Volunteers help our city blossom

20 May 2024

About 1000 volunteers bring their unique skills and passions to City of Melbourne every year through a range of events and programs.

They’re a diverse bunch – speaking more than 30 languages and aged between 18 and 91.

There are many volunteer opportunities where you might see their friendly faces, including: Visitor Services, Libraries, International Student Program, Neighbourhood Engagement Program, Neighbourhood Activity Program, our Premier events such as Firelight Festival, and Gardens for Wildlife.

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we spoke to one of our Garden Guides from the Gardens for Wildlife program who provides free advice to City of Melbourne residents and businesses on how they can create wildlife-friendly habitats in their spaces.

Meet Seema from the Gardens for Wildlife program 

One bee hotel-making workshop was all it took for Seema’s green thumb to be firmly planted in the Gardens for Wildlife program.  

Now, 18 months later, Seema’s botanic expertise continues to grow as a Garden Guide, a role that nurtures her lifelong passion for gardens and greenery.  

“For 26 years I was a teacher in India. It was a high-rise career, and I had my own lab. But my passion was always in botany and plants,” she said.  

Now a proud Southbank resident, Seema finds great joy in expanding her volunteering ecosystem – she is also a part of the Southbank Sustainability Group.  

“I laugh and say I’m a serial volunteer. Jumping from one position to another, and I keep adding on to my list. Even now my friends back home are amazed by all the things I do,” she said.

Three people standing in front of planter beds smile side-by-side
Seema and her fellow green thumbs in the Southbank Sustainability Group

A former associate professor in biochemistry, Seema sees volunteering as a fantastic way to keep her mind and body busy in retirement.   

“Not everybody can go to the gym, not everyone is made for it – like me. The Gardens for Wildlife program is a great way to keep active and learn new things. Every single opportunity that there is, such as a workshop or speaker night, I take,” she said.  

The Gardens for Wildlife volunteers meet twice fortnightly to hear from experts such as the our urban ecology team to expand their knowledge about Melbourne’s unique plants and wildlife.  

Volunteers use their expertise to provide free consultations to people living in the City of Melbourne who would like to spruce up their garden space – whether it’s a small apartment balcony or sprawling backyard. 

A butterfly resting on a purple flower.
Garden Guides can create wildlife-friendly spaces no matter the size

For Seema, some visits are especially memorable, including a large project at a local high school last year.  

“They asked six or seven of us volunteers to plan their garden. It was a great learning opportunity for everyone involved – the young students came out and were curious, they wanted to know, ‘What’s this? What’s that?’” 

Opportunities for connection and growth such as this are what keep Seema volunteering. 

“Learning on the job is great and I have a constant hunger to learn. Until recently I didn’t have much knowledge of indigenous and native edible plants. I have learnt a lot from the experienced volunteer guides from our Gardens for Wildlife program who are a constant source of knowledge sharing and learning,” she said.  

Seema’s planting advice for the autumn season?  

“If you want colour then Coreas are doing well. If you want some edible plants, then native mint, Prostanthera, is the way to go.”   

Bio-diversify your space  

Get advice from the Gardens for Wildlife team on how to support local wildlife in your space, request a garden visit

Or join the fun! Volunteer with the City of Melbourne 

Visit Gardens for Wildlife to read top tips or to apply to become a Wildlife Garden Guide. 

Not a green thumb but still interested in volunteering? Explore our other volunteering opportunities.  

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