegetation, places respond by becoming more rewarding as birds and more diverse insects return.
Land managers have limited time and budgets which mean they are not able to care for places to the level of detail that Friends groups can. However, they can provide frameworks that facilitate rather than inhibit volunteer involvement.
These portraits demonstrate the capacity, diversity and strengths of Friends Groups and how they contribute to the upkeep of parks and reserves in Victoria. The portraits have been provided to the Office of the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment & Climate Change as a part of our ongoing dialogue about the contribution and importance of Friends Groups.
I hope you will enjoy reading the attached Friends Groups Portraits.
Panel Member, VEFN Best Friend Awards
Member Friends of Westgate Park & Yarra Riverkeeper Association
We have worked with eleven Friends Groups to prepare portraits of their group. VEFN Friends Groups Portraits 2017