FOR the past 14 years Nowra resident Charlie Weir has been growing and planting mangroves and trees along the Shoalhaven River.
In that time he has taken boatloads of young people under his wing and taught them the importance of looking after the region’s estuaries and waterways.
Now this project into which he has poured his heart has been taken up by the government employment training initiative, National Green Jobs Corps.
The Learn the Ways of the Mangrove Man program is proving a popular and successful collaboration between the YWCA, Riverwatch and the Catchment Management Authority.
National Green Jobs Corps team leader Felicity Pinkard said the Learn the Ways of the Mangrove Man project aimed to assist in re-establishing the traditional role of local Aboriginal people as coastal custodians.
“The focus of the project is to provide participants with skills in how to protect and enhance coastal estuaries and aquatic habitats.
“These participants also have the opportunity to receive accredited skills in occupational health and safety and a Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management,” she said.
Green Jobs Corps is a government funded initiative designed to train young people and improve their employment opportunities through learning social and practical skills that are transferable to other industries.
The Mangrove Man himself said he sees it as a way of “getting the kids interested in what the future is for them concerning the river”.
Mr Weir has created a legacy that will not only last well after he is gone, but will continue to improve the health of the river as more time that passes.
While he is not handing over the baton yet, he is laying the groundwork for the next generation in the next few years.
“I’ve done my time and I’ve got to start slowing down now.
“People know me and that tells me people are taking notice and showing an interest.
“When I look at all those trees and mangroves I feel very excited. It’s satisfying. I feel as though I have almost completed things.
“It makes me feel really good to get others involved and I couldn’t have done what I have without the help of groups like Riverwatch and CMA.
“People from all over Australia have come to have a look.
“When I’m going to [Pig] island if there’s someone with me they ask who planted all those trees and I tell them I did. They’re always amazed, they can’t believe it.
“The first trees would be 30 feet tall now and more than 10 years old and there’s a lot of them, they’re as thick as hairs on a cat’s back in places,” he said.
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