A Rocha – the name comes from the Portuguese for ‘the Rock’ – began as a field study centre in Portugal in 1986. A Rocha projects are found in over 20 countries and are frequently cross-cultural in character, and share a community emphasis, with a focus on science and research, practical conservation and environmental education.
Sally Shaw, SA State Director of A Rocha Australia, and an Aldinga resident, explains that A Rocha has five core commitments.
“First and foremost, we’re Christian,” says Sally. “Underlying all we do is our biblical faith in the living God, who made the world, loves it and entrusts it to the care of human society.
“Conservation is a priority. We carry out research for the conservation and restoration of the natural world and run environmental education programmes for people of all ages.
“Community means a lot to us. Through our commitment to God, each other and the wider creation, we aim to develop good relationships both within the A Rocha family and in our local communities.
“We’re cross-cultural. We draw on the insights and skills of people from diverse cultures, both locally and around the world.
“And finally, cooperation is a key. We work in partnership with a wide variety of organizations and individuals who share our concerns for a sustainable world.”
Here in Aldinga, A Rocha is involved with the regeneration of the Hart Road Wetlands, a reserve owned and managed by the City of Onkaparinga.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding commenced in March 2020, A Rocha volunteers have begun a program comprising three activities: ; revegetation with indigenous plant species; and monitoring of biodiversity and removal of rubbish. Additional activities could include: assisting with the design of bird interpretative signs, monitoring of frog species, involvement with the local indigenous people and finding a local artist to create some wood or metal sculptures. The Gleeson wetlands in Clare and Laratinga in Mount Barker are great examples of inspiring wetlands.
Seasonal surveys of birds are being conducted in six plots each of two hectares, following and contributing to the national protocols of BirdLife Australia. These sample plots have been designed to correspond to wetland and/or woodland habitats in a way that should inform council management of water and vegetation. Over 60 bird species have been recorded from the surveys to date, spanning four seasons, and several migratory or threatened species are known to sometimes occur.
According to Sally, A Rocha Australia hopes to gradually engage local churches and Christian schools in creation care activities and education at the Wetlands.