The Hunter Wetland Centre is hidden just outside of Newcastle and gives families in the Hunter a space to explore, discover and connect with nature. Hunter Wetlands is Australia’s longest-running community owned wetlands centre but during recent times they have found it difficult to operate in the face of increased expenses and a falling income.
We were approached by the incredibly enthusiastic volunteers of the Wetlands a number of months ago after they saw Kylie speak at a networking event. Their passion to revamp the wetlands was contagious and after a few coffees and some detailed discussions we have watched as the volunteers of the Wetlands Centre have put together a strategic plan to bring the Wetlands Centre into the future.
These school holidays the team brought to life a dinosaur exhibition which allowed families the chance to see and touch real dinosaur bones and chat to Paleontologist Mike Dawson who is Newcastle’s own Dino expert. Mike showed visitors the skeleton of a real Velociraptor which contrary to popular belief was no larger than a turkey.
Families were encouraged to get out into nature and followed their custom designed maps to play ‘Dinospy’ around the wetlands. Children who managed to find all of the dinosaurs were able to enter a competition running at the wetlands to win some fantastic prizes. Visitors were able to get up nice and close to the modern day dinosaurs which live at the wetlands. This includes, a saltwater crocodile and bearded dragons. There were also cuddles given to Lulu, the diamond python who has a permanent residency at the venue.
The event allowed visitors to engage in craft, dinosaur small world play and even provided the chance to dig for fossils hidden deep inside of a sandpit. The chance to make your own dinosaur poo was a favourite amongst four year old boys everywhere and even the big kids were entertained as they were able to canoe and explore in a somewhat untouched environment. Some of the families even crossed paths with a red belly black snake who had taken up a sunny spot under a tree to escape the cold winter weather.
Some of our staff were given the chance to volunteer over the space of the two weeks and have reported back that they thoroughly enjoyed exploring with vacation care groups and re-engaging with the place they had visited as a child but otherwise forgotten about. Olivia from our Kurri branch got in touch with her inner ‘Steve Irwin’ and was even able to assist with the daily reptile show.
The Wetlands strives to form partnerships within their local community and the connections they have made were obvious across the event. Local pop culture store ‘Heroes And More’ came on board to bring “Blue” the Velociraptor to the many Jurassic World fans in attendance. Can you believe that Simon from ‘Heroes and More’ made that incredibly realistic costume from old foam mattresses and rubber? Wow!
The event in its first week had over 3000 visitors which is more than the wetlands has had through their doors in the space of a week in their entire history. In fact this is double the amount of people the Wetlands would get through their doors during a regular month.
Our Hunter team feels so privileged to have been able to support the wetlands on the path to a successful and prosperous future. Stay tuned as we follow their journey.