In 1974 as a child I visited Mon Repos turtle rookery near Bundaberg with my family. I returned with my husband, Dr David Manning, an environmental scientist and on each I witnessed different impacts – from foxes digging up nests, increased light pollution, marine debris on beaches and climate change. These problems presented new challenges to scientists and park rangers. They trapped foxes, began relocating eggs and shading nests and new town planning laws were implemented to reduce light pollution. All these measures were aimed at increasing the turtle’s survival rate. However, the biggest impact was from marine debris, causing death from ingesting plastic or by entanglement. I personally couldn’t halt climate change or stop foxes, but I could raise awareness about the effect plastic litter has on turtles and encourage others to prevent plastic from entering waterways. That’s how my passion became my purpose.
On Boxing Day December, 2015 my husband and I decided to get some exercise and go for a paddle in the lake that seemed so clean with just the odd plastic bottle or two. We hadn’t gone far before we noticed all the litter that lurked just below the surface, making us realise that our pristine lake was no longer clean. We removed over 14 garbage bags of litter – mostly tin cans, plastic water bottles, flavoured milk, coffee cups as well as huge amounts of polystyrene, large and small plastic bags. The opportunity to go and do something proactive made us feel rejuvenated. The lakes were looking sparkling again, but it was only short lived, as the builders returned once the Christmas/New Year period ended and soon after it rained the drains fed more waste into the lake.
Our suburb’s drains were stamped with the message “DUMP NO WASTE – ALL DRAINS LEAD TO CREEK”.

Opossum Creek journeyed through the suburb and fed into Woogaroo Creek before flowing into Brisbane River where it eventually found it’s way into our RAMSAR Listed Moreton Bay. Unsuspecting loggerhead turtles were feeding on jellyfish and inadvertently ingesting the plastic or becoming entangled in our human waste.
I began doing eco-friendly walks to keep the litter from entering the drains. It was a never ending cycle picking up the litter from the foreshore and without access to the building site, the litter continually blew or washed into the lakes. I decided that I could do more, so I established a “Clean Up Australia Day” event in March 2015 with the developer, Council and Conservation Council QLD and 385 kg of rubbish was removed from in and around the lakes.
I wanted people to help clean up all year round, so I established a Facebook page “Pickup 3 Save me” where I posted photos / articles / videos about litter and marine debris impact on turtles. The aim was to prevent today’s litter from entering the lake and becoming Tomorrow’s problem. Residents joined into help collect litter, plogging as they went for walks, or kayaking. Children realised they could help by doing one small thing to make a difference and picked up litter going to school and became part of #PollutionSolution. In 2016 I wrote “Turtle Needs Help” and partnered with a catchment group to apply for a grant to produce it in an effort to encourage people to be proactive and pick up plastic litter to save our turtles. The book was purchased by schools and libraries all over Australia.
However, what I really wanted was some helpers, so in 2017 Springfield Lakes Nature Care Inc : a Land and water Care group was formed. I’d felt overwhelmed about setting up a new group but with the help of my husband and like-minded residents it wasn’t a chore, it was fun and exciting. It gave me a new purpose and direction. I found a whole new group of people who were also interested in the environment. Our group actively participates in litter clean ups and in 2018 we had 200 helpers and collected 9 cubic metres of builder’s waste. Together we have completed some significant projects, receiving corporate grants to install nesting boxes for gliders to improve habitat and eradicate pest species such as toads from our sediment ponds. The group has made many new partnerships with other environmental groups to help our flora & fauna. We find learning from each other keeps our group and community fresh and interested in caring for our environment. We have grown from 6 core people to a group of 45 members.

Our group was nominated for the Healthy Land and Water Environmental Guardian Award, although we didn’t win, I did receive the volunteer of the year award and that made me feel like the entire 3 years of voluntary work was worthwhile.

Audio produced by Gretchen Miller, sound engineering by Judy Rapley.

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