Urban Bushlands Initiative - From the Ground Up

See how the Urban Bushland Initiative is revegetating urban spaces in Melbourne’s west, while connecting communities and creating a habitat for native flora and fauna.

Audio described version

[Soft music and muffled chatter. A group of people stand around a marquee on the grass, with Urban Bushland Initiative signage and banners.]

[Close-up of Alex Paporakis and Raveena Grace standing behind a table under the marquee.]

Alex Paporakis: [To Grace] Oh, we got a family. Wow, we’re really doing well.

Raveena Grace: Nice work!

Alex: Thanks!

[Alex and Raveena high-five. A woman escorts a toddler carrying a pot with a plant in it. Alex instructs a group of volunteers.]

Alex: There’s big holes. You’ll be guided toward them. And then there’ll be a bunch of little plants that we’ll be doing as well. And if at any point you want to have some coffee, go nuts!

[A man makes a coffee at the marquee. The scene cuts back to Alex talking to a volunteer.]

Alex: And we’ve got someone down there making sure that there aren’t groups of the same species in the same areas as well. So nice, we’ll keep it biodiverse.

[Volunteers carry pots down a grassy hill. A sign with a bird perched on top reads, "Native revegetation in progress". Close-up of Alex planting a tree.]
[On-screen text: Alex Paporakis – Urban Bushland Initiative, President & Founder]

Alex: Urban Bushland came from a phone call I had with my mate after Black Summer. I said to him, “Hey, let’s plant a million trees, cause why not, you know?” I emailed the Mayor of Moonee Valley at the time, and she was really excited. We had a meeting about it and she introduced me to the conservation team. And so it just kind of went from there. It just kept snowballing, I guess, and keeps doing so.

[Large groups of volunteers plant trees on a grassy hill]

Alex: I had very little idea about what conservation is. You know, to me a tree was a tree. So it was really interesting to learn that there’s more than just eucalypts. But even though we don’t have the training and that knowledge base, because we’re so enthusiastic about trying to make that difference, a lot of knowledgeable people are willing to help out and will offer a lot of services. Which is really important, because without it I don’t think we’d be able to operate as efficiently as we do.

[Groups of people carry equipment out of a yellow trailer, branded with the City of Maribyrnong council logo]

Alex: Urban spaces are some of the most neglected areas. And to us, the big focus is on getting as much revegetation as possible in Melbourne, in a way that’s conscious of locals. It’s super exciting when we get people down here who I’ve seen after knocking on their door and they’re excited to be a part of it. Because if they get to plant the tree, they get to watch that tree grow and then they get to see all the benefits to the area, and they get to watch it thrive.

[Close-up of female volunteer.]
[On-screen text: Judy Thu – Planting Volunteer]

Judy Thu: Two weeks ago, Alex knocked on my door, and then he gave me a brochure, saying, “Oh, there’s an event. Now we’re going to grow some plants around this area.” I said, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” It’s so good that all the young people, the kids and the families are getting together, doing great work for our community.

[Large groups of people, including young children, transport and plant seedlings]

Judy: It makes the neighborhood, all the people living around this area, aware about the environment, and all the activity and events that we can join. And we can get together as a good community to make our environment safer, healthier and beautiful.

[Close-up of Raveena Grace planting a tree]
[On-screen text: Raveena Grace – Urban Bushland Initiative, Vice President]

Raveena Grace: When we have put this effort into promoting it and we see so many people, A, coming, but B, interested in actually wanting to get their hands dirty and plant tree, it is so exciting. We try and target the local area because we do want that community to come back and maybe look after the plants later on, or have a look at what they’ve contributed to in where they’re living. So we’ve put some posters in cafes, in libraries, and the council and friends groups have promoted it as well.

[Close up of cafe counter, where a poster reads "Native tree planting", followed by a Maribyrnong City Council "Community planting" sign pointing to the Urban Bushlands Initiative marquee.]

Raveena: Our first planting day was mostly the older generations, which was still great, still amazing, but over the time we’ve kind of learnt how to engage with young people in a way that they want to be engaged with. So for example, our Instagram reels, we try and include some fun music and we try and showcase the youth in our reels.

[Close-up of Raveena filming the planting day with her smartphone. Groups of people mill about the coffee machine at the marquee, and grab sandwiches from the tables]

Raveena: And we provide free coffee and food! [laughs] So I think that entices young people for sure. We all kind of know that we’re in a bit of a global climate and ecological crisis. So it’s really important that we look at sustainability as everyone has a role, and that we look at sustainability in a positive way – that we can make it fun, we can get our friends involved, we can do our bit to help the world.

[Groups of people sit and chat while making tree guards]

Raveena: Really important to plant in urban areas, because they have been the most impacted and the most neglected. A lot of people live in inner suburbs and there’s not a lot of greenery around them. So when you revegetate urban areas it’s important to make it the best that it can be.

[Scenes of the tree planting area, showing a river, rows of newly-planted trees and houses and low-rise apartments in the background.]

Alex: Walking through here in 20 years’ time, we’re hoping it’ll feel like you’re out in the bush. Even if it is 100 metres from someone’s home. And that’s because the community has come together to make it so. And if we can show how we can transform neglected spaces into some semblance of what they once were, then we can show that the damage we’ve caused is absolutely reversible. We can bring back the wildlife, we can bring back the flora, and we can make a difference.

[Melbourne Water logo]
[On-screen text: melbournewater.com.au]

[On-screen text: This event was funded by the Victorian Government, to encourage more young people to get involved in environmental volunteering.]

[Victoria State Government logo and Victorian Landcare Program logo]

[End of transcript]