Lucy Curno Revive

Swan River – Community Interview

CVA Project Officer, Yasmin Tulloch-Medigovich

When Yasmin immediately confirmed she would indeed be a dolphin, if she had to choose a water animal to embody – it makes sense.

Growing up in a small coastal town called Denmark in WA, and now a part of the Revive team protecting the waterways around Perth, she really does live and breathe the ocean. In fact, she says she genuinely might die if she ever lived more than ten minutes from the water – one of the many things her and a dolphin evidently have in common.

Currently based in Fremantle, Yasmin has spent the past 11 years in Perth, nearby the Swan Riverwhich she now spends her time looking after as the as the local Revive Project Officer. Her move to the city was to allow her to complete a Bachelor of Biological Science and Masters in Environmental Management – she says Perth is the biggest city she would ever live in, much preferring the grounded and connected feeling of being in nature, whether it’s bush walks or time by the ocean.

She is so thrilled that in her role, she gets to spend a great deal of time in nature along the coast, which can often be a challenge when living and working in the big city. It’s a dream come true for Yasmin.

“This is exactly where I wanted to be, I love working along the coast anything to do with the water whether it’s marine debris or addressing ocean pollution etc. I’ve always been passionate and now I’m learning even more from this position! I constantly go to the beach and pick-up pieces of microplastic to show my partner, and he’s like “Oh, that’s great”.

Yas laughs as she adds, “you can’t force everyone to be as passionate as you are.”

Her passion for protecting the Swan River and ocean in general is exactly what she aims to share with the volunteers that join her for community clean up events. Yas thrives when having the time to spend with each volunteer to find out a bit about them, and how she can facilitate their individual knowledge of the importance of the work they’re there to do to protect the waterways and oceans from litter.

Yas says this is something she realised the importance of through her previous role as a Community Waste Education Officer with a local council. She would spend time educating the public around the importance of recycling and proper waste management and would often face the challenge of speaking to people who weren’t very engaged with the cause.

“We often talked to a lot of older residents who really don’t understand why someone was knocking on their door, let alone the importance of recycling. So, my approach became just taking the time to chat to them and go through things slowly. Everyone understands things a bit differently, they’ve often heard someone say one thing and another person say the other which can make things confusing. So, taking the time and doing those extra bits to help people understand it more felt like the best solution. No one is expected to know everything straight away and learning these things and implementing them takes time but I believe it is important to do”.

With that experience under her belt, Yas says it’s often a similar message that she talks about with CVA volunteers (reducing waste and recycling habits) but it’s different when they’re already interested in the environment and they’re wanting to do the right thing in regards to the environment. In fact, she even has volunteers who want to do the right thing on a very regular basis.

“There’s a regular volunteer named Gordon, and he’s doing it out of absolute love of the environment. He often goes on runs in the morning before our projects starts and takes photos of birds and wildlife to show the team at morning tea and loves engaging with other people. We also get a lot of university students who are interested in learning what it’s all about as well. I’ve got one volunteer Claire who recently joined, and she’s been out on five projects within the last two months.”

Alongside this team of volunteers, Yas works to protect the Swan River and greater coastal area, keeping it free of litter by holding regular community clean up events. She’s also identifying, collecting and assessing microplastics along the Swan River. Through this study, she is creating a database of what microplastics are found and in what abundance, whilst also making note of the potential influencing environmental factors of the area, including vegetation characteristics, river flow and shoreline features and surrounding human influences and land uses.

Yas says this is important work for several environmental reasons, but also because the Swan River is an integral part of Perth’s community, playing a huge role in the recreational, cultural and social values towards the health of the community and the environment.

“We’re fortunate that the river runs right through the city and to the coast. It’s a great place for families to go to connect with each other, and the natural environment around them. It gives people the opportunity to get out of concrete areas and see wildlife, plus it’s so important for mental health, reconnecting, and just seeing green or diving in the ocean!

It’s great for recreational activities. You’ll always see people kayaking, rowing and cycling along the river as well as families having BBQs in the parks. The beach is always packed with surfers and stand-up paddle boarders, it’s just such a community hub.”

In the spirit of Western Australia with its sparkling blue waters, Yas says the Swan River is in fact not overly polluted in many areas. The reason? The local community groups and councils do a great job keeping it clean.

“I think generally the community is really aware of pollution. And they take action on that as well. It also helps that most areas along the river are accessible, so there are not too many hidden spots where rubbish can accumulate. This makes it easier for almost anyone to get out and do their bit in keeping the river clean.”

That being said, Yas says there are still people who are less aware of the need to protect our waterways from litter and be mindful of their purchasing, recycling and waste disposal. With this in mind, she aims to connect with each volunteer and spread the message as far as possible through education.

“For me, it’s always face to face conversation. I’ve got a new volunteer, I make the effort to approach themsee why they’re volunteering and learn a bit about what they do in their day-to-day life. It’s just about connecting with people and getting the word out.

And her message for those who haven’t yet been involved in cleaning up their natural areas and river or who are unaware of the impacts of pollution on our waterways?

“Why not get involved? I always just think, why not? How much time does it takeout of your day to pick up a few plastic bottles? A simple act to help the environment and making sure animals don’t eat it or it decompose even further. It only takes a few seconds to create a much longer lasting impact.”

And what does Yas see herself doing in the future? Apart from continuing her dolphin-like tendencies of course.

“I can’t imagine only ever sitting behind a desk. I love sharing my passion with volunteers and having that connection with other people interested in the coastal environment. So as long as I’m on the coast and doing environmental work, I’m happy.”