Muhammad moved to Australia in 2015, leaving behind his home country of Iran. It was a huge upheaval and meant leaving behind family, friends, a culture which he grew up in, and the familiar sights and sounds of home.
In 2018, Australia’s population was 70% Australian-born, which means 30% are relatively new arrivals, some of whom may be still finding their way in this country. That can be a difficult process – trying to make new relationships, find work, and adapt to the culture and language of a new country.
How can we welcome people? What can help with this transition, and how can we support migrants to become familiar and connected with the land they live on?
These questions are at the heart of a series of new programs emerging at Conservation Volunteers Australia.
In Tasmania our Program Manager, Renae Riviere, has developed ‘Cross Cultural Conservation’, a program that provides adult migrants and refugees an opportunity to improve their functional English proficiency and enrich their social connections through engagement in community environmental projects, and gain practical experience in a work like setting.
In Queensland our Regional Manager, Sharon Marks, has developed two initiatives to support new migrants to develop a sense of place. Women Connecting to Country and Multicultural Connections to Nature are improving cultural understanding and connections, building language and work skills, increasing participation in caring for the country and building the capacity of environment stakeholders to be responsive and inclusive of migrants and refugees.
Our experience in working with international volunteers from across the world has built our ability to create inclusive programs and be a bridge between different stakeholders in urban and rural communities around Australia.
CVA fulfill this role because we are constantly creating new conservation projects that are suitable for broad community participation. Contributing to existing projects with our wide network of partners from the social, environmental, government and corporate sectors, collaboration is at the heart of what we do, every day.
Excitingly, our teams in our regional offices around Australia learn from one another, localising the programs that have been working in other regions. Queensland took note of the learnings from the model that was developed and piloted in Tasmania. We believe this form of networked learning will be a key aspect of 21st century conservation, which will define our sector’s ability to respond to growing challenges and innovate at the speed and scale needed to tackle biodiversity loss.
Tackling biodiversity loss at scale will require significant community participation, so we’re delighted to be able to be developing new models of engagement like the Cross Cultural Conservation and connection programs that encourage environmental participation from new migrants. There is a significant opportunity for the environmental sector to play a crucial role in supporting these migrants to develop their sense of place and connect to nature, which is crucial to feeling welcomed and engaged in their new homes and communities.
Evidence shows that social connection is an important factor (PDF) for new migrants’ ability to make these significant transitions successfully, as are a range of other elements present in our programs (highlighted in this report from Young & Well CRC [PDF]). We already know that environmental volunteering and nature participation has excellent evidence for its benefits to social connection, wellbeing & mental health, and developing a sense of place (PDF). There is also evidence that developing a sense of place, in natural surrounds, is an important predictor of pro-environmental behaviour, which is an important additional benefit of these programs.
We are excited to work with amazing partner groups to make these kinds of programs rich and engaging.
We’d like to acknowledge our Queensland partners Department of Home Affairs, Dept. of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs, Uncle Alfred’s Men’s Group, Townsville City Council, Hands on Heritage, Birdlife Townsville, Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Inc., Reef Check, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Pimlico TAFE and the Townsville Intercultural Centre.
We would also like to acknowledge our Tasmanian partners John Reid Charitable Trust, Tasmanian Government’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, University of Tasmania’s Centre for Rural Health (College of Health and Medicine), TasTAFE, Clarence City Council, Glen Huon Dairy & Bruny Island Cheese Co, Hobart City Council, Understorey Network Nursery and Tranmere Landcare.
As you can see, participants on these programs are connecting with local community groups and other members of their community, which shows how we can nurture stronger communities as well as resilient ecosystems.
CVA is actively looking to roll out these programs in other regions, so if you’re interested in working with us, please get in touch with our Partnerships team.