Urban Bushland Council WA Inc

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Home / Activities / City Bush Guides

City Bush Guides

dsc_0331 city bush guides 2009

 

Been on a bushwalk lately? Want to explore some local nature treasures? Why not join our City Bush Guides as they lead a guided walk through some of our wonderful bushland.

 

Introduction

Despite the fact that the Perth metropolitan area has a greater biodiversity than almost any other city in the world, the general public has little or no awareness of this fact.
 
The development of the Bush Forever strategy nearly a decade ago sought to protect regionally significant bushland. It stated that ‘the Government will promote a better understanding and appreciation of the role our natural bushland plays in the life of the community’. To date the education commitment in Bush Forever has not been carried out. No government resources have been allocated for this purpose, the general public have never heard of Bush Forever and there is limited knowledge of or appreciation for regional or local bushland.
 
Many residents never visit their local bushland or if they do they lack the knowledge to interpret the biodiversity.  They don't know what they are looking at, and they do not relate to it.

Friends Groups

The capacity of Friends groups to lead guided walks is limited. Because of inadequate management, many groups feel compelled to focus their attention on dealing with threatening processes such as the incursion of weeds; fragmentation created by pathways made by people and domestic animals; dumping of rubbish and the after effects of too frequent fires. Many such groups have no experience in guiding and in several Bush Forever sites no one has ever led a bush walk.  
 
In April 2007 the Urban Bushland Council put forward a proposal to increase the capacity of Friends groups to raise awareness of local bushland. We believed that providing organised walks with skilled guides would bring more people into the bushland and in turn give them more understanding of the values of these special areas.
 
Walking in the bush with a skilled guide opens up a whole new world. A cabinet minister was heard to say that he had never appreciated his local bush until he was taken on a guided walk.  Friends groups who are able to lead walks get responses such as this regularly.

 

pa100159_01The Program

The City Bush Guides program set out to train 40-50 volunteer bushland guides who would be confident to lead nature walks from September 2007. In addition, UBC agreed to produce a city bush guide’s manual as a tool for others interested in becoming volunteer guides.
The majority of participants had limited knowledge or understanding of ecological processes, or flora and fauna and not many had experience with presentations. The positive aspect of this was that UBC had managed to tap into members of the public who had not previously been involved.

The challenge was to turn these participants into competent and confident guides in seven weeks. Adopting an experiential learning model was a key to making the program work. It was an ambitious objective to imagine that forty-four participants with little knowledge of urban bushland and seven weeks training would be able to independently lead walks in their local bushland.

Participants enjoyed valuable networking and secured books and resources during morning tea breaks. Trainees were asked to choose a bushland site where they wished to become regular guides. For 'homework' they gathered information about their chosen site. Benefits for the bush come from an increased capacity for Friends groups to conduct guided walks and thus introduce local community folk to their bushland. Familiarity brings enjoyment, appreciation and involvement. Remarkably few people visit their local bushland and hence do not connect with nature.

As well as environmental and social components of the course, there was a need to inform participants of the legalities of working in bushland, the safety aspects of guiding walks, the protocol involved in informing local council and also bushland groups who might already be involved in the area or the landowners in the case of school bushland. New guides were encouraged to contact those already involved and seek their support. In most instances the involvement of guides was welcome but there were also situations where the authority and/or the local bushland group were suspicious of this new involvement in ‘their’ patch.

Where an authority was actively involved in bushland preservation and promotion the presence of new guides was viewed as a welcome addition. However in some cases, a protocol arrangement was required before guides could operate. This was particularly so in the case of Bold Park, which is administered by the Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA).

whiteman park 10.10 32Future Programs

The success of this 2007 program was followed by two similarly successful programs in 2009, with 21 participants, and 2010 with 31 participants. There remains significant community interest for this initiative and funding may be sought for future years.

CBG Report 2008