Culture first, collaboration then just happens

The last two foundation years of building Intrepid Landcare has been a bit of a blur. It only feels like yesterday when I met Megan for the second or third time in a Sydney cafe in Chatswood only moments before meeting Landcare Australia to pitch our idea of a national movement that connects, inspires and empowers young people to act and lead with Landcare. Back then it was just the two of us, and our parents and friends who were probably like, yes, this is another great idea, “go for it and best of luck!”

I knew it was a great idea, and so did Megan.

From that initial meeting with Landcare Australia it took us about 3 months to figure out if we should be our own identity or be part of another identity. Having hindsight from many failures before with trying to setup young people movements I knew that we had to be our own identity. An identity for young people, created by young people so that it can become their identity. A movement becomes a movement when people embody the core of who you are, and part of this is your organisational identity.

So, how have we created an identity for Intrepid Landcare?

We soon pooled together a brilliant tribe filled with passions and skills that were similar yet different to our own passions and skills. We knew we needed what we didn’t have, along with having what we had lots of, that being energy! We pieced together a constitution, governance structure and without any face to face meetings we soon became an identity over Facebook chat, phone meetings and Google Hangout. We then raised enough cash through our initial crowdfunding campaign, which we are always grateful for the donors who initially backed us, to fund flights and food to pay for our first Board Retreat, our first face to face meeting. Thanks again!

It was as if we already knew each other but didn’t. We met in Berry NSW, and stayed in this beautiful log cabin filled with love and international treasures, the home of Bill and Leslie Pigott, who are worldly legends on all things Landcare and leadership. The Pigott’s opened their home to us for a weekend, and also baked muffins and refilled (and still do) our hearts with worldly insights into Landcare and leadership.

We had a packed agenda for this first face to face meeting (which we now call Board Retreats), yet somehow had lots of time for laughing, sharing stories and enjoying nature (which is of no surprise when you are around Megan!). First off the agenda was how we expected each other to communicate, recognising that we all are different, have different needs and work and live different lives and in different parts of the country. We started with this because we knew we wanted to create the right culture.

We are ever so grateful for this initial work we worked hard to get right, and still do! We continually put ourselves on the line to share our deepest flaws and greatest assets. We discuss what we like and don’t like to do, and work out how to share the load and keep us moving forward. We clearly know what we don’t want what people think comes inherently with organisations – gossip, hierarchical structure, power and generational indifference with gender, age, ethnicity and disabilities, among much more. None of us either have time or want to tread water through murky waters. Our cause doesn’t deserve the impurities of human beings’ inequalities, it deserves equality.

It has been two years and if we wrote a plan – which we kind of did – it wouldn’t have been filled with the characters we have met and the conversations we have had. Although while I think it is important to have a plan, it is not essential to be first off the rank with designing and defining organisations, rather, you need the right culture to be the heart of what is and has to come. This is my biggest lesson thus far, and it is the why of what Intrepid Landcare is and is becoming.

Culture is the beating heart of any organisation. We can talk about intellectual and emotional intelligence all you like, or the super-drivers of organisations. I think the most important part is getting over yourself and having the listening of others and granting yourself the listening of others that speaks what you or your organisation wants – collaboration and all that super-driver talk. What other organisations do not do enough of is working hard on the essentials, and that is figuring out what organisational identity do we want to create and need to have to be and do what those strategic and business plans suggest we need to achieve.

Once you have the right culture sorted (which is always in a state of flux, meaning that this part needs consistent work, and needs to be the heart of every conversation) in a blink of an eye your movement will have its own wings. The next challenge is not letting others’ impurities diminish your identity – it is best to leave gossip, hierarchical structure, power and generational indifference with gender, age, ethnicity and disabilities, among much more at the door 🙂

Intrepid: o what a feeling

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Intrepid: o what a feeling of fearless, adventurous, daring, bold. 

In some sense that is what it takes to take the first step to volunteer, try something new, go beyond your comfort zone, to be intrepid.

And that is what is happening…

In March this year I had the privilege of co-leading a Landcare leadership retreat for students with Megan Rowlatt from Illawarra Intrepid Landcare. All it took to make it happen was to pick up the phone and call Megan, invite her along, find some from sponsorships and some new fresh-faced local youth – of course. It was held on the Gold Coast to encourage local youth to get involved in Landcare, connect them with those in the know-how and support local environmental action. It was pretty fresh, 12 new faces thinking I wonder what the weekend might unfold…

Fast forward 2 months and those very same youth are killing it, in a good way. They are killing their call to action to transform old ways of doing things into fresh, inviting and exciting ways. It’s not what was old is new and cool again, they have started with a bare canvas, dreams and visions to make a difference. And they certainly are… cause this is what they have been doing.


+ Responsible Divers: to inspire divers to clean up waterways and connect other dive and clean up groups.
+ Youth 4 Beaches: Briody Fahey founded Youth 4 Beaches last year and since the retreat she is going beyond her call to action to inspire other youth to care for beaches and oceans.
+ Rivermount College Mass River Restoration project: Inspired by Gold Coast’s Biggest Tree Planting Day… Elijah, Luke and Zoey has submitted a proposal to their school to support 2km of river restoration, two mass school planting days, open access to the river AND interpretative signage for their get to be named ‘river walk’.
+ Southport SHS: Val and Mac are implementing a school-scale 0-waste initiative to encourage students to compost their food scraps and recycle, while reduce the use of single-use plastics.

But, wait there is more!

AND… all while they launch Gold Coast Intrepid Landcare! There is no stopping the dream for this bunch of local youth. As Gold Coast Intrepid Landcare is about inspiring young, awesome, enthusiastic people to take care of Gold Coast’s environment while exploring the outdoors, having fun and making friends! By attending festivals, expos and supporting members of the local Landcare network they hope to recruit and connect local youth to the many amazing causes carving a sustainable future – for youth and the planet.

A big congratulations to the new group and especially Juliet Saltmarsh and Paula van Breda who are leading the way for the group.

But we are not stopping here. Megan and I have brainstormed an incredible future for the Intrepid Landcare brand. If you are keen for local youth to get involved in your community or classify yourself as youth and keen to get involved, give us a hoy!


Proudly supported by Landcare Australia, Neutrogena Naturals through the National Youth Engagement, Ambassador initiative.

Give Happy, Live Happy… it’s Volunteer Week

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So, it’s National Volunteer Week and I have been asked to share my two cents about volunteering. Being an obsessed and at times an over-committed volunteer this requests sits well with me. Yeah, that’s fine… I’ll write a blog in my sleep.

But I am inspired and for a million and one reasons! It’s National Volunteer Week! It can’t get any better than this, right?

Well it can. But before I share how it can get better – than right now – I must take a trip down memory lane to share my volunteer experiences.

My parents have always been giving people so it’s in my DNA to be give back too. I am finding it hard to remember the very first time I volunteered, but I imagine it would have been doing fundraising drives at school or church. This soon evolved to run refugee kids clubs at Zonta get togethers when I was a teenager. I had actually forgotten about this until a Zonta member recently reminded me on how she met me… as that was so long ago. Then while cruising through high school we all did the Salvo’s Red Shield Appeal and the 40hr famine – yay for Barley Sugars!

Then boom. There I was standing on a bare sand dune helping a small group, well two other people aged 60+ caring for the dunes at Federation Walk Coastal Reserve on the Gold Coast. I was in my first year of university studying environmental science and was shocked to find out that there was only three people (including me) caring for 93ha of coastal dunes – that day (there is an ongoing group but still). I remember thinking to myself, geez, if no body else volunteers out here we’ll be here forever.

And so, that was my pivotal volunteer moment. I shared my inspiring possibility of encouraging other students to come along and help the oldies do their thing, which in fact turned into my first volunteer project – as I somehow became the coordinator (and didn’t even know it).

Fast forward almost a decade and today I still volunteer. Thinking on top of my head I reckon I volunteer in part or full capacity for 8 organisations… and sit on about 6 Boards / Committees. And in between currently driving four new initiatives – can’t wait to share the new and shiny Gold Coast Intrepid Landcare initiative with you, next week!

I do work in between to cash up my bank account for a while and to pay my bills, but volunteering is more important and it has in many cases opened employment and now consultancy opportunities.

The best part about volunteering is being able to be creative, imagine endless possibilities and have passion and purpose for a cause that is close to your heart. Without getting to soapy, volunteering has connected me to a world filled with amazing people, inspiration and dreams.

So, can it really get better than this, right now? It can and it starts with you …. find a local cause that sits well with your values and volunteer as you never know where it might lead you. And if you already volunteer pick up another volunteer opportunity and go crazy!

If you are looking for an eco-volunteer adventure I’ll give Landcare Australia a plug since I’ve somehow become a Young National Ambassador for Landcare!