William Shakespeare once said “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”. Luckily for Canberrans, living in the ‘Bush Capital’ means natural environments are in no short supply.
This spring, Landcare ACT introduces the first ever Canberra Festival of Nature, in celebration of the many native plants, animals and ecosystems that call the region home.
The umbrella-style festival will allow other local volunteer, community and environmental groups to run their own education and conservation events under its banner, each designed to encourage, interest and inspire.
CEO of Landcare ACT, Karissa Preuss says the festival is born out of Floriade’s Australian Native Flowers display, developed by the organisation alongside its supportive partners in 2022.
“Floriade visitors always enjoy seeing spring flowers, but there is also a rich array of native wildflowers in our local region that many Canberrans may not be aware of,” Karissa says.
“This three-month celebration showcases the native beauty of the ACT and activities of over 100 local landcare groups, alongside community supporters like Woden Community Service, ACT for Bees, Molongolo Conversation Group and the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park.
“We have a wide range of different events planned, including guided wildflower and bird walks, family froggy nights, photography, nature and art workshops and more. There’s something to interest anyone and everyone, so we hope to see people from all over the city getting involved.”
Canberra Festival of Nature kicked off with a bang with its Community Day launch in early September. A temporary showcase of sustainable, low-carbon living, the social affair at Whitlam Display Village was a resounding success.
“We had a fantastic Community Day, welcoming some new faces along with familiar ones,” Karissa says.
“Those who attended learnt about waterbugs, native pollinators and snake safety, got their hands dirty in clay construction, shook up some delicious mocktails, and went on a guided wellbeing walk around the pond.”
Canberra Nature Festival will run until the end of November with a different theme and activities each month, starting with September as National Biodiversity Month. Guided weekend nature walks, active landcare duties and native plant sales are planned to promote the festival.
“We are so lucky in the ACT to have incredibly rich biodiversity in our backyard,” Karissa says.
“Black Mountain Nature Reserve alone is home to over 660 species of plants and well over 2000 species of insects, some of which are found nowhere else on earth.
“This biodiverse beauty is open to the public all year round, but you can also join a guided walk run by Friends of Black Mountain. This year marks their 50th annual Spring Ramble, so it’s a great time to start.”
October brings about Mental Health Month, when festival activities are focussed on slowing down a little and spending time being mindful outside.
“Mental Health Month encourages us to think about our mental wellbeing, regardless of whether there is a lived experience of mental illness or not,” Karissa says.
“The scientific evidence is clear – nature is good for you. With our lives increasingly spent inside and online, it’s even more important to take the time to get outdoors and proactively connect with nature in an intentional way.
“That’s why we have focussed on highlighting a really broad range of activities during the festival. It allows people to explore, find something new they enjoy, and hopefully deepen their own understanding of nature.”
To wrap up the festival, November plays host to more specific observances such as Frog ID Week (3-12 November) and Pollinator Week (11-19 November), which Karissa says outline the importance of amphibian and insect species to local ecosystems.
“During Frog ID Week you can make an important contribution to our understanding of frog species by recording the unique sounds they make through a free mobile app. This helps us measure species’ health and distribution as they adapt to our rapidly changing environment.
“For Pollinator Week, we encourage you to sign up for the Australian Pollinator Count. Australia is home to over 2000 species of native bees, and together with the European honey bee they are essential for food, fibre, fodder and forest pollination.”
The Canberra Festival of Nature will run throughout spring 2023.
Community Day was generously hosted by Woden Community Service, which also provides the ACT with a range of programs, from child and aged care to youth engagement and NDIS services.