Southwest Goulburn Landcare
Sonia Sharkey has lived in Kilmore for three decades. In this time, she has seen many things change. But it has been her passion for the land and environment that has always kept her connected to the community. As regional facilitator of South West Goulburn Landcare, Sonia overseas eight volunteer teams that cover 100,000 hectares from the Great Dividing Range to the Goulburn River at Seymour.
The teams work across several areas. These include soil health, revegetation, weed control and management. They also help plan and organise field days and deliver workshops and education programs. In addition, Sonia partners with landholders, to help them build knowledge and awareness. She also manages grant-writing and stakeholder relations.
“The main shift I’ve seen in Kilmore,” Sonia says, “are the subdivisions of large landholdings”.
It is at this juncture where Sonia’s expertise adds much value.
“People are moving to Kilmore and buying smaller lifestyle properties,” she says.
“However, if they are inexperienced, it’s easy to make costly mistakes”. Landcare, Sonia says, are partners and advisors. They work directly with landholders to understand and manage the characteristics of their properties. “It’s not just planting trees,” she says.
When asked about her proudest achievement, Sonia names two examples.
“Over the last 7 years I’ve helped bring in $1.46M in grants,” she reveals. But the second achievement is perhaps the most astonishing. In 2015, Sonia led a partnership with the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation to cut a bark canoe and create a new scar Tree, at Lions Park in Seymour. The 22-month project was the result of careful engagement and negotiation between Landcare, the Taungurung and Mitchell Shire Council.
“We did this because Scarred Trees are fast disappearing,” Sonia says. “They are such an important part of Australia’s natural and indigenous history”. With a live public demonstration, the cutting of the canoe and Scarred Tree shared important cultural and technical knowledge.
Sonia says that the new Scarred Tree will be there for future generations. “It’s a legacy for everyone to appreciate,” she says.