tim cox addressing meeting


What was started in 1982 by Yandoit farmer, Tim Cox, as a small group planting trees on weekends… has become the leading practical conservation group in Australia managing thousands of volunteers who help out on dozens of projects each year.

— Colin Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, Conservation Volunteers

Conservation Volunteers was founded when discussion of environmental issues was fresh, vibrant and a touch radical. It was also a ‘different world’ from today’s: more Australians had a connection to the land; young people anticipated a career for life; private transport was less available; inbound tourism was in its infancy.

Since our foundation in 1982 in Ballarat Victoria, we have grown into Australasia’s leading practical conservation organisation with offices across Australia and New Zealand.

Milestones since our inception include:

  • In 1982, Conservation Volunteers undertook its first conservation project; we now complete more than 2,000 projects a year.
  • In 1986, Conservation Volunteers undertook 5,000 volunteer days; we now manage more than 100,000 volunteer days a year.
  • In 1988, Conservation Volunteers welcomed a team of volunteers from California; we now welcome more than 2,000 volunteers from across the globe each year.
  • In 1990, Conservation Volunteers commenced operations in Queensland and Tasmania. From one office in Ballarat we have 24 offices across Australia and New Zealand.
  • By 1993, Conservation Volunteers had planted 2 million trees over the previous decade; we now plant more than 1 million trees a year.
  • In 1996, a team from Conservation Volunteers discovered the Rock Rat in the Northern Territory which had been thought to be extinct!
  • In 1997, Conservation Volunteers launched the Australia Government’s Green Corps program. In total, Conservation Volunteers involved more than 15,000 young Australians in 6-month programs of training and work experience
  • In 2000, Conservation Volunteers was awarded the United Nations Global 500; other accolades received include six Banksia Awards and the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.
  • In 2004, Conservation Volunteers launched Conservation Connect in partnership with Toyota; the only online booking system for conservation volunteers in Australia.
  • In 2006, Conservation Volunteers celebrated the 1000th volunteer to undertake the Certificate 1 in Active Volunteering; we were the first organisation in Australia to offer this qualification in partnership with Toyota.
  • In 2006, after extensive consultation, Conservation Volunteers opened an office in Auckland and launched Conservation Volunteers New Zealand. Conservation Volunteers New Zealand now operates from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Punakaiki.
  • In 2007, Conservation Volunteers celebrated 25 years of practical conservation programs with the launch of the Wild Futures campaign, focusing on 12 endangered species that need our support.
  • In 2011, Conservation Volunteers was presented with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Ulysses Award for Innovation in Non-Governmental Organisations.
  • In 2012, Conservation Volunteers celebrated 30 years, with a look back at our ‘Top 30 at 30’ and letters of support from around the country.
  • In 2013, Conservation Volunteers launched the Conservation Skills Centre in conservation skills and knowledge and community capacity building.
  • In 2014, Conservation Volunteers became the national service provider of the Australian Government’s Green Army program, providing 2,106 young people the training and opportunities to develop new skills and improve the environment.
  • In 2015, Conservation Volunteers lunched the One Reef program in collaboration with Greening Australia, BirdLife Australia and Wetland Care Australia, focusing on mobilising community to make a tangible and practicable on ground difference.
  • In 2015, Conservation Volunteers merged with WetlandCare Australia; a powerful union that brings together expertise, knowledge, capacity and resources to make a demonstrable difference to conservation of wetlands and the broader environment.
  • In 2016, Conservation Volunteers launched the Rewilding the Desert program in collaboration with FAUNA Research Alliance to rewild Australia’s deserts, starting with our properties in the Wimmera region of Western Victoria.
  • In 2016, Conservation Volunteers purchased a heritage building as a Head Office in Ballarat, securing both our future and our commitment to the city where we were founded.
  • Each year, Conservation Volunteers involves over 10,000 volunteers, plants 1 million trees and trains 1,000 groups and individuals. All of this is only possible thanks to the dedication of our volunteers and our partnerships with the community, government and business.
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