Family and "Friends": Volunteering With the Friends of the Flinders Ranges National Park
By Anthea Hudson
The Flinders Ranges, in northern South Australia, has always held a special place in my heart, and my family's heart. My mother spent many happy holidays in the area, with her family, as a child, then, with my father, introduced her children to it at an early age. I have so many wonderful memories of the freedom it offered me, an escape from other parts of my life which were hard to deal with. The spectacular scenery and the fascinating wildlife, and tiny secrets it revealed to us as we explored rocks, bark, creek beds and towering cliff sides. An exquisite fragile little orchid thriving in a rocky nook, busy insects bustling about their business of survival, spiders spinning massive golden webs, birds peering at us from tree hollows. Many hills and valleys walked and enjoyed in their welcoming solitude.
And then the chain formed another link... our son was born. And he was pre-destined to follow in our footsteps and make the Flinders Ranges his second home.
A few months after his birth, we heard news of another birth- that of a Friends of Parks group in the area we so loved. What better way to give back to somewhere that has given us so much on so many levels? My parents attended the inaugural meeting in Hawker, and then on the first official event in the Park, we also went along, taking our few months old son with us. Naturally, at that age, he wasn't aware of what was really going on... but he was fascinated in all the sights and sounds around him.
The group working bees were held on a monthly basis (except during the hotter months), and we attended nearly every one of them, so our son continued to develop more of an awareness and grow in this environment, and soon was "helping" in all kinds of small ways.
We soon realised the value of these experiences in his development, and how they could form a significant part of his learning as a home educated child. Nature was his teacher and there was so much to learn and explore! Hands-on, in the earth, harvesting seeds, planting them and watching them grow over time. Following the cycle of life. Helping to restore old remnants of human settlement... to hear our historians tell the story of the people who once lived there, and see the past "come alive" before his eyes. Walking, maybe for hours, to find something special that someone had seen once many years ago... and the thrill of finding it, then recording, photographing and mapping it for future reference. Observing all kinds of wildlife close up, not just on a TV screen or book, and actually seeing how they relate to their surroundings and live their lives. Natural learning opportunities abound!
He (and us) also learnt the satisfaction of volunteering, working hard to do something that matters, and how to work as a team with the other volunteers. Wonderful people who freely gave their time and energy for the benefit of our environment and those who will enjoy it for years to come.
The "Friends of the Flinders Ranges National Park" group has been going for over 16 years now and has changed and developed as much as we all have. Many projects have been completed, and many more started. Members have come and gone. We personally now mostly concentrate on going up for 2 periods of about a month each per year, when we help run the Seasonal Events school holiday activities in the Park. We enjoy being able to pass on our love of the Flinders Ranges to the families we meet, and to hopefully inspire in them a similar appreciation.
Who knows... maybe some of them will also become a multi-generational Flinders family too!