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Growing skills and greening Townsville

Meet the legends learning to conserve our local environments and ecosystems

At 10 sites across Townsville, including Rowes Bay, Mt Louisa, Goondaloo Creek and Magnetic Island, a crew of unique trainees is powering through revegetation and landscape recovery projects for the benefit of residents, ecosystems, and waterways.

The Envite Environment ‘Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) program’ sees teams of trainees complete a Certificate I in Conservation and Ecosystem Management at Bohle TAFE while learning practical environmental and work skills on key projects across town.

“I’m 17 years old,” says Destiny, youngest member of the current crew. “I left school after Year 10, got help to get this job, and it gets me started along the path. We get a qualification, it’s good.”

Dwayne is a couple of decades older. “I’ve always liked being outside,” he says. “I’ve always liked wildlife, plants and everything. I just didn’t have the knowledge. It’s exciting to learn.”

Participants in the Envite Environment SQW program come from diverse backgrounds, but all share a desire to build skills for ongoing future work, and to grow personally enroute.

“Before, I wasn’t really that much of a confident person around people,” explains Taine. “I was a bit of a shut-in … I left school, floated around for a bit, put in a few applications, then heard about this.”

Eighteen weeks of planting thousands of native seedlings and trees, pulling out hefty invasive weed species like Leucaena, Lantana, and Chinee apple, installing erosion-control matting, and conducting litter surveys along riverbanks and beaches sees trainees get a foothold on a future career, but also some seriously healthy habits — ensuring regular hydration breaks, and supporting one another as a team to manage energy levels and challenging tasks.

“You’re definitely getting your exercise,” Taine laughs. “My parents think I’ve even gotten thinner!”
“Yep, I reckon you have,” adds one of the group.

“You don’t need any particular skills to start this program,” says Supervisor Miles Thomson. “It’s all about attitude. You just have to have the motivation to learn new things.

“We’re in week seven and you can already see the crew tuning into different parts of the job, tuning into different trees.

“Taine’s tree is Sterculia quadrifida, the peanut tree — it has big green fruits on it and he notices it everywhere as we travel around town.”

“All trees are Dwayne’s trees, but he’s tuning into eucalypts especially. There’s the Corymbia tessellaris with a distinctive black sock about half-way up. It’s commonly known as a Moreton Bay Ash, but Dwayne announced last month: ‘Nah, I’m renaming it ‘Black Sock’. Now I’m calling it ‘Black Sock’, other people are calling it ‘Black Sock’. So maybe in Townsville, it’ll catch on: Black Sock!”

On the day we meet them, the team are busy along Rowes Bay beachfront, cutting back overgrown branches that threaten to poke eyes out on footpaths to the beach, re-stabilising sand banks where the impacts of stray foot-traffic are highest, removing invasive weeds and boosting the native plant populations — making Rowes Bay more usable for people, nesting turtles, coastal birds, and every other natural resident. They even uncovered a path for viewing local sculpture, long hidden by creeping sands.

“That’s Ipomoea pes-caprae,” Dwayne spells out, pointing to the seedling groundcover that will get planted over the day to stabilise dunes. “Also known as ‘beach hibiscus’ or ‘goat’s foot’. Good for erosion control.”

Envite crews operate out of Townsville City Council’s (TCC) Rowes Bay depot and the relationship is mutually beneficial.

“TCC have been really good to us,” Miles says. “So we focus on sites they may not be able to get to. We’re grateful for Council’s support.”

To date, the Townsville Envite crews have worked on projects with Council, James Cook University, Wildlife Surrounds Conservation Centre, Magnetic Island Nature Care Association (MINCA), and the Rockwheelers Mountain Bike Club.

“We may feel hot, dirty, and uncomfortable in the heat and humidity of the day, but there’s a real legacy we’re leaving here,” Miles says. “We’ll come back to these places in years to come and know we helped them recover. We look after each other, and we look after the projects.”

Envite Environment are one of 20 local partners in the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters. Learn more about them here or follow their Facebook page for upcoming recruitment opportunities coming up in January.

This Skilling Queenslanders for Work project is proudly funded by the Queensland Government.