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Riverkeeper Program Takes Home Regional Award from Keep Australia Beautiful

  19 December 2013

MEDIA RELEASE – For immediate release

Offenders clean up their acts in award-winning Georges River project

Community-based offenders have spearheaded $1 million worth of free labour spent restoring the Georges River in the past year, in a project that has just won an environmental protection award.

Georges River Combined Councils’ Committee (GRCCC) and Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) have won Keep Australia Beautiful’s 2013 Clean Beaches Award for the Sydney/Illawarra region for their partnership in the Georges Riverkeeper Program.

The Environmental Protection award, announced on Friday (13 December), recognised outstanding achievement in the protection of natural environment, flora, fauna and biodiversity. The Riverkeeper Program was also highly commended in the Regional Community Partnerships category.

The program currently involves rubbish removal at 130 sites and bush regeneration at 10 sites along the Georges River and its creeks.

It is jointly managed by the GRCCC and funded by its nine member councils.

Most of the free labour is performed by community-based offenders under the close supervision of CSNSW’ Fairfield Community Corrections office. Community volunteers perform the rest of the work.

GRCCC Chairperson Naji Peter Najjar acknowledged the value of free offender and volunteer work through the program in 2012-13. This work saw almost 104 tonnes of rubbish removed. Bush regeneration work such as weed removal and native plantings took place over a combined area of almost two hectares.

“This is $1 million worth of work and the benefits achieved by the program can be felt through all Georges River Councils and communities,’’ said Cr Najjar.

“We look forward to an ongoing partnership with mutually beneficial outcomes that help to protect the Georges River.”

CSNSW’ Community Corrections Assistant Commissioner Rosemary Caruana said offenders serving community-based orders for crimes such as drink driving, unlicensed driving and fraud had given significant free labour to the project.

“Community partnerships like this are extremely valuable because they supply work for community-based offenders, allowing them to repay their debts to society and giving free labour to the organisations and causes that need it most,’’ said Ms Caruana.

“We’re very pleased Keep Australia Beautiful has recognised the value of this work to the community, which can enjoy cleaner recreation areas and a better-preserved natural environment as a result.’’

CSNSW joined the Riverkeeper Program 10 years ago. In 2011, the program won two State and three Regional Clean Beaches Awards from Keep Australia Beautiful.