Plants Native to the Greater Sydney Region.

By Michael Swire

Retirement in Oct. 2020 was an opportunity to do something I had wanted to do for a long time, a TAFE Bush Regeneration evening course and joined Sutherland APS around the same period. Volunteering for Bush Care at Sutherland and Wollongong Councils, Grevillea Park and the Royal Bushies for NPWS, I learnt fast and also met lots of people. As we all know when COVID hit everything came to an abrupt halt, for me that meant no Bush Care, Councils and NPWS froze all activities in August 2021. 

One evening during the lockdown, flicking through the pages of Allan Fairley & Philip Moore’s book on my desk “Native Plants of the Sydney Region” I had a light bulb moment and thought why not start a FB group about the Sandstone Plants of the Greater Sydney Region?

So in all honestly, the Facebook community started as a Lockdown project and has grown to be something more substantial.

While working at the University of Wollongong, I had been taught, you do not need to be an expert in a particular field to manage a group. You need to be good at managing people, trust, foster and let the experts do what they do best. So, as our community grew, I found experts in various related fields and asked them to come on board. As the creator and admin. my role is to make the rules for the page. I manage the spam, the rule breakers, moderate conversations, and posts, I am also guided by our experts. It is a voluntary role that I think is under-appreciated. I probably spend a couple of hours a day, either taking photographs, messaging, and posting. I don’t badger people, with “you should grow natives”. I just enjoy posting pictures of what species grow around us in the Greater Sydney Bioregion, showcasing them in garden settings also.

Scaevola ramosissima (purple fan flower) by M Swire

People just need the idea for motivation. Social media, like FB, works well to connect with like-minded people. With support from my wife, I follow my dreams, I want to bring our local native plants out into the public arena, get people talking, and enjoy the beautiful plants that are in our own backyards. With any luck, we can motivate more people to possibly join an APS group near them!

The initial lockdown project has spawned the resurgence of the Illawarra district group of the APS, in March 2022, we also now have our own FB group, Australian Plants Society Illawarra Group.

What’s it actually like to run a Facebook group?

The group started on the 24th of August, so approx.. 20 months we have been going. In that time, we have gained 3,162 members. These days I need to check they are legitimate new members and it is very much driven by demand. I would guess, 60 – 70 new members is the current average.

The membership’s biggest % is in the 65+ age category, and this has 55%females, 44% males and 1% undisclosed. All the other age and gender brackets go down in increments.

Interesting the age bracket, 25  – 34 there are 6% females and 7% males. This latest report is from 20 February to 20 March and we have had 86 posts, so about 3 posts per day, the best time to post is a Friday or Saturday, around 7pm, the worst time to post is a Monday at 7am.

I have added Bernie Farrell as an Admin. And he has been a great support and it’s good to have a plan B. Bernie is a very wise person, that has much larger FB groups than he moderates for.

by Michael Swire