25 million.

That’s how many trees, shrubs and grasses have been planted since National Tree Day was established in Australia 23 years ago. Why does this day exist? And why have close to five million volunteers given ten million hours of their time to a cause which forces them to get their hands dirty?

Ian Darbyshire, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, says that National Tree Day is a cause that resonates because it affects both people’s health and the environment.

“Aussies are spending more and more time inside and in front of a screen, disconnected from the natural world, but research from here and overseas show there are real health and wellbeing benefits associated with spending time outside and in contact with nature.”

National Tree Day 20191

Photo: Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife

These benefits include a lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes, reduced stress, and increased happiness, wellbeing and productivity.

For the planet, a five percent increase in tree cover can reduce nearby daytime temperatures by 2.3 degrees Celsius, which could be crucial as heatwaves cost more lives than all other climate change impacts combined. A large, healthy tree can also sequester (remove and store) up to 93kg of CO2 emissions and 1.4kg of air pollution a year.

With all these benefits, protecting our trees seems a logical priority. Sadly, it doesn’t always end up that way.

Over the past 200 years, more than 75% of Australia’s native vegetation has been destroyed or degraded. Darbyshire says that destructive human activities such land clearing, urban expansion and logging are to blame, as well as climate change impacts, invasive species, pests and diseases.

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Photo: Robert Jones / Pixabay

“Extinction of species can have unforeseen effects with widespread consequences for ecosystems, native wildlife and for people. Our futures are linked. We need to work together to restore rainforests, woodlands and bushland across Australia.”

The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife supports on-ground projects that protect habitat, rehabilitate native bushland and increase biodiversity for Australia’s threatened species. One such project is National Tree Day, which is celebrated every year on the 28th of July as a positive, community-based activity aimed to bring native plant communities back to into the Australian environment and connect people, especially children, with nature.

Each year, 300,000 people volunteer their time, making National Tree Day Australia’s largest annual tree-planting and nature care event.

national tree day 2013 planting

Photo: Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife

Darbyshire says participating is easy: “There are many ways to get involved, such as collaborating with a local community group to host a tree planting event, or you can make a donation to enable others in the community to conduct planting activities.”

Running a tree day activity in your workplace is also great team building initiative, which at the same time makes a difference to the community, fosters a love of nature and creates positive environmental change.

For more information on planting sites near you, call the National Tree Day Hotline on 1300 885 000. If you can’t plant a tree yourself, the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife can plant one for you through the Plant a Tree for Me! Program. For more information, visit www.plantatreeforme.org.au.


[Header image: Josh Withers / Unsplash]


Ecotourism Australia has launched its new online platform, which will make the process of achieving certification easier for tourism businesses.

The platform, called mycertfication.eco, has been designed with both new applicants and existing certified operators in mind.

As well as streamlining the application process through simple click-through criteria and more detailed guidance for applicants, the platform will allow businesses to benchmark their performance and, in the future, show them how they compare to industry best practice.

Other exciting features include the ability for multiple staff to work on their application through a joint business login (though not simultaneously), and easier communication between applicants and their certification coach via a remarks tab.

Initially rolled out for new applicants only, Ecotourism Australia’s existing certified operators will be added to the platform gradually as they renew their annual membership or undergo an audit. In the future, the platform is also expected to feature a special members-only forum.

CEO Rod Hillman says the platform launch comes at an exciting time for the tourism industry:

“Our industry is at a real turning point. What we do now will significantly impact not only the natural assets on which tourism depends, but also on the reputation our industry carries.

“The mycertification.eco platform brings together the most recent update of our ECO Certification criteria with international-standard online systems to ensure that our certified operators continue to deliver world’s best practice ecotourism experiences to their visitors.”

As part of its responsibilities to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the international accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification, Ecotourism Australia’s certification criteria undergoes regular updates to ensure that it remains global best practice.

From the most recent criteria review, the ECO Certification program now incudes more stringent criteria on addressing climate change, interacting with wildlife, Indigenous and cultural tourism, building, construction and landscaping as well as accessibility. It will also include a carbon calculator.



For questions and comments, please contact Rod Hillman – CEO: 0427 279 414 

For more information about the criteria view, visit https://www.ecotourism.org.au/news/eco-certification-program-review/


Operating in the tourist hot spot of Hervey Bay, you’ll find Boat Club Adventure Cruises offering sunset cruises, day cruises, whale watching and sharing stories of pre-settlement times. Often drawing a diverse and culturally rich crowd from all corners of the globe, it is important for the team at Boat Club Adventure to not only highlight the significance of living ecosystems in the area but also the cultural history.

Whale Watching

“I think all guests have an interest in our stories,” says Philip House, Marine Operations Manager. “Sharing Indigenous language and culture with visitors is an important part of our tours.”

Through their tours conducted in and around Moonaboola (the local name for the Mary River) the Boat Club Adventure Cruises crew offers a range of affordable cruise options to showcase the beauty and diversity of Hervey Bay, Fraser Island and The Great Sandy Marine Park.  Providing more than just an enjoyable cruise, guests get an understanding of what the land was like before settlement and how Indigenous people would have utilised the marine environment to live for hundreds of years.

By engaging with locals to present their heritage to guests, Boat Club Adventure Cruises allows visitors to leave with a greater understanding of true Australia and its real history.


“My favourite aspect of sharing Indigenous language and culture with guests is witnessing the integration and mixing of cultures,” says Philip.

Keeping Indigenous language and culture alive is important whether you’re operating in on land or at sea, as all ecosystems have played a role in the stories and the survival of the world’s oldest living culture. The Boat Club Adventure Cruises crew have pledged to continue to engage local Indigenous communities and keep their culture alive.


Have you read the other articles in this series?


AN HONOURABLE MISSION – featuring Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours

AN IMMERSIVE ISLAND EXPERIENCE – featuring Straddie Kingfisher Tours

INDIGENOUS CULTURE AT THE FOREFRONT – featuring Cairns Adventure Group

INPUT AND RECOGNITION EVERY STEP OF THE WAY – featuring Rainforestation Nature Park

WELCOME TO OUR HOME – featuring Just Cruisin 4WD Tours 



Around the world, night vision goggles are used by the military and law enforcement agencies. In Byron Bay’s hinterland, they’re used by tourists.

It’s an experience not possible anywhere else in Australia, and for lucky guests travelling with our newest certified operator, Vision Walks, this patented, once-in-a-lifetime night walking tour of the bush provides a unique insight into Australia’s nocturnal animals in their natural habitat.

Vision Walks night vision goggles 2

Of Vision Walks’ four tours which have just achieved Advanced Ecotourism Certification, the night vision walk is the most unusual, but not the only one which gives guests a unique, fun and educational experience.

Indeed, Vision Walks pride themselves on delivering eco tours which help guests to connect with the local environment and learn about local life in and around beautiful Byron Bay, and deliver fantastic visitor experiences through a number of interesting itineraries.

Vision Walks kangaroo 2

All nature tours are led by qualified environmental scientists, so guests can rest assured that they’re going to get a unique insight into the world around them from someone who has studied the natural environment closely.  

Have you ever wondered why most of Australia’s mammals are marsupials? Or wanted to know what Byron Bay’s hippies have to do with saving the rainforest? On Vision Walks’ tours, you’ll discover all of this and more.

Vision Walks binoculars

Vision Walks is the brainchild of Wendy Bithell, a qualified Park Ranger and ex-employee of BBC in London. Wendy blends humour and passion for the natural world into her tours, and encourages her guests join her on explorations of discovery in this beautiful part of northern New South Wales.

Wendy’s sidekick is Gary Opit, former ABC North Coast weekly wildlife segment host, and an authority in all things nature identification. Gary spent a few years working in Papua New Guinea as well as running wilderness expeditions in Honolulu before settling in the Northern Rivers region, which he says is a fascinating biodiversity hotspot because of its varied topographies and landscapes.

Vision Walks koala 3

The team at Vision Walks value their role as an educator of visitors to their part of the world and are dedicated to developing people’s appreciation and understanding for nature. Their tours strike a good balance between activity and rest, with night vision walks ending with a hot chocolate gazing up at the starry heaven above and their wildlife safari including a locally sourced picnic in the rainforest.

The company works hard to reduce its carbon emissions by planting trees that also provide habitats for koalas and encourages their guests to take part in their tree planting days as well. The guides are also trained wildlife rescuers and work closely with WIRES Wildlife Rescue and the New South Wales parks and wildlife service to monitor and rescue animals.

Vision Walks tree planting

We are excited to welcome Vision Walks to the Ecotourism Australia community and congratulate them on achieving Advanced Ecotourism Certification for their Night Vision Walk, Wildlife Safari, Minyon Falls Walk and Nightcap Historic Track Walk tours!

For more information about Vision Walks, visit their website or Facebook page.


Just Cruisin 4WD Tours understands that you haven’t experienced Australia if you haven’t seen it through Indigenous eyes. Ranging from 5-day to 13-day tours, guests are given the opportunity to see Australia in the most authentic, raw way possible on Just Cruisin’s Aboriginal Cultural Tours.

Every Aboriginal Culture Tour offered is operated with Indigenous guides in their homeland, bringing tourist dollars directly into local indigenous communities.

 just cruising two

And who better to explore with than a local who is an expert in living off the land? Guests have the opportunity to relax under the shade of a river red gum while enjoying stunning sunrises and sunsets and marvelling at the clear night sky in the Australian bush. While guests explore the land of contrasts, local Indigenous guides are able to explain how they lived off the land for thousands of years and guests will get an insight into a time before settlement.

Indigenous language is tied into every aspect of these tours as well, as the Respecting Our Culture certified business believes it is very important to keep the local indigenous language and culture alive.

“It opens a whole new world to my clients,” explains Just Cruisin 4WD Tours’ Paul Douglas.

 just cruising three

For some, the vast and distant outback of Australia may feel strange and very far from home. For the tour guides, however, it feels like home. The team at Just Cruisin will make it feel like home for you too, incorporating wow-worthy Indigenous stories to spark your imagination and opening your mind through their bush tucker tours.

Thank you, Just Cruisin 4WD Tours, for sharing your story with us!


Have you read the other articles in this series?


AN HONOURABLE MISSION – featuring Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours

AN IMMERSIVE ISLAND EXPERIENCE – featuring Straddie Kingfisher Tours

INDIGENOUS CULTURE AT THE FOREFRONT – featuring Cairns Adventure Group

INPUT AND RECOGNITION EVERY STEP OF THE WAY – featuring Rainforestation Nature Park


Calling all comfort-loving adventurers! Melbourne Private Tours is a full-service luxury private touring operator which takes you into the nooks and crannies of Melbourne and regional Victoria to discover the hidden gems of this beautiful and diverse state. Founded in 2006 by two local Melbournites, the company exudes local knowledge on their indulgent travel and culinary experiences.

Melbourne Private Tours tour company

Offering a range of carefully crafted itineraries as well as fully customisable experiences to suit every individual, family and group, Melbourne Private Tours’ itineraries and experiences place an emphasis on touching, tasting, connecting and learning. Working closely with their extensive network of personal contacts in Victoria to provide guests with immersive and innovative experiences, Melbourne Private Tours aim to exceed travellers’ expectations by giving them a behind the scenes insight into the nooks and crannies of Melbourne and surrounds that other visitors will not get the chance to see. As Director Josh Oakes says, it’s about ‘meeting the faces behind the places.’

Melbourne Private Tours MacKenzie Falls in Grampians National Park near Melbourne

With an understanding of their state’s dependence on the natural environment and a commitment to both showcasing this and doing their part to protect it for future generations, Melbourne Private Tours works hard to partner only with suppliers that have environmental management plans in place and only take visitors to wildlife sanctuaries that are publicly committed to preserving endangered species. In the future, Melbourne Private Tours hopes to offer 100% carbon neutral tours.

Melbourne Private Tours Phillip Island 2

We are pleased to welcome Melbourne Private Tours to the Ecotourism Australia community and congratulate them on achieving Nature Tourism Certification for their tours: Phillip Island Ranger-Led Adventure, The Great Ocean Road, A Foodie’s Journey Through the Mornington Peninsula and Grampians Adventure.