How three ACF Community group leaders began their journey and the power of the communities that came along with them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of community. Personally, it has prompted me to think about what communities I'm part of, and how contributing in a meaningful way is sustaining me through this strange time.
For ACF, community was already front of mind before the pandemic. Not surprisingly, it was also a strong theme that emerged in my discussion with these inspiring ACF Group Leaders — three incredible volunteers who share a passion for the natural world and a thirst for positive solutions.
I helped form an ACF group five years ago because I’ve always been community minded and I’m very interested in economics and the financial and political systems of the world. My view is we are in a mess and ACF turned up and it was all about fixing things. I have a big need to get things sorted so it was a good fit for me.
The first thing our group did was organise a stall at a market. My first experience rocking up to stranger and talking about climate change was a baptism of fire. I thought ‘holy hell, that’s scary, but give it a go.’ I walked out into the middle and this fellow was walking along, and I thought ‘he looks like a climate denier for sure, it’s going to be awful.’ I spoke to him and he was right on board. Having that first experience where someone agreed gave me confidence.
Our group now has a market stall once a month, that’s our staple. We also have other events, visit politicians, drum up support for climate marches, lobby for local conservation issues and door knock.
There will be change but you don’t know how much longer it’s going to take. After the federal election I was just devastated for two months, I could barely speak.
I’m feeling quite cheerful now to see ACF’s power, commitment and diligence to just keep going. That’s what I’m doing, I’m keeping on going until the shift comes and all of a sudden everyone says, ‘why didn't someone tell me? [Let's] get on with it and do something’.
"I’m feeling quite cheerful now to see ACF’s power, commitment and diligence to just keep going. That’s what I’m doing, I’m keeping on going until the shift comes."
I grew up on a farm in Victoria and we were always acutely aware of how the environment impacted our livelihood. It made you aware of what was normal and what was abnormal in nature. Even though I’m only 35, I’ve noticed the change in the environment, and that has driven me to realise it is dire and we need to do something.
ACF really appealed to me because of their approach to moving to 100% renewable energy, people power, fixing the system and changing the story about how people and nature interact. That really spoke to me and aligned with what I see as the solution to this problem. I like the positive vision that the solutions are there, there is a bright future, but it needs people to work on it and momentum to get there.
Volunteering is rewarding and challenging, and you feel a great sense of accomplishment. It allows you to go to sleep at night knowing you might not have solved climate change, but at least you are doing something to contribute towards this movement that’s going to need millions of people around the world working together.
"Even though I’m only 35, I’ve noticed the change in the environment, and that has driven me to realise it is dire and we need to do something."
I moved to Gippsland because I needed to be open to the healing environment of nature. I was thrown out of the workforce by a sudden diagnosis of cancer and given months to live. I lived as a recluse for two years ... then I woke up one day and looked out on to the magnificent environment and thought, ‘I'm still alive, what am I going to do with this gift?’
It took me two months to really dig deep into, ‘what is most important to me?’ I came up with animals. Animals needs forests, and forests cannot survive with climate change and deforestation. I realised nothing I do on my own will have much effect, so I looked for an organisation that was big, had been going for a long time and is full of people with whom I could work, and that was ACF.
During some training with ACF, I met another woman from Gippsland. Together, we started ACF Community Prom Area Climate Action. We held our first meeting in a little town called Meeniyan. I thought we might get three or four people, but 22 turned up.
Three years later we have a large, vibrant group of 120 people working on local issues and national campaigns. Some of the members have said to me, ‘I'm so relieved I have a group to work with. I felt an urgent need to do something but did not know what to do’.
Taking action is the antidote to despair. If you are in despair about climate damage or worried about species extinction and decimation of forests, or the earth your children will inherit, the best antidote is to take action and join a group of people who feel the same way.
"If you are in despair about climate damage ... the best antidote is to take action and join a group of people who feel the same way."