Ingrid Spragg, 24, is from Sutherland in NSW. A barista by day, the zoology graduate volunteers for Conservation Volunteers Australia every week in western Sydney.
7am - I’m up at 7, which is a lie-in for me, given my work! I grab a decent breakfast, throw on some long pants and long sleeves and get a packed lunch ready. Luckily, my partner lives in western Sydney, where I volunteer, so I stay at his the night before and I don’t have a long drive to the conservation site.
9.00 - I arrive just before one of the organisers rocks up with the bus after picking people up from the station. There are five volunteers and a supervisor in my group and we’re a mix of ages and backgrounds, from students to pensioners.
9:15 - Our induction covers what the site is and its relevance. We do a brief on potential dangers: things like snakes, spiders, ants and rabbit holes. If you’re ever in doubt, calling for your supervisor is generally your best bet!
9:30 - We grab all the protection gear we need - gloves, hats, and hi-vis vests just to make sure everyone knows who we are and what we’re doing. The job on the day always varies, you can be measuring the growth of trees, or weeding and digging out invasive pests. We’re given a tool belt with mattocks and clippers, and head into the bush to clear weeds. It quickly gets very social, there’s a lot of banter and you get to know about people’s lives. One of the older pensioners is training for a marathon, she’s amazing, I couldn’t do a marathon and I’m 24! You’ll get the occasional one-off volunteers joining the group and we’re always happy to have extra hands - the more help, the more gets done.
10:15 - We stop to have morning tea, coffee and biscuits. I have tea - I’m a barista, so the instant coffee is not quite up to par for me! We’ll have a good chat, see what everyone’s weeks were like and then get back into it.
10:45 - The day is getting warmer. We’re working up quite a sweat and everyone’s trying their hardest. It’s a little bit of a work-out, a little bit of activity. You’re out in nature, it’s nice to take a break from urban life and phones and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. I got my degree in zoology so I like being able to see wildlife. Koalas are one of the more elusive animals, but you see wombat droppings and holes and if you don’t see kangaroos, you see evidence of them.
12:15pm - We stop for lunch and I drink as much water as possible. It's good to have a rest and I think everyone’s just pretty happy to be doing their part. It gets you out, it gets you social. I could have done it for a short time and stopped and thought ‘That’s my volunteering done’, but I’ve gone back again and again. I’m learning a lot from everyone and you see stuff that you wouldn’t normally see in the suburbs. It feels like a break from everything.
1:15 - We go for a site tour and the supervisor gives us a bit of history about the land. We see lots of wildlife - kangaroos, lots of birds and a bearded dragon. There were no real signs of wildlife when we first started coming to this site and within a few weeks we saw kangaroos, then more and more animals returned.
2:15 - We give all of our gear back, then I get on my way and our supervisor takes people back to the station. The first time you go it’s exhausting, the second time is less tiring and now it’s a part of my week that I really look forward to. I’d encourage everyone to get out and give it a go. It’s totally appropriate for families and we even have little trowels that kids could work with. The easiest way to check how you can help CVA is to jump onto their website and see what you can get started on, right away. Every week and every job is memorable in its own way - volunteering is definitely not something I’ll give up easily.