Over the years, Jules Lund
has taken part in volunteer work tourism around the world, including schools in Peru, orphanages in Africa, India and Cambodia and this time, he's in the Red Centre of Australia.
Conservation Volunteers and Parks Australia has been running a program in Uluru National Park for nine years. Its aim is to protect cultural heritage, rock art, Uluru itself and native flora and fauna. It's all about what the living heart of Australia really should look like.
Ten-day volunteer programs are run four times a year to clear a wretched and threatening weed called buffel grass. It was introduced to Central Australia and has taken a firm hold around Uluru. Ironically, it was planted to combat erosion but has done untold damage. It's up there with rabbits, foxes and cane toads, which were introduced into Australia but have well and truly outworn their welcome.
Buffel grass presents a double-edged sword. It burns very hot, destroying all in its path and then propagates in record time, removing food and habitat for fauna. If it isn't removed, we will be left as a huge monolith, surrounded by a sea of weeds and no native flora or fauna! Perish the thought.
Jules was in time for a briefing of new recruits. In true Northern Territory style, it all began with a barbecue with a prime view of Uluru. Ranger Simon Dent said it was a typical group, made up mainly of visitors from other countries.
They were introduced to the enemy and just knowing its eradication would help preserve the area for generations of humans and animal life to come made everyone really enthusiastic about the task at hand. In the 1930s the traditional owners rejoiced in their rock and used to run around it naked. They saw its decline and now, thanks to the wonderful work of volunteers, there are tears of joy to see its restoration.
Program manager, Joanne Davies, told Jules that in four years she has seen large sections of fields of buffel return to being fields of desert flowers and native grasses. A ring road creates a barrier against water-borne seed, so it's all working extremely positively.
Volunteers stay in the park's headquarters. They aren't flash, but clean and tidy and with the best possible view of Uluru. Accommodation, meals and transfers are around $80 a day, and you won't find cheaper. It's not all work and no play. There are sightseeing tours in an area thought to be 50 million years old. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one of the few World Heritage sites listed for both its natural and cultural values.
Related: Your say: should you climb Uluru?
An Insider's Guide to Uluru
The Red Centre of Australia.
Conservation Volunteers Australia offers 8 or 15 day tours that start on Fridays from Uluru between April and October. They cost $385 per person a week and $700 for two weeks. All meals, accommodation, project related transport, CVA team leaders and project activities are included.
For further information
Conservation Volunteers Australia
Ph: 1800 032 501
More about the Conservation Volunteers Australia
CVA is the largest conservation group in Australia. They are a not-for-profit community-based organisation that runs more than 2000 conservation projects annually. It is even recognised by the United Nations Global 500.
Their work focuses on seven areas:
- flora and fauna;
- coasts and waterways;
- land care;
- parks and reserves;
- healthy communities;
- heritage; and
- disaster recovery.
Volunteers may choose from a number of activities to help, such as planting trees, looking after erosion control, collecting seeds, constructing walking trails and handing out endangered flora and fauna surveys.
As part of these volunteer programs the CVA will take care of your insurance, food, accommodation, insurance, tools and transfers.
There are 31 locations where volunteers can help the environment all over Australia and New Zealand. Last year more than 12,500 volunteers participated in their programs.