3 minute read

Groundswell | May 2021

Australian Ecosystems: The perfect breeding ground for future leaders

In April, Australian Ecosystems received the 2020 Employer of the Year Award for Nurseries, from Holmesglen TAFE. Discover why their nursery is the perfect breeding ground for future horticultural leaders.

Australian Ecosystems is a multi-pronged organisation that provides full-scale landscaping services including a nursery, construction and maintenance arms, and residential design services.

The crown jewel of our operations is our nursery, which has been working for 23 years to preserve and propagate native and locally indigenous plants for the Greater Melbourne region. Initially focusing on providing aquatic plants for wetlands to improve the ecology of Port Philip Bay, Australian Ecosystems now grows millions of plants per year including aquatic and terrestrial native plants; as well as more recently branching out into ornamental and landscape lines for residential landscapers.

Despite this diversity, we stay true to our roots in ecological restoration, and have very skilled staff that are passionate about plants that are locally indigenous to the areas we work in. Our seed collection teams gather seed from multiple populations across Victoria, which enables us to grow plants to the provenance of the site they will be planted in. This allows us to help preserve the genetic diversity within species and ensures that the plants we send out will be ultimately suited to their final environment.

As we are a vertically integrated landscaping company, staff get the satisfaction of seeing plants they have raised from seed make their way to eventual planting by our construction and maintenance teams in sustainable landscapes across Victoria. We all share in and celebrate our various projects, particularly more high-profile ones such as sustainable housing estate The Cape in Cape Paterson, and our work on future rooftop farm in the CBD, Melbourne Skyfarm.

Passing down and sharing information and techniques for plant propagation and cultivation is vital to ensure healthy environments into the future. This is increasingly important as remnant native vegetation is continually reducing, and biodiversity in cities and rural areas faces increasing threats due to climate change. As such, we are passionate about educating the next generation of horticulturalists, through our relationships with institutions such as Holmesglen TAFE.

We aim to develop future leaders in horticulture by providing ‘hands-on’ training from our highly qualified and experienced staff. Visiting students appreciate that they can see the full lifecycle of plants at our nursery, from seed collection, to cleaning and storage, to growing on into a final product.

We provide professional training across a wide variety of tasks to assist them developing a diverse skill set. Education is an integral steppingstone into the industry, which is built upon with hands-on experience in a professional organisation that supports training, workplace health and safety, a strong teamwork culture, and further workplace development.

Our nursery is a great place to visit and work as we are focused on continually appreciating and improving our team culture. We offer professional development training and hold regular educational events for our staff and industry. We foster a strong team-working spirit and celebrate the diverse backgrounds of our staff by hosting regular ‘feast days’ to commemorate birthdays and cultural events. It is very important to us to provide a culture of support, communication, and mentorship; and we assist staff with HR and mental health initiatives. We also have a strong focus on workplace health and safety and ensure that all staff are trained and hold regular toolbox meetings to address any issues. We welcome change and encourage input from our staff to further improve methods and processes.

Horticulture is a unique industry, as it is fundamental to our everyday environments as well as the food that we eat. Green spaces in cities are increasingly appreciated, and there is much work to be done to improve ecological outcomes in Victoria. As such, the field of horticulture is very diverse and constantly evolving; there are many avenues of employment and innovation to pursue. Horticulture is an inclusive and supportive field for people of all ages and backgrounds; and can be integral to a diverse range of careers from trades to business ownership and corporate roles. We are very proud to work as both an educator and employer for students in this industry, and look forward to working with the future generations of Victoria’s horticulturalists for years to come!

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