To celebrate all the people who volunteer their time to help across the country, we spoke to some of the not-for-profit organisations around Australia who rely on volunteers to make a world of difference.
Next, we speak to Johanna from the Sea Turtle Foundation, a group of dedicated volunteers who safeguard sea turtle populations, migration routes, and habitats, and support activities that increase sea turtle numbers worldwide.
When was the Sea Turtle Foundation it started?
Sea Turtle Foundation began life as the Indo-Pacific Sea Turtle Conservation Group back in 2001. While we’re only a small organisation we have a strong board of directors made up of turtle researchers, marine scientists, and others. Most recently, our primary focus has been on the protection of sea turtles in the waters of Queensland, but we’ve also worked in Papua New Guinea and would like to increase our partnerships into the Indo-Pacific region.
Why was it started?
Sea Turtle Foundation was formed by a group of turtle scientists who were concerned about the state of sea turtle populations in the region and felt that more needed to be done to protect these iconic species. The initial goal was to address research gaps and develop strategies to reduce threats to sea turtles in the North Queensland region.
Since the beginning, Sea Turtle Foundation has expanded its activities to a national and international level and continues to grow, completing projects in three focus areas: research, education, and action. As an independent not-for-profit, Sea Turtle Foundation is smaller and more nimble than government agencies and large research institutions and can therefore react to issues as they emerge, and speak out about policies and regulations that affect turtle populations.
How many volunteers do you rely on at the moment?
We have a group of around 25 trained volunteers who are registered to respond to stranded turtles, plus several other volunteers who offer their time to help out with special events and activities as they arise. Our group of stranding responders often have quiet periods where very little is required of them, but we need to maintain a strong, trained team ready for deployment in case we experience a period of mass strandings like the one we saw after Tropical Cyclone Yasi in 2011.
Why do you need volunteers to help your NFP?
We’re a small organisation with limited resources so volunteers allow us to achieve more than we ever could without their input. Volunteers are also our eyes and ears on the ground.
What are some of the most memorable volunteers
There have been so many who have donated their valuable time to help improve things for turtles. Volunteers range in age from 16 to well into their 70s and we’re always humbled by the amount of support we get from people who are passionate about helping our flippered friends.
Over the years, Sea Turtle Foundation volunteers have been known to travel hundreds of kilometers to investigate and rescue stranded turtles. These missions don’t always have a happy ending, and sometimes involve having to collect data on dead and decomposing turtles so that we can gather valuable information to help us identify emerging threats to turtles.
Other volunteers have helped us wrangle extremely enthusiastic primary school children to bring awareness about turtles and marine conservation to the next generation. They’ve organised large community events, spent many hours walking along dark nesting beaches, and helped us raise funds to keep our work going. We’d be nothing without this amazing contribution.
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