“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 OAM, CEO 1988-2017, 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: 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.

One of the original ATCV Vans

Over the four decades since our foundation in 1982 in Ballarat Victoria, we have been part of creating and growing significant environmental and community conservation programs across Australia, ranging from local tree planting days to national employment programs.

A snapshot of our achievements to date:


CVA begins as the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers in Ballarat in 1982, expanding to hosting over 5,000 volunteer days per year with local volunteers and international visitors joining our programs.


We expanded our operations to Queensland and Tasmania, and in 1996, a team from Conservation Volunteers discovered the Rock Rat in the Northern Territory which had been thought to be extinct!

Now known as Conservation Volunteers Australia, in 1997 we launched the Green Corps program with the Australian Government, involving more than 15,000 young Australians in 6-month programs of training and work experience through the late 90’s and early 2000’s.


The new millennium saw CVA growing and connecting with more individuals, communities and organizations, and being recognized for our contributions to conservation with a series of awards including the United Nations Global 500 and the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.

We welcomed people from around the world as volunteers, providing a huge boost to conservation efforts across Australia and New Zealand, with many of our international visitors helping projects in remote regions.

As the decade progressed, we rolled out innovative programs including Rewilding the Desert, and expanded our operations across the Tasman. Conservation Volunteers New Zealand now operates from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Punakaiki.


The new decade got off to a flying start when CVA presented with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Ulysses Award for Innovation in Non-Governmental Organisations in 2011. Over the following years we expanded our role in education and employment support in the environmental sector with the launch of the Conservation Skills Centre in 2013 and the rollout of the Australian Government’s’ Green Army program from 2014-18.

Through the 2010’s CVA grew and changed. A new CEO, Phil Harrison, was appointed in 2017 and the organization began to branch out into new areas of conservation including community programs such as Bushcare’s Big Day Out, Green Gym and engagement programs for refugees and migrants to Australia to become familiar with their new home. The decade was wrapped up with the NRMA Great Koala Race, which saw CVA staff and volunteers plant over 30,000 koala food and habitat trees in Queensland and NSW during the month of October.


This decade began with the devastating Black Summer bushfires, which were closely followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In January 2020 CVA was named as national volunteering coordinator for bushfire response by the Australian government, and we continue to explore how to engage volunteers in bushfire recovery in a safe and meaningful way.

We will continue to support people to take action for nature across Australia. We strive to enable anyone to take practical actions to benefit nature and strengthen our communities, through exciting new projects like #SeaToSource which aims to tackle one of the world’s most solveable problems – ocean litter.


Get Involved

We’re here to make it easy to take action for nature across Australia, and we would love your help. Check out the ways that you can get involved in your local area.