Citizen Science, On-ground

Partnerships and relationships are the key to success for the Friends of Mt Painter ParkCare Group

Partnerships between volunteers and the Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) are at the heart of ParkCare. As one of the ParkCare groups established at the start of the program in 1989, Friends of Mount Painter has had a long relationship with PCS.

Contributed by: Sarah Hnutiak, convenor of Friends of Mt Painter

Banner image: Friends of Mt Painter Macquarie Primary School Yrs 3 and 4

Partnerships between volunteers and the Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) are at the heart of ParkCare. As one of the ParkCare groups established at the start of the program in 1989, Friends of Mount Painter has had a long relationship with PCS.

Like other ParkCare groups, we contribute to the management of the reserve through on-ground work including planting, weeding, monitoring, and mapping. We also bring additional resources to the reserve from sources that are not available to PCS. For example, we apply for grants and from time-to-time welcome other groups, such as KPMG, Price Waterhouse Cooper and especially Telstra, to work with us. 

 With funds sourced from Spicers through Landcare Australia and Ginninderra Catchment Group, Friends of Mount Painter has purchased wire mesh and pickets to make guards to protect young plants, coir logs for erosion control, and three informative, very well-received interpretive signs. 

Bird walk attendees, 2019. Photo: Friends of Mt Painter ParkCare Group

 PCS values ParkCare members as eyes and ears on the ground that alert them to issues that rangers might otherwise miss. Like other ParkCare groups, Friends of Mount Painter has several members who have been involved for more than 20 years. From the knowledge and experience of the local area they have garnered over those years, they are a font of historical information that is useful for current decision-making. Our detailed monitoring of many of the plantings carried out since 2005 allows us to comment on and adjust planting plans. Friends of Mount Painter members also contribute information through citizen science programs like Canberra Nature Map, Vegwatch and Frogwatch. 

One of Friends of Mount Painter’s aims is to increase interest in and enjoyment of the reserves both for ourselves and the wider community. To this end, we organise an occasional community walk with experts as our guides. Nicki Taws from Greening Australia and the Canberra Ornithologists Group has led many bird walks for us on the hill. Suzi Bond, author of Field Guide to the Butterflies of the Australian Capital Territory, has taken us to the summit in search of hill topping butterflies and their larvae and pupae on the shrubs and trees beside the path. Ngunnawal elder, Wally Bell, also took us to the summit, describing indigenous uses of plants along the route, and telling us how the landscape we saw was understood and used by his forebears.

We have built a relationship with Macquarie Primary School. This grew from a Friends of Mount Painter member learning that her grandchild’s class was studying grassy woodlands. Then, with Friends of Mount Painter’s convenor as guide, staff walked to the summit to see what the reserve has to offer as an outdoor classroom. Since then, most students have participated in walks on the hill. At times, we are asked to accompany the students on their visits, especially when the students are studying indigenous culture. With due acknowledgements, the knowledge we have acquired from Wally Bell and others can be passed on.

CIT students at work on Mount Painter, 2017. Photo: Friends of Mt Painter ParkCare Group

 We also have a continuing connection with University of Canberra’s first year geology students. In 2017 we were approached by Assistant Professor Duanne White who asked if we would like to talk to his students on their visit to the hill. The students were observing the vegetation changes from volcanic to sedimentary soils, along a transect from the summit, and across a lowland section of the reserve to Aranda Bushland. In addition to telling them how European settlers’ use of the local area has impacted the land, we can help with plant identifications needed for their practical work. 

Another connection with students was with participants in CIT’s Environmental Science course in 2016 and 2017. Friends of Mount Painter offered Mount Painter’s trees as suitable targets to practise GIS mapping and data collection. The result was two reports – one on the scattered mature trees on the hill and the other on a large 2011 planting of trees that could be used for tracking ecological change over time.

Friends of Mount Painter’s convenor receiving The Cook Grocer’s donation from Daniel Raad, 2021. Photo: Friends of Mt Painter ParkCare Group

 In November 2019, The Cook Grocer organised Celebrate Cook, a community event with music, local craft people, vendors of food and drink, and community groups such as ours. Hundreds of people attended, and we had a constant stream of interested children and parents at our stall. The Raad family continue to support and contribute to the Cook community in many ways. Most recently they have donated $500 raised by the sale of a Cook calendar for 2021. With PCS’ approval, we will renew the display on an old interpretive sign with this money. Celebrate Cook was an opportunity to advertise Friends of Mount Painter, as is the annual display held by local ParkCare and other environmental groups each year at the Jamison Plaza.

Relationships with PCS and other elements in our local community contribute greatly to Friends of Mount Painter’s impact on improving the reserve’s condition and growing our and other’s appreciation and knowledge of the local bushland.