Located 45 kilometres west of Melbourne, Mt Rothwell is a sanctuary for some of Victoria’s most endangered mammal species including the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, Brush tailed Rock Wallaby and wild Eastern Quoll. A team of Work for the Dole participants have constructed a number of fences to exclude rabbits from highly overgrazed vegetation. This vegetation provides essential habitat for the threatened animals.
Jacqui Young, conservation officer, has been a driving force in establishing the Work for the Dole programme at Mt Rothwell. Jacqui says the participants have been instrumental in helping Mt Rothwell restore and protect vital habitat to ensure threatened species are protected from extinction.
‘Work for the Dole participants help us to undertake valuable work across the whole conservation spectrum. The younger people are more tech savvy, so they do important jobs such as checking motion sensor cameras and documenting field data. This is integral work as it dictates what work can be done. Other participants undertake planting and build, check and maintain fences integral for protecting vegetation that ensures native animals have good quality habitat.’ Jacqui says.
‘We are achieving huge outcomes, it’s amazing. The visible change to the environment is extraordinary,’ says Jacqui. ‘The Work for the Dole participants are brilliant and they really understand the importance of this conservation project. But we know it’s also really important that the work we provide helps the job seekers to progress their own futures — it needs to be useful for their career path,’ said Jacqui, adding ‘The participants have demonstrated excellent team work skills, work ethic and initiative, are building networks and are developing friendships – we love having them here.’
At least four Work for the Dole participants have moved to ongoing employment after their time at Mt Rothwell. Chris Lunardi, the centre’s Work for the Dole supervisor, credits the low pressure environment at Mt Rothwell with helping the participants to gain confidence in tackling new tasks, building a good work ethic and learning to relate confidently with others.
‘When one young man started at Mt Rothwell he had very low confidence and some anxiety. He found attempting new tasks very challenging,’ Chris remembers. ‘During the Work for the Dole programme the young man learnt to communicate and relate to others, and had the opportunity to learn new skills, which gave him the confidence to gain a new job working in a call centre.’
‘We see Work for the Dole as an opportunity to gain real experience. It’s incredibly beneficial for people to be exposed to the work environment, particularly if they are straight out of school or have little experience in the workforce. These guys have an amazing work ethic. They work incredibly hard,’ Chris says.
There is no doubt that with the help of Jacqui and Chris the Work for the Dole participants are having a positive impact on the environment and are gaining the skills and confidence they need to move into the world of work.