Having helped to build houses for HIV/AIDS victims in Uganda as part of his Gold Award, 25 year old Australian David Speirs wanted to support his local community and help tackle problems they were having with the local, Lower Field River.

Tackling the issue

Along with just seven local people, David set about to restore the fortunes of the badly polluted Lower River Field, an 11 km river running through South East Adelaide. By engaging support from people across the local community, in just three years, this once poisoned stretch of water with a severely damaged ecosystem has been transformed into a healthy, natural resource. 

Previously one of Adelaide’s best natural resources and an attractive feature, the river had become a dumping ground for rubbish and toxic waste. The environmental degradation of its banks had led to the loss of several species of plants and animals with invasive, damaging trees occupying its surrounding areas. Thanks to a major awareness raising campaign and resources raised by David and the Friends of Lower Field River (FOLFR), a significant conservation project is now in place and native trees and plants have been able to grow again with birds and other wildlife returning to the area.

Spreading the word

Championing a public awareness campaign for the project, David and other members of the group produced newsletters, held public meetings and launched a website. Their efforts have had a major impact in spreading the word in the local community and the project has now benefitted from over 300 volunteers supporting the work. The initial group of organisers has grown to around 70 active members who also participate in the conservation projects carried out by FOLFR. 

Engaging with the Government was key to the project’s success and David played a key role in securing funds through drafting proposals and applying for grants. His efforts were so successful, FOLFR have managed to secure further support for the project to continue and expand the work on the Lower Field River.

David Greenhough, Chair of FOLFR is delighted with what David has achieved. He said: “David has focused on getting the community involved in the group, so that it has much wider involvement than just the small group which started the work. He has written many articles for local newspapers and the Internet, and written our newsletters.”

Commenting on what he has gained from the experience, David said:

“Being involved in Friends of the Lower Field River has been a fantastic experience. I have got to know my neighbours, I have got to understand what drives the community in which I live and most importantly I’ve been able to help transform a piece of forgotten land in Adelaide’s suburbia, creating a revitalised environment to hand on to future generations.”

David has received numerous awards for his involvement in founding Friends of the Lower Field River. The project formed David’s Service section of his Gold Award.