Wildlife Matters

Conservation education critical to securing the future of Australia’s wildlife

13 Nov. 2022
Oli Aylen/AWC

By Helen Crisp, Regional Ecologist, Chalali Holness, Conservation and Ecology Intern and Sophie Winter, Social Media Manager 

Conservation education aims to enable complex ecological problems to be widely understood and inspire care for natural resources, meaning that through education we can help improve the environment. Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) is investing in the long-term protection of Australia’s wildlife and habitats by educating and inspiring future conservationists, ecologists and environmental scientists.

This investment is demonstrated in two parts. The first being AWC’s annual internship program, which offers promising graduates the opportunity to gain valuable experience in conservation ecology. The second is AWC’s school education program, where guided tours and overnight excursions give primary and tertiary school children a glimpse at the remarkable and ecologically significant environments on AWC sanctuaries and partnership areas.

Education is also delivered through communication. Every story AWC shares – and that you share with your friends and networks – connects to the greater vision: to see a world where Australia’s biodiversity is valued and effectively conserved by an engaged community.

AWC Regional Ecologist, Helen Crisp, with a group of students at Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuary. Brad Leue/AWC
AWC Regional Ecologist, Helen Crisp, with a group of students at Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuary in South Australia.

Internship program to train future conservationists

AWC offers a unique Conservation and Ecology Internship program with the aim of introducing talented graduate scientists to a variety of plants and animals, sharing practical field skills and animal handling techniques, and developing their understanding of current and challenging conservation issues.

The program was initiated in 2008 thanks to funding from generous AWC supporter Ross Knowles. It has continually expanded and evolved over the last 15 years – growing from just one intern per year to 21 outstanding graduates in 2023.

Chalali Holness has been an intern with AWC’s South- east team since May 2022, with involvement in projects on Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary, and Mallee Cliffs National Park and the Pilliga Partnership Area, where AWC works in collaboration with the NSW Government.

‘It has always been a dream of mine to move into a career that will benefit my people and work closely with Indigenous practices and cultures. As a First Nations person, I always want to keep my Country in the forefront of my mind no matter what I do. It has been a heart-warming experience seeing the science and operations teams across the industry use Indigenous names for native wildlife as well as integrating any Indigenous practices that they have learnt.

If this area is your passion, Australian Wildlife Conservancy is a perfect organisation to work for. It is clear every team member is passionate about their work and wants to dedicate their energy and faith into creating a supportive and thriving environment for native animals and plants as well as their workers, volunteers and supporters.

Each team member will go above and beyond to leave a lasting positive impression and ensure everyone is developing and implementing the appropriate models of conservation.’

Vicki Stokes/AWC
AWC Intern Chalali Holness inspects a Stripe-faced Dunnart.

Nature immersion camps inspire and educate school-aged students

When you think back to your childhood, are there particular moments of awe that stand out in your memory? A joyful bushwalk with family or friends? Your first encounter with an animal that left you curious to learn more?

Early experiences like these provide a connection to the natural world and the desire to protect it.

AWC staff are passionate about getting young people out into nature, to experience Australia’s unforgettable environments and learn the importance of protecting our ecosystems.

Karakamia, Paruna, and Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuaries in Western Australia host single- and multi-day school education programs, with ecologist-guided experiences tailored to suit the needs of individual groups. Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kimberley hosts annual school visits. Mount Zero–Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland’s Wet Tropics also sporadically hosts school excursions and outdoor education programs. Mount Zero–Taravale and Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland’s Mulga Lands bioregion host university visits.

Students from Carey Baptist Grammar School participate in outdoor education at Mount Zero–Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary. Oli Aylen/AWC
Students from Carey Baptist Grammar School participate in outdoor education at Mount Zero–Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary.

Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuary, in South Australia’s Murraylands region, has a long-standing education program. AWC staff have developed activities and projects closely linked to the South Australian school curriculum.

AWC Regional Ecologist Central-south, Helen Crisp, is based at Yookamurra and leads both the regional science program and Yookamurra’s dedicated wildlife education program.

‘Over the years, we’ve had thousands of students through the feral-proof gates of Yookamurra. The activities we do are centred around science and increasing awareness of Australia’s biodiversity – the students are given the opportunity to go into the field, collect and analyse their own data, and discuss the results with their peers, teachers, and AWC staff.

School groups can either visit for a day or stay overnight at the sanctuary for a unique and exciting school camp experience, with AWC staff providing education and activities on threatened species and scientific methods of conservation.

With the aim of providing scientific outcomes, we have developed a series of guided projects which encourage students to experience and understand the complex interactions that make up our unique Mallee ecosystem.’

Over the coming years AWC plans to work to increase our external engagement, particularly through education, to share the value of Australia’s unique biodiversity and inspire the passion to protect and restore it.



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