Retirees Go Back to Nature With Their Savings
Wednesday, 13th March 2019 at 5:22 pm
While many retired Australians show their appreciation for the bush by travelling through it in a caravan, Terry and Caroline Bellair decided to take a different path, gifting $1 million to a charity to help conserve it.
The couple’s donation to Bush Heritage has helped the charity to purchase a 203 hectare block of land in central Victoria, adding to a longstanding project to connect remnant patches of bush between Wedderburn and the Kara Kara National Park.
With 83 per cent of Victoria’s temperate woodlands cleared since settlement, Bush Heritage’ Victorian reserves manager, Jeroen van Veen, told Pro Bono News restoring this particular property was a priority, due to the high value native vegetation which remained.
“There’s a lot of potential to have all its natural processes restored, which means animals [can] breed, discover new territory, and find sufficient food sources, and [means] plants can have genetic diversity to be healthy and to spread their seed around,” van Veen said.
The Bellairs had initially decided to give the donation in their will, but following a visit to the property, wanted to spend the money while they were still alive.
“What really spoke to me was the lovely big trees. You could see everything regenerating and could imagine what it would be like,” Caroline said.
“Now we can go and wander over and hopefully follow the management over the years.”
She told Pro Bono News they were inspired to donate the gift because they both could see the environment was desperately in need of help.
“It’s partly because of climate change, partly because of land clearing, partly because of weeds and feral animals, but you can see it breaking down before your eyes and it seemed critical to do something,” she said.
Terry also said that because of their comfortable financial position, it was only right to give back to a cause they cared about.
“We were aware that Bush Heritage needs to be able to obtain funding to do its work, and so we fortunately have worked hard and invested well and we’d like to give something back,” Terry told Pro Bono News.
A number of conservation groups, including The Nature Conservancy in Australia, have encouraged Australian philanthropists to “step up” on funding issues around the environment and conservation.
Van Veen said the consequences of the current levels of biodiversity collapsing in Australia would affect everyone, and should be considered as the number one issue for the philanthropic sector.
“I would encourage all philanthropic trusts and donors to have a serious look at this particular issue and look at what they can do about it,” he said.
“There are quite a lot of organisations that are looking for philanthropic partners to progress their cause, and we really need to work together as one in this field to achieve what needs to be achieved.”
Bush Heritage has worked closely with stakeholders in the region, including the Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners, Trust for Nature and Parks Victoria, and has acquired 1,569 hectares of land to protect and restore flora and fauna habitat.
Terry said both him and Caroline were confident their money would be put to good use.
“This will ensure the land doesn’t fall into the hands of people that aren’t going to respect our values of conservation,” he said.
“We’re very confident that the way the property is being managed and run, and the enthusiastic people that work at and with Bush Heritage, will ensure these properties remain in perpetuity.”