On 8th March we celebrate' the contribution of women on International Womens Day. Across our beautiful city are the stories of women making a difference to the green spaces where Melburnians connect with nature. Today, on International Women’s Day, we recognise and celebrate the contribution of women and female-identifying changemakers to the restoration of these spaces, both in the broader urban conservation community and along the banks of our much-loved Merri Creek.

Amy waterbug censusWomen play a critical role in the protection and restoration of green spaces across Australia, a truth that is understood by our friends at the annual Women in Conservation breakfast and Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia (WELA). Women bring a unique perspective at every level of conservation, whether through the keen eyes of a scientist, the engaging voice of an environmental educator or the leadership of a philanthropist who supports this work. The social impact of biodiversity and habitat loss are felt by women just as they are by others, which is why it’s essential that women and female-identifying people contribute equally in the solution to those problems.

Here at Merri Creek Management Committee, we benefit not only from women in leadership – including our Executive Officer Bernadette Thomas, our President (and 2022 OAM recipient) Ann McGregor and our former Manager Luisa Macmillan – but also from women leading behaviour change through environmental education programs and women doing the hands-on work of ecological restoration. Thirty-seven percent of our Ecological Restoration Team, who work in the field planting and weeding the Merri Creek corridor, are women: a percentage that is driven by inclusive workplace culture and which Bernadette Thomas says sets us apart from most bush crews.

“This percentage highlights our leadership in facing the challenges women have faced – and still face – in outdoor careers, which were once traditionally out of reach for women due to the competing demands of family roles, and the hours and work practices of conventional bush crews.”

Women well represented in Australian environmental leadership

While the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reports that only 19.4% of CEOs Australia-wide are women, a number of key Australian environmental organisations are led by women: CEO’s of Bush Heritage Australia, Environmental Leadership Australia, Trust for Nature, The Nature Conservancy Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation are currently women.

The value that female-identifying people bring to conservation is also demonstrated in the essential work delivered at a local and volunteer level: Yarra River Keepers and Chain of Ponds (a Moonee Ponds Creek collaboration) are led by women, as are many of the Friends-of groups that Merri Creek Management Committee works in partnership with.

As you walk along the Merri Creek today, or perhaps as you join with others who help to care for the Creek, stop to celebrate the difference that you and your fellow Merri Creek supporters, have made to our precious waterway, and to the creatures and Melburnians that find nourishment along its banks.