Dr Liz Fenwick recently retired from the EcoCentre’s Committee of Management. Here she reflects on her decade at EcoCentre and what she’s learnt.
Liz became a member of the EcoCentre board in 2012. “I was looking make a difference by joining the board of an environmental group. I was very concerned about climate change. I have a PhD in biochemistry, so the EcoCentre’s unique combination of education, science and biodiversity sparked my interest. Plus it’s a local organisation as I lived in Elwood.”
At the beginning of Liz’s EcoCentre journey, the plan for a brand new purpose built EcoCentre was a seed of an idea. “We were just starting to make enquiries… We campaigned for the building for so long, and during the two years of the pandemic with the bleak financial outlook, we forged on. So to finally be successful, I felt such relief and elation. It was a huge boost for the EcoCentre and this injected lots of optimism for the future.”
For Liz, the EcoCentre was her first major foray into a not-for-profit organisation. “It was a learning experience because I came from a commercial and scientific background, from working in aviation, health, veterinary and marketing… I felt it important to offer perspectives.”
Liz is a Fellow of the AICD (Australian Institute of Company Directors) and her strategic planning skills were vital. “Strategic planning is a checkpoint. It makes you stop and check your history, and it makes you look at what has worked. What’s your mission? You have to look at how the world is changing, what’s happening, what are the opportunities, and move ahead with those in mind.”
EcoCentre Executive Officer April Seymore remembers the early days when Liz joined the committee: “From risk mitigation to lifting our aspirations, over ten years Liz helped shape four strategic plans and a lot of organisational growth. And she did it all as a skilled volunteer, and wearing some fabulous colourful suits! It’s been an honour working with Liz.”
Liz considers the key strengths of the EcoCentre to be the local community and the partnership of Port Phillip Council. “Ten years ago the EcoCentre was a small community of members, but it’s grown beyond its location to have a state-wide reach, a global reach, all without losing the community contact. It now boasts a large diversified membership.”
Liz found the Clean Bay Blueprint microplastics research conducted by the EcoCentre to be a highlight of her time, as well as 20th birthday celebrations at the St Kilda Botanic Gardens with 2000 guests. “Because I have a scientific background, I have been very excited about the microplastic research. And it’s also so exciting that the new building will host Australia’s first citizen science laboratory.”
One of the biggest lessons for Liz was understanding the power of volunteers. “The EcoCentre is inclusive, with an open heart and open mind. It welcomes everybody. And it promotes action on climate change. There’s nothing like acting to reduce levels of hopelessness and anxiety.”
“Before the EcoCentre, I hadn’t had much to do with volunteers. But I’ve learnt how powerful they are, how they keep the wheels turning in this world, and how volunteers benefit from their participation. And now I am a volunteer in a number of organisations apart from the EcoCentre – LIVE (Locals Into Victoria’s Environment) and ANGAIR.” ANGAIR is an environment organisation based in Anglesea where Liz now spends much of her time.
Liz will still be involved in the EcoCentre as a volunteer. “I can’t completely walk away! The journey over the past 10 years with the EcoCentre has been rich and gratifying. The EcoCentre has grown over these years into the robust outreaching organisation it is today, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to its evolution.”
I leave the Committee of Management with confidence that the EcoCentre will continue to achieve great things and it is especially pleasing to know that with the new building it will have the status and enhanced capacity to achieve, which it deserves. I also have faith in the younger passionate adults who will come after me, to continue to drive environmental custodianship and address Climate Change.
The EcoCentre Committee of Management and staff extend a heartfelt thanks to Liz and wish her all the best for the future.