Tues. 15th December
After planning to do so since I arrived in aussieland, today I finally did a day with Conservation Volunteers Australia, the Adelaide branch. I booked myself in to do it online a few days ago and was actually really looking forward to it but sods law guaranteed that last night was the first day in two weeks that mr barge man rang and wanted me to work tomorrow, arg.. I figured that the volunteering is something I really want to do and I'm committed to them and I should stick doing that even though doing the barge work could earn me $100, so I turned him down and set out this morning really looking forward to my conservation day.
We met at 8am at their office in Franklin street, which is only 2blocks from where I live, luckily, as I discovered that they wouldn't let me go out with them without long trousers (I had figured shorts and sunblock would be fine but they are REALLY strict about it!) so I had to go home and change into my black work pants, which were not ideal but I figured cooler than my jeans. Legged it back to the office and we got into the bus and set off. I had been releived to see several middle-aged men standing around outside the place, noted this and realised that I LIKE middle-aged/old men. I find them easy to talk to, interesting, with good stories to tell and generally I find interactions with them stress-free and easy! I think this is part of the reason why I like working in pubs, where there are heaps of opportunities to chat to the bloke with his pint at the bar. So that was good.
We drove to the site of Torrens Island, down in port adelaide. Torrens Island is in the mouth of the Port River at Port Adelaide. It was used in the past for a quarantine centre, where people were kept when they came into Adelaide, if they were sick. There is also a big power station on the island which uses the water in the inlets around it for cooling and pumps it back out boiling hot (warning signs: no swimming, water may exceed safe swimming temperatures... yet there were heaps of birds and pelicans swimming around on it). The island is reached over a bridge, through the entrance to the power station and on round the back to where the abandoned quarantine site is, and areas of land which form the Torrens Island Conservation Park. There is restricted access on the island, public are not permitted, it is an important site for many plant species, because of it being an island and cutoff from the main. There are problems there with some invasive species such as BoxThorn which grow fast and spiky and take over everything. CVA is currently trying to maintain the site by stopping invasive species and by revegetation of native plants.
We drove first of all through the abandoned quarantine centre, which was fantastic. A ghost-town of crumbling old wooden-slatted huts and sheds with glass missing from the windows, plants growing from the roofs and the original sineage ("Disinfecting Block", "Bathing Block") really adding to the atmosphere.
We stopped for a 'smoke-o' ie fagbreak until 10am, despite having done nothing but drive so far, and sit in a carpark for 15mins while the team leader did some shopping. Our first task was watering the revegetation seedlings. We had to fill flagons and buckets from a tap at the old quarantine station, put them in the back of the van and drive 200m down a path, get them out and walk another 200-300m to tip them out on seedlings scattered throughout a bush area. There wasn't enough flagons or buckets, we took two buckets each, and some poeple only one and that was it.. the plants needed a lot of water, like a half bucket EACH. To get to them was up-n-downy, I was glad of my hiking shoes and long pants, it was frickin hot and oh my lord the FLIES!!! They were as bad as the flies in the outback, but with a bucket full of water in each hand, there is little you can do to keep them away from your face!
After we had emptied our buckets, back to the van, back inside, drive 200m back down the path to fill up again and repeat x3 until all the plants were done. It just seemed a horrendously inefficient way to do things! 6-8 or even 10 flagons would have been useful then we could have filled them once, drove once, done it all in one go!
Once the plants were done, back in the van and we left the island, drove for 20mins to go buy fly nets for our hats. Although not entirely necessary this was a good idea, they do make a huge difference to comfort and stuff. After faffing around for another 20mins the team leader declared lunchtime even though it was only 11.30 and proceeded to drive around for another 20mins looking for a 'good spot'. Lunch stretched and it was 1pm before we were back at the island.
I was ready to get stuck into work again, we went for a walk to look at some graves, which were interesting, and then he said it was too hot to do anything, so we got back in the van and left! They obviously have rules and regs about what can be done and it was very hot so I suppose hard physical work would have been a bad idea and he said it was too hot so there was no point watering the seedlings again, but I can't belive there wasn't something we could have done like in the shade or whatever.
But no, we were in the van and on the way back to Adelaide, so I accepted that and was looking forward to getting back and chilling out earlier than expected. We were nearly in the city and the team leaded said we were doing a detour to pick up some secateurs, proceeded to drive the entire bus of volunteers for nearly an HOUR the other side of adelaide to pick up six pairs of secateurs.
I was so pissed off by this point, what a WASTE of my day! Had I known I was going to spend hours and hours in the bus, and only 50min working i would have done barge work and earnt $100!
I tried to tell the team leader so, but I was so pissed off my voice was breaking and I couldn't get out what I wanted to say coherently so I ended up just walking away. I know it's not their fault it's so hot and that H&S regs prevent us working when it's too hot, but it was just SUCH a waste of a day, I don't know why they didn't warn us that we wouldn't be able to get much done, so not to come if we don't want to.
Having done conservation volunteering back home with the Devon Wildlife Trust, I couldn't help but compare the two.. with the DWT, you WORK! Everyone is friendly and nice, they have a box of tools in the van, at the start they give you a briefing on the objective of the day, what to do and why they are doing it then you get stuck in and work for 4-5hours, hard work but enjoyable.. I much rather be doing hard work with my volunteering time and to actually feel like my presence is making a difference, especially when I have turned down other work to be there!
I don't want to judge the whole organisation on the strength of one team leader because I suspect part of it WAS him being a lazy dickhead, not having the initiative to find other stuff for us to do, and him being a general time-waster, but I'm loathe to spend another day like this and certianly in the future if I sign up to do voluntary stuff and the opportunity to work comes up, I will go for the paid work in an instant and feel no qualms about letting CVA down. I'm definitely going to e-mail them and make my opinions heard!