Outside the Classroom: Bellbunya Eco Retreat and Sustainability Community
For my conservation project, I volunteered at Bellbunya Eco Retreat and Sustainability Community on the Sunshine Coast approximately two hours north of Brisbane. This property lies between the West Cooroy State Forest and the Mapleton Forest Reserve, making it a vital corridor needed to link these two existing natural habitats. One of Bellbunya’s hopes is to help koalas by planting trees that will give them cover and allow them to have more suitable habitats to live in. Not only do we hope to aid koalas, but also the many other native species, including platypus, sugar gliders, echidnas, possums, bandicoots, and a diverse number of fish, frogs, birds, and fauna. In order to protect these habitats, Bellbunya has started a project in which invasive weeds are cleared and native species are planted to encourage the regeneration of the rainforest. Furthermore, to protect the environment, Bellbunya uses entirely organic methods such as clearing the weeds without the use of any chemical sprays.
Throughout our two weeks, we managed to clear large areas of weeds and planted over 650 trees. It was amazing being able to go out there and to be rewarded with the sight of how much we were able to accomplish each day. We even got to see a swimming platypus, a rare sighting that represented what we had been able to achieve since one had not been seen in that creek for quite a long time.
Furthermore, I got to experience what it was like to live in a community where a group of individuals voluntarily came together to support a greater cause. The people of Bellbunya decided to live together and to share their resources in order to try to create a more sustainable way of life. They practice such methods as collecting rainwater to drink, growing food in their own garden, and using solar panels for energy. They eat mostly vegetarian because it’s lower on the food chain and saves resources. And even when they do eat meat, they only eat free-range meat to avoid any ethical issues that come with the meat industry. It was an eye-opening change to be around people who were constantly conscious of their impact on the world and who wanted to do their part in not wasting our precious resources.
After volunteering and living at Bellbunya for two weeks, I got to explore even more of Australia by traveling the east coast from Cairns to Sydney. It was an adventure where I had amazing experiences, such as white water rafting through World Heritage rainforests, swimming with manta rays on the Great Barrier Reef, and taking a sunset cruise to see the iconic Sydney Opera House. It was definitely an experience that I will never forget and one that I will appreciate for the rest of my life.