Citizen Science, On-ground

How to not paint your house

Ken Horsfall and Mike Sim talk to OCSE about keeping busy in retirement.

Volunteers with: Isaacs Ridge Mount Mugga MuggaParkCare Group, ParkCare Ranger Assist, Canberra Nature Map

When Ken retired, he wasn’t sure how he was going to keep busy.  

He guessed he’d end up doing something practical at home, like painting his house. ‘But I hate painting’ Ken says. So, at the recommendation of a former colleague, Ken went to Volunteering ACT to see what else he could do to fill his time. 

Ken wanted to do something outside and so he ended up volunteering with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) in 1999. ‘It became a bit like a real job, I packed my lunch at the beginning of the day and came home at the end of the day’. He remembers that the ‘the pay wasn’t great, well the pay didn’t exist, but it was a great thing to do.’ Working on conservation projects was not only enjoyable but meant that Ken was able to spend time outside with likeminded people, and ‘I got as far away from the paintbrush as I could!’ By getting involved with volunteering, Ken was able to see places he never knew existed in Canberra.

Photo: OCSE

After a spending a year with CVA as a volunteer, Ken started working for them as a team leader and continued for about 18 years. ‘They shut up a few years ago, and now we’re freelancing’, he jokes. ‘It’s good fun, a lot of people who join us are also retired and need something to do’. 

Ken volunteers with ParkCare groups across Canberra and is a regular volunteer with the Parks and Conservation Service’s (PCS) Ranger Assist program. This involves Ken going out to assist PCS rangers with their work.

‘We work with the ranger whose patch is the Murrumbidgee river corridor with whatever they’re doing. Mostly weeding and some planting, for about 2-3 hours once a fortnight.’ 

Ken often volunteers out in the Mount Mugga Mugga Reserve. Here, Ken works with fellow volunteer Mike Sim, the coordinator of the reserve’s ParkCare group. Mike runs working groups at the reserve on the second Sunday of each month. Work includes weeding and planting and other management, ‘a big thing we do removing Briar Rose plants, they’re really tricky and send a lot of runners out along the ground.’ Mike, Ken and the other volunteers cut the roses down to the ground and dab them with glyphosate to poison the plants and stop them reshooting.

Ken Horsefall and Mike Sim. Photo: OCSE

Mike has also organised the planting of a number of trees, shrubs and ground covers in the reserve, adding to planting done by ACT PCS, and is a contributor to Canberra Nature Map. He beams while reminiscing about the bird life he has seen on the reserve. 

‘Gang-gang Cockatoos nest here, I followed a family of them from when the chicks hatched out and were in the nest, to when they grew up and flew away.’ 

Ken sums up the volunteering experience nicely with, ‘it’s pretty satisfying work, and on a beautiful day like today, what else would you want to be doing?’

More than 20 years after he retired, Ken’s house is still waiting to be painted.

If you’re interested in getting involved with volunteering, you can check out your local ParkCare or Urban Parks and Places Volunteering, or get in touch with your local Catchment Group.