Media releases

December 10, 2004

Medibank Private staff get their hands dirty for the environment

Proving that they are not just concerned with the health and wellbeing of the Australian community, but also the environment, Medibank Private staff have embarked on an environmental health project. Medibank Private has committed to, and participated in, one of the most extensive land restoration programs ever undertaken in Victoria, in one of the state's most degraded locations.

Initially driven by the passion of Medibank Private employee, Heidi Fog, to plant enough trees to equal the volume of copy paper Medibank Private uses to conduct business annually - Australia's largest private health insurer became one of the first corporate sponsors to commit to 'Grow West' a project supported by Landcare Australia.

The Grow West project has become a platform for Medibank Private to embrace sustainable management of the environment, its staff, and its responsibility as a business.

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

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. It is land screaming out for sustainable management.

Over two separate sessions, in July and August this year, 43 Medibank Private staff braved the elements and a treacherous terrain to achieve their target of planting 2500 trees in this allocated area.

The specific site Medibank Private planted on can not be used for farming or grazing and it is very likely that the revegetation will be a permanent one. Thanks to Grow West and the land owner, a Section 173 Agreement from the Planning and Environment Act 1987 has been placed on the site to protect it against future logging.

Medibank Private will help the 'Grow West' vision assist landholders in the 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.

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.

"Medibank Private is committed to providing the best health and wellbeing solutions for our members and staff - part of this commitment is recognising that all businesses, in all industries, have an effect on the environment and we are always looking for ways to minimise that impact.

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

It is anticipated that in time Medibank Private will get involved in similar projects in other states with the potential to plant anywhere from 50,000 -100,000 trees across Australia in the next 10 years.

By working with projects such as Grow West and with Landcare Australia Medibank Private can benefit from their network of suppliers of trees, tools, knowledge and contacts within the local community. On planting days the Grow West-team demonstrate how to use the various tools and educate staff about the species being planted.

The concept of staff rolling up their sleeves and quite literally getting dirty to give back to the community is one that is now deeply moulded into the Medibank Private culture.

Mr Savvides pointed out that although funding the health care choices of over three million Australians might be our clear line of work, we are also acting upon our responsibility to contribute to the broader community outside of our workplace.

Landcare Australia's Rob Youl said, "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 Medibank Forest - what the overall initiative has been labelled by Medibank Private staff - is an integral component of the Medibank Community. Medibank Community is an internal program established to provide Medibank Private staff with the support, encouragement, and flexibility to make a positive impact in their local community through working with a charity of their choice either individually, as part of team or as part of a Medibank corporate initiative.


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For further information please contact: Libby Woolnough - Media Relations Adviser Medibank Private, PH: 03 8622 5181


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