Australian web designer helps her community

Jill Vella, founder of Terramirra Press, says her love for the environment and connection push her to help her local community.

Jill has helped two community groups of the last year by designing them websites for free and says she has another two currently underway.

She was also a finalist in Rocketspark Community Good Award category at its annual awards earlier this year.

The first volunteer based organisation that Jill helped was Nerrena/Tarwin Landcare, where she has been the secretary for quite some time now.

The Nerrena/Tarwin Landcare Group was formed in 1995 and aimed to protect and enhance the natural assets of the area, through action, community participation, education and awareness.

“We realised that we knew a lot of stuff and we had really good information for landholders in the area about all the Landcare things they could do and the best way to get that out there was a website.

“So, being a Rocketspark partner, I put my hand up to build them a website, free-of-charge. Rocketspark is so easy, because it means we can all update it because it’s just so simple to use.

“We had a few meetings and worked out how we wanted to present it and because Landcare should be about caring for land we included a lot of information about how to do that and how to restore different local areas.

“It’s all about communications and connections, they’re the things that make a community strong and empower them, so that’s what the Landcare website is all about,” Jill said.

The Landcare committee said Jill was the passionate and dynamic force behind their website and other online communications. 

“She operates a design and online business, but has donated all her valuable time and skills to the Nerrena/Tarwin Valley Landcare group; without her we would not have our vibrant website.

“She keeps the website updated on a regular basis, uses imaginative videos, drone photography, podcasts and clear, concise wording to make this website user friendly. 

“Seeing a lack of easily accessible environmental information, Jill has researched and included a lot of reliable and useful information which can assist both new and older local residents.

“Without Jill, who is our Secretary, our group would not be able to complete many of our projects which enhances our local community cohesion and environment. 

“Many of our funding applications rely on information listed in the website. Her skills and enthusiastic love for our area shows through the website, we are so lucky to have her leadership and support for the Nerrena/Tarwin Valley Landcare Group,” the committee said.

The Leongatha Community House was the second website Jill created, her drive behind helping this not-for-profit came from her belief that it’s important to help people connect.

Jill was part of a research project a few years back after there had been some local bush fires in her community. The project looked into what helped a community bounce back after a natural disaster. She said the results were quite clear that people needed to feel connected to one another.

“There’s a lot of benefits for communities to come together, to work together and to look after one another. During lockdown it was really important that the vulnerable people who couldn’t get out and about had support. Community is so important when things are tough, but they are also really important when things are going well too.”

The Leongatha Community House committee said the website was so important to Leongatha and the surrounding rural areas as it allowed the community to easily find out what activities, services and programs were available at the House. 

“This was especially important during 2020 as Covid restrictions impacted much of the face to face parts of the program due to lock down restrictions,” they said.

Jill said she got involved in community organisations because she was passionate about connections and the environment.

“When you are doing good, the grassroots are just as important as the big stuff.”

Jill has been a Rocketspark Design Partner since she decided to build her own site.

“When I built my own business website, I spent a lot of time looking at all the different pricing and options out there and I wanted to find something easy, and with good support. Rocketspark ticked those boxes with how user friendly it is and how close to home it is.

“I also love how Rocketspark is really empowering of women, whereas a lot of techy places are quite male dominant.”

Another site Jill is currently working on is for a local park which currently has no funding at all, but she’s been confident they’ll find it somewhere since starting the project, and now they have.

Rocketspark announced at Launch 2021 that it would be giving every design partner a free not-for-profit website to give to an organisation of their choice, the initiative is called Gift-it-forward

"This initiative has made me cry happy tears! I had no idea how I was going to fund the website I am designing for the Mossvale Park Advisory Committee.

"Not only are they not-for-profit, they are not-for-income, never having any real need to monetise the good volunteer work that they have done since the 1930’s.

"The park got a mobile phone signal for the first time this year, so the committee was anxious to make all the information they had on their heritage trees and National Trust registered trees available to anyone with a phone in the park. They are also developing some walking trails.

"Gift-it-forward is a very generous offer and a lifesaver. I can now focus on design and stop the funding applications," Jill said.

A lot of the trees in the park were planted during the late 1800s/early 1900s. 

"It’s just the most magical place so I’m using Rocketspark to list all the trees, which there are 300 individual trees. I’ve been going down to the park almost every day taking measurements and getting information. 

“The environment is what I love and Rocketspark is a tool that helps me share it with people.”

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