A Hume local on how simple acts of kindness can save our environment

Published on 28 July 2023

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Gillian Hume is intimately connected to the local area...in name and in nature. 

Much of Gillian’s 70 years have been spent as a passionate environmentalist - long before the more recent concerns about the climate have caused more and more people to call for action. 

As a resident of Sunbury, Gillian understands urbanisation and change more than most, and recalls how in the 70s “the first instance of climate change was a concern, and even at that stage seeing the impact the lack of regulation had on the environment – there was the inklings of it.” 

While Gillian’s been concerned for a long time about what she calls a “critical point” for the future of our planet, she can see the struggle that comes with being a 21st century eco-warrior. 

“It’s the pot calling the kettle black (complaining about development) because I bought a house here to be closer to my family. 

“I think that Hume Council has done a lot of really good things (when building the area), but I think the developers make a huge amount of money for very little community contribution.” 

The point about whether our everyday efforts as individuals are a match for the power of development is one Gillian keeps coming back to – and she understands at times it can feel like we’re losing ground. 

National Tree Day on Sunday 30 July, which began in 1996, is a chance for Australians to get out and “do their bit” for the environment by planting trees. 

Gillian is a big supporter of the day but recognises the enormity of what we need to achieve. 

“(National Tree Day) is critically important, and having people being able to contribute is really important,” she says. 

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“I guess the concern is people come and plant some trees and think they’ve done their bit. Which they have, there’s just so much that we really need to do.” 

While it’s a popular day because of “the families that come,” Gillian says, “and having children in nature is vital for their development and for their connection to the land.” 

However, one thing she does wish was more popular is the ongoing needs of the planted trees. 

“The critical thing is that people love to plant but we need to make sure the trees can grow to be mature, so they need maintenance over time.  

“People need to understand that trees get planted and you put tree guards and things on them, but you need maintenance for the trees that die or outgrow their guards,” which Gillian gets out and does whenever she can. 

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So, what is an individual’s responsibility in keeping our environment clean and making sure we have enough trees? Where can people find the time? And are we to blame? 

Gillian thinks we can go a little easy on ourselves. 

“I think the biggest concern is that individuals like myself have been made to feel responsible that it’s happening as if it’s our fault,” she says. 

“And there’s no doubt that we contribute, but big business, big corporations, government have to be incredibly proactive and support giving back to our environment.” 

So, where does that leave us on an individual level?  

While Gillian would love to see more tree maintenance by the regular tree planters among us, she reassures us that the everyday acts truly are valued. 

“There’s so many things people can do Hume wide, such as limiting food waste and avoiding plastic. 

“Very often people feel it’s so overwhelming, what they do doesn't matter. But every single act of kindness to nature and taking care of the environment does make a difference. 

“Planting a few trees, a few flowers in your garden will create change. Any small thing makes a difference to the person who’s done it, and the place that it is done.” 

And for those that can’t, Gillian says there is a way to help the environment without getting dirty. 

“Be happy. Be kind. Look after people. When people are taken care of and receive kindness they’re not as likely to destroy things.” 

If you'd like to follow Gillian’s lead you can organise a garden visit with Council's Gardens for Wildlife to find out what you can do to help nature at your place.

Find out more about Hume City Council’s National Tree Day events.