Final march for ‘Army’ group

GREEN GRADS: The Mudgee Green Army graduated from the six month program last week.
GREEN GRADS: The Mudgee Green Army graduated from the six month program last week.

The third and final Green Army team in Mudgee graduated last week.

The program is aimed at youth aged between 17 and 24.

The group planted over 5000 trees and cleared 1200Ha of weeds; many Green Army targets would be a fraction of that.

“They come from all different backgrounds and all walks of life, there are people from uni, people that have never worked, individuals who've left in Year 10, and a lot of school leavers,” Conservation Volunteers Muswellbrook regional manager, Jack Kensey said.

“And they get six months of practical, on-ground work with a professional supervisor, and a training component – there's four units of Cert II work in 'conservation and land management,' plus an OH&S element, First Aid, Pathways, and Indigenous cultural training.

“The most positive aspect for participants is social. You get people that come in with little confidence, who've never been in the workforce, then they all gel as a team and join in.”

GOVERNMENTS AXES GREEN ARMY

The Mudgee region Green Army, that graduated on Thursday, was the final group following the Government’s axing of the program.

The Federal Government has diverted funding for Green Army into Landcare.

The MP’s who made a commitment to Green Army teams in their electorate will still have them delivered, but no new rounds are forthcoming.

Three groups passed through the six-month program in the region.

The group mainly in Mudgee and Rylstone, at over 20 sites including; Putta Bucca Wetlands; Cudgegong River; Ferntree Gully; Redbank Dam; and even storm water basins at Bellevue Estate.

They focused on river areas, weeding and planting – planted over 5000 trees. And carried out a lot of work with community groups that were appreciative of the assistance.

Conservation Volunteers Australia, a conservation charity, was contracted by the Government to deliver the Green Army program in the area.

CVA Muswellbrook regional manager, Jack Kensey, said that participants and the community both benefited from the program.

“The main thing is [participants] get to see proper on-ground works that are affecting the community, and they're giving a real benefit, visibly, people can see the good work that they're doing,” he said.

“It gives them a sense of pride and gives the community a sense that young people are doing something.”

Mr Kensey added that the programs in the ilk of Green Army have come and gone over the years, and while he believes this one was a good one it likely won’t be the last.

“You never know what will happen; there's been projects before – National Green Jobs, Greencore, etc. – there'll be another one in a couple of years, they phase in and phase out,” he said.

“This one was really positive, in the past, they haven't always worked so well, and they've had bad reputations, and when Green Army started there was a bit of 'will it succeed or will it not'.

“In my opinion, it's well and truly succeeded, it's been such a good program, and so many people have gotten jobs out of it that I know and I've talked to.”

He added that CVA is also hopeful that they can get to work in the Mudgee region again soon.

Mid-Western Regional Council was the local Green Army project sponsor.

Conservation Volunteers Australia started in 1982 with one farmer wanting to help the environment on his property in Ballarat. The initial group was based on a conservation model from England. It's since expanded into a nationwide operation with offices in every state and capital city along with regional areas.