#IWD2020 – Celebrating International Women’s Day & Conservation Volunteers’ Amazing Women!

First celebrated in 1911, International Women’s Day falls on March 8 every year and is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is Each for Equal, with a key message of Celebrating women’s achievements and increasing visibility, while calling out inequality.

At Conservation Volunteers, we pride ourselves on providing a workplace culture of equal opportunity for all, at all levels of the organisation. As a conservation organisation, roles can range from full time in the office to alternating between planting trees, running social media pages, managing volunteers and community engagement.

As a registered training organisation, we also provide training opportunities in conservation for people looking to increase their skills and enter the workforce, often from a position of disadvantage. This has included our role as the national delivery agency for Green Corps and Green Army in Australia and the Conservation Work Skills Program in New Zealand.

To showcase the diversity of women within Conservation Volunteers we interviewed three staff members who all take great pride in their work, and their personal and career achievements. They all stress the importance of  education and open, respectful communication as the cornerstones of tackling inequality and enabling everyone, women and men, to achieve their best in the workplace and the wider world.

Kiri with Zane outside the Wellington CVNZ office

Kiri with Zane outside the Wellington CVNZ office


Kiri Ericsson, Conservation Work Skills Team Leader, Wellington NZ

How long have you been with CV and in what roles?

One year.

Describe a typical work day.

I pick up my crew of 10 at 9am, head off to our project for the day until 5pm. The object of my working day is to provide a safe learning environment for all ten participants to learn all things conservation, work skills, life skills, gain confidence, connect to the environment, have fun and learn the importance of health and safety in the workplace. All these skills are essential for our goal of finding everyone employment in a job they are passionate and good at.

What recent achievements in your role at CV are you proud of?

Setting goals with five of our participants to help support them to quit Marijuana. Supporting them through the 12 weeks with phone calls, texts and in person when they were struggling. At the end of the 12-week programme four passed their drug test and the one who failed passed her second test two weeks later. This is a huge barrier for many looking for employment, so I feel proud that they achieved this.

Watching the participants confidence, self-esteem and anxiety slowly disappear over the twelve weeks. By believing in them and not judging their past choices, positive reinforcement, praise and their own hard work, I feel proud and privileged to be a part of their journey. It’s even more rewarding when they gain employment.

What sort of recognition would you like to see in CV for staff achievements?

I have had two amazing managers, Kellie Benner and Natalie Jones, alongside our general manager Aaron Jaggar who have all given me support, praised and compliment me when I do something great, this has helped me grow tremendously and will continue to help me grow. Therefore, I am happy with how my achievements have been recognised.

How would you like to see issues of inequality addressed and overcome in our field of conservation?

Education and support. A workshop could help those who don’t know their words or behaviour reflect inequality. Some sort of workshop could also prevent issues of inequality.

Kiri first joined CVNZ as a volunteer in the Conservation Work Skills Program, when she entered the workforce after raising her family.


Kelly Saunderson

Kelly installing a koala drinking station in rural NSW, which was supplied by Port Macquarie Koala Hospital for the Ballina team’s koala habitat projects

Kelly Saunderson, Casual Bush Regeneration Officer/Team Leader, Ballina NSW

How long have you been with CV and in what roles?

My official title hasn’t changed, but my role has morphed into many other roles. I do anything that’s thrown my way. I started at the Ballina office in Nov 2017, so I’m coming up to 2 ½ years with CVA.

Describe a typical workday.

There is no typical workday! I do a bunch of different things. Some days I’m out digging holes in the dirt, which I love. Some days we’re doing bush regen, some days were doing community planting events, and some days I’m writing e-news and wrestling with Facebook. Other tasks include property inspections, sourcing mulch, and working with the Regional Manager to plan the months ahead. I also do GIS computer mapping of work sites. I like the variety, because I get bored if there’s not a thousand things going on.

What recent achievements in your role at CV are you proud of?

I’m a bit in love with our landscape planting project at Alstonville Creek because of all the nesting birds at the site, in particular the community of Buff-banded Rails who made homes amongst the weedy grasses. The biggest challenge at this site was to restore the area without impacting on nesting bird habitat. Staging the planting works and retaining habitat refuges was key for this project. The birds are still there, enjoying new habitat. I’ve also been pretty stoked to get social media and e-news up and running for the Ballina office, and how it has resulted in new volunteer sign ups – I pushed that a lot and it’s great to see it paying off.

What sort of recognition would you like to see in CV for staff achievements?

In our office we have a photo wall of pics taken during work days on site, around the office and also of ingenious things staff and volunteers have come up with – having these visible reminds of all the good things we do together every time we see it.

We could have an achievement board in Seedbank to recognise achievements large and small, the equivalent of a CV-wide photo wall.

Can you give me an example of an instance in where you have witnessed and/or called out gender bias in the field of conservation?

One of my first jobs in conservation was as a Bushland and Wetland Officer at a council in Western Sydney, working out of a large depot. This was about 15 years ago. Of the 400 or so staff in that depot, I’d say close to 395 of them were men. The first day on the job I walked into the store to pick up my uniform and tools. Behind the counter was a bunch of nudie pics of women from Playboy type magazines. I went to try on the uniform and there was wall to wall nude photos in the change rooms. I was totally outnumbered and felt very uncomfortable, so it took me a while to work up the courage, but I told the boss the pictures should come down because sexual photos are not appropriate in the workplace. They did take them all down and I was the most unpopular person for about 3 weeks.

My male workmates were offended, but after I spoke with them and used the example of how it would be if they walked into their workplace and were confronted with photos naked men, they began to understand why it was a problem.

Something I still see is that it can take women longer to earn respect in the workplace – we do have to work harder to get respect. I think in CVA we do a pretty good job of it, there’s so many women, and I love working with my male colleagues. Times have changed, but we still need to challenge silent expectations of gender roles.

How would you like to see issues of inequality addressed and overcome in our field of conservation?

These silent expectations are one of the biggest challenges I see daily on women and men – as an example, the expectation that my male colleague knows how to fix the brush-cutter and the augur, or that I know how to make a cake for volunteers. We need to have conversations about our expectations, talking it through openly with colleagues rather than staying silent.


Linda Fahle

Linda pitching in to the vital task of sorting marine debris during the Curtis Island Clean Up

Linda Fahle, Central Queensland Manager, Gladstone QLD

How long have you been with CV and in what roles?

I initially started with CVA as a team leader in Gladstone back in 2011. I was managing a Green Corps team on a huge reveg project, with only some youth work and growing up on a farm experience under my belt. I had volunteered with CVA previously and have always loved the bush.  This was only a short-term role as we were about to go camping around Australia for 12 months. I came back to CVA in in 2015 for a ‘tree change’ after a few years managing residential facilities for child protection. Since then I have worked as a Green Army Supervisor, Gladstone Regional Manager and now as the Central QLD Manager.

Describe a typical workday.

There’s no typical day at CVA! A combo of meetings at the office, at partner organisation offices and site visits to chat with staff and volunteers make up my working days. Progressing projects, checking everything’s tracking ok and taking phone calls from field staff are all key parts of my role as a manager, and being office based means I meet with walk in volunteers as they come in and carry out volunteer inductions. Flexibility is key as the day can change very quickly – from reporting deadlines to urgent requests and spontaneous face to face meetings, my role is always giving something interesting.

What recent achievements in your role at CV are you proud of?

I’m pretty chuffed about getting us set up in a new office. Through having strong local community networks and relationships we were asked to share an office space with 5 other not for profits, creating a community hub for Gladstone. The organisation setting up the office space invited us to share the space, which shows a strong recognition of the value for CVA in the Central Queensland region. The Gladstone office is now saving money on rent that can be spent on delivering local projects that benefit the community and the environment.

Project-wise, the Curtis Island Clean Up was a great achievement – it was the first major event I had ever organised, and was a big success with participants. We delivered great outcomes for the local environment and we’re now planning the next one for later this year!

What sort of recognition would you like to see in CV for staff achievements?

Everywhere else I’ve worked we’ve always had an annual/biannual get together/staff party. It’d be great to have an awards night for CV, or better yet a two-day conference to share stories, challenges and achievements. It could also be an avenue for peer support and professional development. What we – CVA – do is important and worthwhile, and deserves recognition.

As a suggestion, for all the projects and funding awarded, 5% goes towards team building and internal relationship development. To show we value our staff, what we do, and build our professionalism. This will also show our funding bodies that we value the staff who deliver their projects, supporting them to be their best

On a smaller scale – I work well with pats on the back. A good job should be recognised, even with a small email from management. Encouraging staff to take on more responsibility if they want to, and a chance to be included. Different staff have different skills to offer, we’ve all got unique skill sets that complement each other and it’d be great to have more opportunities to work together more collaboratively. Staff generally seem to see taking the time to get to know their colleagues as a luxury, but it should be the norm.

Can you give me an example of an instance in where you have witnessed and/or called out gender bias in the field of conservation?

Interestingly, I’ve noticed gender bias from other women – if you become more assertive and push for outcomes when managing situations, it can be seen as bossy or pushy. It can result in getting rude comments and also being derided as too emotional. There’s been times when I’m having a down day, and it’s been dismissed as me just being too sensitive. Women get called bitchy when we’re making tough decisions and having hard conversations. But when a bloke does it, he’s seen as being responsible, and men can get taken more seriously than women.

Having said that, it’s too easy to fall in the trap of gendered language even for women – we need to check ourselves and our language to ensure we’re not treating others in ways we don’t like being treated.

How would you like to see issues of inequality addressed and overcome in our field of conservation?

By recognising the importance of being able to openly raise issues – when you’re confident in your role and position, it’s so much easier to call out bad behaviour. If you’re in a safe place, you feel like you can assert yourself and call out crap.

If you feel valuable you will speak up – it comes back to the importance of communication and relationships between colleagues and management. Taking the time and resources to build a solid workplace culture can be thought of as a luxury, but it should be the norm.


Conservation Volunteers employees 140 staff in Australia and New Zealand, and 57% of our employees are women. With a 38-year history, we are proud of the range of career opportunities for women in both operational and management roles. Equality is embedded in our workplace culture, from external recruitment to internal promotions, our number one priority is getting the right person for the job.

In addition to our wonderful staff, we have amazing women who volunteer with us across Australia and New Zealand. We’re deeply thankful for their energy, enthusiasm and participation in everything we do.

We are delighted to have such amazingly talented and passionate people doing extraordinary work every day, and that is a success we celebrate.

For more information about International Women’s Day 2020 and the ‘Each for Equal’ campaign, head to: internationalwomensday.com