Media releases

April 22, 2004

Medibank Private staff to get hands-on for the environment

Improving the health of one of Victoria's most degraded landscapes is moving one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to a commitment from Australia's largest health fund, Medibank Private, and its Melbourne staff.

Medibank Private has become one of the first corporate sponsors to commit to 'Grow West' a project supported by Landcare Australia. The project is situated in Melbourne's western outskirts, and is one of the most extensive land restoration programs ever undertaken in Victoria.

Over the next two years approximately 80 Medibank Private staff members will roll their sleeves up and get dirty assisting landholders, within the Grow West region, with vitally needed land restoration work. The goal is to plant 5000 trees in the five hectares that Medibank Private has been allotted.

Medibank Private Managing Director, George Savvides said, he was blown away by the enterprise and initiative of staff member, Heidi Fog, who lobbied the management team to give the tick for Medibank Private to offer something back to the environment and community as a major corporate citizen of Melbourne.

Mr Savvides said "Medibank Private's approach to continuous improvement and innovation extends beyond the workplace and into the greater environment. We recognise that all businesses have an effect on the environment and we are always looking for ways to minimise that impact".

"This project seemed a perfect way for Medibank Private to make a tangible, positive difference to the environment."

He said Melbourne-based Medibank staff, from both head-office and retail centres, at their own volition supported the joint environmental call to action in a first for the organisation.

"Funding the health care choices of over 900,000 citizens in Victoria alone might be our clear line of work, but impressively many of our Melbourne staff have embraced our attempt to execute genuine and lasting care in a major environmentally degraded area", Mr Savvides said.

The Grow West region covers the devastated and eroded landscape that lies north west of Melbourne, including the Werribee River Valley and Bacchus Marsh.

Landcare Australia's Rob Youl said the area is an extraordinarily degraded area, and Medibank Private's sponsorship is an encouraging commitment to potentially the toughest site in Victoria.

The area is home to many market gardens, revegetating it will improve agriculture conditions and economic development in the region. Mr Youl says, "Medibank Private is tackling the first step to make this happen. It is a 10,000 hectare march, but can only be achieved with small steps."

"Medibank Private's adoption of a staff scheme to help improve this site over an extended period of time is commendable and unique. The initiative will boost morale of the local community and, most certainly, that of Landcare Australia." Mr Youl said.

The area is severely damaged by major soil erosion and salinity. It has been stripped of much of its topsoil and subsoil by water erosion and spectacular landslides. Populations of rabbits and noxious weeds also overrun the area, including serrated tussock, boxthorn, and prickly pear.

Medibank Private will help the 'Grow West' vision assist landholders in this area restore degraded land through plantation establishment, conservation plantings and sustainable and viable land-use practices. Melbourne's western landscapes will be transformed into productive and sustainable areas with clean waterways and a healthy environment thanks to the assistance of Medibank Private.

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