By Karen Devine
Where would our communities be without our volunteers?
We have seen this in recent times when we have pulled together to fight fires, survived a pandemic and assisted during floods and droughts.
The media often reports the darker side of humanity, yet the positive side is often completed more quietly and without fanfare.
One of those hard-working yet often quiet in the background workers is Mandy Haddon who established the Wildlife Carer and Support Group (WACS).
WACS is a volunteer group, based in Sydney. It provides support to carers and their little wildlife families. It also supports communities which have set up wildlife feeding stations.
WACS was born after the horrific fires in late 2019 to early 2020. It is not affiliated with any particular care, rescue group or organisation but rather it has an awesome network of individuals who assist in all aspects of wildlife support, including feed and medical supplies.
As most of us know, climate change has had disastrous effects on our environment and hence catastrophic effects on our wildlife. Environment, ecosystems and wildlife are inextricably interwoven and unfortunately the animals have suffered in the allocation of support funding. During the bushfires, funds often were provided to other priority areas and wildlife carers were left alone and desperate.
Mandy has assisted so many people throughout NSW with their caring and rescue roles for Australian wildlife. She enjoys thinking ‘outside the box’ and creating solutions for problems that wildlife carers face.
She and her husband Glen built a bespoke wombat box which was robust, simple to erect, collapsible and easy to clean. There are now ten of them out there and they are also temporary homes to wallabies and echidnas.
Mandy has given dog trampolines to Australian Seabird Rescue for the pelicans in care. These waterbirds love to sit on them and bounce up and down.
She has also assisted in getting portable humidicribs for animal care. She said “We often don’t realise how much time, energy and sacrifice goes into wildlife care. I loved giving carers some freedom back. One carer told me that the portable humidicrib allowed her to attend her son’s music recital, carry the injured animal and to continue the 4 hourly feeding for the bub”. Mandy was emotional in recounting how this gift had contributed in unexpected ways to the cycle of caring and giving back a little normality to a carer’s life.
Mandy has also assisted in the donation of three microscopes and cameras which are used at rescue and rehabilitation centres for examining the possible causes of illness in our animals. These are valuable in areas which are remote and perhaps inaccessible to vets or where time is of the essence in waiting for vet appointments. Waiting for treatment could be the difference between life and death for wildlife.
Another unexpected benefit of WACS’s creation has been the repurposing and reduction of landfill. Volunteers often pick up treasures from council clean-ups, wash and clean them and deliver them to Mandy for distribution to carers. These volunteers have found hundreds of cages, carriers, beds, stuffed toys and other goods which have saved carers a lot of money through simple recycling. Also many laptops have been upgraded by the WACS IT specialists and gifted to carers.
WACS relationships with many corporate organisations have led to donations which have been forwarded to carer groups Australia wide. These include towels and sheets which have been donated by Australian Linen Supply because they have been deemed as ‘seconds’.
Mrs Haddon's fund raising has also contributed to the provision of a macropod soft release pen, the construction of bird and wombat enclosures in the Southern Highlands, supply of over 200 joey pouches, rescue and rehabilitation basket kits, fruit chopping machines for bat and flying fox carers, vet scales to Australian Sea Bird Rescue South Coast, 2 box trailers to Mudgeroo Emu Farm, wet weather gear and workboots, 2 one thousand litre ponds, 2 vet quality heating pads, 5000 kgs of feed for carers and wildlife feeding stations.
Another area of need is in the area of counselling for wildlife carers. Caring and rescue inevitably takes a toll on long-term carers. Mandy also makes a monthly contribution to WildTalk, a counselling service which assists in “Caring for Carers”. It is a service which is free of charge and available 24/7 to our valuable wildlife carers.
After all her work with wildlife, when Mandy was gifted a large supply of dog food, I immediately thought that this would benefit the Animal Welfare League NSW in the Shoalhaven area in its care of cats and dogs.
The AWL NSW is a great organisation which is non-profit and has operated for over 60 years. Its volunteers work tirelessly to investigate allegations of animal cruelty, to re-home companion animals, educate the public and provide discount desexing programs.
I thought that I would connect Mandy Haddon with Carol Duedney of the Shoalhaven AWL branch.
Carol informed me that the dog food supplies would go to foster carers and also to the homeless of Nowra via the Shoalhaven Homeless Hub so they can keep their loving companions well-fed whilst sleeping rough.
It is wonderful how we can support each other in difficult times and the threads of volunteering and community support are obvious in this little story.
For further information on Animal Welfare League NSW (Shoalhaven Branch) visit their website or Facebook page. Karen Devine is an educational author at Devine Educational Consultancy Services and a member of Wildlife Rescue South Coast (WRSC) and AWL NSW. WildTalk – caring for the wildlife carers - free support and crisis line 24/7 Phone 1300 307 111
Feature image: Mandy Haddon getting a cuddle from a Wombat in care. Photo supplied.