It’s been almost 80 years since Eulalie Brewster first began giving her time to preserving nature.

Raised in a nature-loving family, she joined the Melbourne Field Naturalists Club in 1944 as soon as she turned 18 and was eligible - unlike males who were eligible at 16.

When Eulalie’s teaching career took her away from the city and into the rolling hills and rugged coastline of South Gippsland, she and a friend looked for an environmental group to join – but there were none.

So the 2 friends spoke with a few like-minded people in Eulalie’s new hometown of Inverloch, and the South Gippsland Conservation Society (SGCS) was born.

Over the years, SGCS volunteers have dedicated their spare days and weekends to improving and sustaining the local environment.

Their conservation activities have spanned everything from smaller scale roadside planting projects through to a large 15-year commitment to help rehabilitate Wilsons Promontory after the 2005 bushfire, which together with the 2009 bushfire burned two thirds of the national park.

Eulalie and 5 SGCS volunteers formed a group called The Promenades to assess the burned areas and see how they could assist bringing life back to the Prom - home to an abundance of native wildlife and plants.

But some of her fondest memories remain grounded in the everyday activities of the SGCS.

‘I think I've crawled over most of the Inverloch bush, planting or pulling weeds.’ Eulalie said.

‘Some photos I've been looking at showed Townsend Bluff, a high cliff on the east end of the town. And in 1978, I took a photograph of it with 3 trees on it. Well, now it's just a wonder to see it, because the Conservation Society volunteers have been able to plant so many more trees.’

Eulalie Brewster examines photographs while sitting in her lounge chair.
Eulalie Brewster examines photographs from the comfort of her lounge chair, but she remains an active volunteer. Picture: Claire Bonieux

And 8 decades on, the Inverloch stalwart still joins in on activities with the group she helped create when she can.

‘Of course I'm not as active now as I was then, but I … still keep an eye on things,’ Eulalie said.

‘They let me know where they're going, and should they be going to an area they know where there's a suitable path for my walker, I go with them and have a wonderful time.’

In 2020, the great-grandmother was awarded Australia’s highest honour, the Order of Australia medal, for her volunteering work, which also includes work with the local historical society.

Eulalie sits on her walker surrounded by her daughter Aliison, left, and three other adults on the grounds of Government House, Melbourne.
Eulalie Brewster with daughter Alison, left, on the day she was presented with her OAM at Government House, Melbourne. Picture: Alison Brewster

‘I was most surprised to be sent an invitation to accept the Order of Australia. I thought it was a scam,’ the down-to-earth nonagenarian said.

To learn more visit the South Gippsland Conservation Society Facebook page

Video credit: Nic Song

Reviewed 20 May 2021

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