I've been around long enough to see dozens of State of the Environment reports, but this report is different.
While it remains hopeful that we still have the opportunity to turn Australia's environmental crisis around, it hurts more than any that has come before it.
It hurts because not only is the news so bad, but this critical report on the health of our environment was shamelessly withheld. We are in the midst of an environmental emergency, and the wait has furthered the sense of inaction characterising much of the environmental public policy agenda of the last 30 years.
Now, its long-anticipated release must renew effective government support for our environment, and there is no question in my mind that we are in desperate need of policy in the vein of the Hawke government's investment in what is now the National Landcare Program, or the Howard government's Natural Heritage Trust (NHT).
Setting aside the argument that the NHT investment came from the sale of Telstra, it helped kick start the burgeoning private and Indigenous protected area network. Alongside critical national parks, this network already contributes substantially to the goal of 30 per cent of land (and sea) protected by 2030- an invaluable goal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek reaffirmed the Albanese government was striving for.
The report not only identifies, but emphasises the opportunity for change and growth in the environment sector through working in partnership.
This all-hands-on-deck call for cooperation may not be new but it is effective, and I am reminded of the unprecedented alliance between the National Farmers Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation which in 1989 set off the Decade of Landcare- a decade that has extended for over 30 years. It is because of this experience that I can confidently say that the Landcare movement is ready to rise further to the challenge.
Forming effective partnerships is what Landcare Australia does best, and we have a proven track record of helping to partner the large number of active Landcare groups and networks with business, researchers, natural resource management agencies, communities,
Traditional Owners and all levels of government, building local ownership of issues and unlocking volunteer knowledge, capability and capacity.
Not only do these partnerships improve environmental health, but the report addresses at length the benefits Landcare provides for our personal and collective wellbeing.
A KPMG survey of more than 1,000 Landcare volunteers and coordinators from Landcare groups found that involvement in Landcare lead to approximate savings from avoided healthcare costs of $403 per individual per year.
Further, additional savings to the Landcare volunteer community relating to productivity, and benefits owing to natural disaster resilience and recovery, had a combined value of $191 million annually.
Yet despite these incredible outcomes, over the past 10 years funding for the National Landcare Program has significantly declined. This report must be a call to attention, a call to action and a call to invest in Landcare.
Right now, across Australia, landcarers are on the front lines of critical conservation, agricultural, and coastal, land and water management projects. They are passionate, they are experts in the field, and with good investment the more than 5,000 groups and 100,000 volunteers across the country have the capacity to grow, expand their work, and the chance to turn this crisis around.
Many of us will take the shock and horror we feel from this report and turn it into personal action, but we must recognise that it is through collaboration that the impact will be amplified.
Together we must facilitate new partnerships and innovations, listen and learn from the expertise of First Nations Australians who have been caring for our lands and seas for countless generations, engage with young Australians and keep what is important to us - our communities, our environment, our economic and social well-being and our future, front of mind. United we must join together in landcare - it has never been more important.
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