IF NEV Wells had his way, all Australian children would grow up with unfettered access to the natural world.
As a park ranger at the River Red Gum Parks, in the state's north, he is a tireless advocate for children getting their hands dirty.
- JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM
"There are a lot more distractions these days, but when kids get out in the bush they love it," he says.
Most recently, Nev, who grew up in the Barooga-Murray region, was pivotal in pushing for the expansion of Parks Victoria's Junior Ranger program in to his area, after a day-long trial last year booked out quickly.
"We are a bit unique in this area, in that we have two parks in the area (The Lower Goulburn River National Park and the Shepparton Regional Park), and a river that runs through two of the area's major towns," he says.
"If you drive 10 minutes from Mooroopna, you hit the forest, which is quite special in itself.
"And what is more, the Goulburn River area is not a speed boat area, it is quite relaxed."
Relaxed is something Nev is well acquainted with, having experienced one of those dream childhoods filled with forest adventures with friends and ample tree climbing.
Parks Victoria's Junior Ranger Program is designed to introduce children aged between six and 12 to the great outdoors.
It will be held throughout a number of parks around Victoria during the school holidays, including Great Otway National Park, Wilsons Promontory National Park, Werribee Park, and Point Nepean National Park.
Activities include rockpool rambles, a bush detective program to find the secretive animals in the park, birdwatching, craft sessions and dream-time stories with an indigenous park ranger.
"It's about creating the next lot of rangers for when I retire," Nev says.
"And they don't all have to be rangers, there are a heap of things you can do outdoors for a career. It beats sitting at a desk all day and staring at a computer."