Growing diversity motivates volunteer leader
  • Friday 13 May 2016
Friends of the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens volunters Malcolm Cox and Margaret Mungomary

Tracking device in hand, undertaking research into the health, home range and habitat use of resident koalas, is just one of the rewarding jobs undertaken by volunteers at the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens.

Malcolm Cox, President of Friends of the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens, is proud of the work of the Friends, a group of volunteers who work tirelessly to transform the reserve into a showpiece of regional plants.

Malcolm shares his story about the Friends of the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens during National Volunteers Week, which this year runs from May 9 to 15.

A primary school teacher, Malcolm found his niche when working as an Education Officer at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in the 1980s. 

“The venue was an ideal outdoor classroom where I taught about all aspects of the plant world to all age groups” Malcolm explains.

“I was excited to hear of initial talks about the development of a botanic garden here on the Sunshine Coast and became a member of the Friends when the group was founded in 1997.  I became more actively involved after retiring in 2012.

“Working with the Friends to transform the Gardens for the enjoyment, display, study and conservation of the native flora of the Sunshine Coast is incredibly rewarding.”

The Friends volunteers range from juniors to seniors with a wide range of life skills and talents. 

“The most obvious work of the volunteers is propagating, planting, weeding, pruning, watering, mulching and all activities related to caring for the Gardens,” Malcolm said.

“Work days in the Gardens are held each Tuesday from 7.30am—but it is not all toil, with our very social morning tea breaks a particular highlight!

“We also help develop and maintain the visitor facilities, such as the pathways, tracks, picnic tables and seating areas that help make the Gardens such a pleasure to visit.

“Volunteers are also vital in helping to run the information desk at the Arts and Ecology Centre, providing guided walks of the Gardens and also catering for small events.”

Long-time volunteer guide, Margaret Mungomary said she loves gardens (and trees and plants) and really enjoys spending time at the MBBG.

“It is great to spend time with those with similar interests,” Margaret said.

“Although not all volunteers are die hard gardeners.  It can be a bit like a men’s shed gathering at times with all the machinery and manual activities like the building of picnic tables, forging tracks and paths and moving stuff about!

“I think we all get just as much out of being here as we put into our volunteering.”

Sunshine Coast Council Community and Environment portfolio councillor Jenny McKay said volunteers have a tremendously positive effect on our communities.

“We are blessed to have a growing culture of volunteering on the Sunshine Coast, which we really appreciate.  It is also great to get positive feedback from our volunteers about how they are getting something back from their volunteering experiences.

The ‘Give Happy, Live Happy’ theme for National Volunteers Week reflects the mutual benefits to be gained through volunteering,” Cr McKay said.

Malcolm says he spends a lot of time looking at emerging opportunities for the Garden, which he finds challenging but also incredibly rewarding.

“I love to see people learning new skills and giving things a go—especially things that are different from what they’ve experienced before,” Malcolm said.

“Growing the diversity of our volunteers as well as the diversity of the Gardens is what my ‘job’ here is all about.

“Our volunteers are a generous and selfless lot who also share a determination to make our botanic gardens truly ‘world-class’. Learn more about the Friends and their commitment to the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens at www.friendsofmaroochybotanicgardens.org.au.

Visit Council’s website www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au for more information on volunteering.