The Origins of Landcare
How did the Landcare movement start?
The name ‘Landcare’ evolved in Victoria through an initiative of Joan Kirner, (then Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands) and Heather Mitchell, (then President of the Victorian Farmers Federation).
With the generous support of community members, farmers and departmental officers, Heather Mitchell and Joan Kirner were able to launch ‘Landcare’ in a small town in central Victoria in November 1986.
Many Australian communities had already begun practising Landcare decades earlier; accounts from some of our most enduring Landcare groups show grass roots environmental issues being tackled as early as the 1950s. In January 1988 Australia’s first official Dunecare groups formed on the New South Wales Mid North Coast at Hat Head, Diamond Beach, Scotts Head and Diggers Beach.
In 1989 the national Landcare movement officially began with Rick Farley of the National Farmers Federation and Phillip Toyne of the Australian Conservation Foundation, successfully lobbying the Hawke Government to commit itself to the emerging movement. Landcare became a national programme on 20 July, 1989 when the Australian Government, with bipartisan support, announced its “Decade of Landcare Plan” and committed $320 million to fund the National Landcare Programme. 1989 was also the year that the not-for-profit organisation Landcare Australia was established.
The national formation of the Landcare movement brought farmers and conservationists together to resolve environmental issues. In his speech to launch Landcare, Bob Hawke spoke about the importance of co-operation to care for the land.
“The degradation of our environment is not simply a local problem, nor a problem for one state or another, nor for the Commonwealth alone. Rather, the damage being done to our environment is a problem for us all – and not just government- but for of us individually and together.
The Evolution of Landcare
Over the last 30+ years, Landcare has evolved to become one of the largest volunteer movements in Australia. There are thousands of people and countless communities working together towards sustainable land use and undertaking on-ground action to protect, enhance or restore an area on behalf of the community. The Landcare model has been so successful it has been adopted in over 20 countries.
Landcare plays a leading role in advocating a balance between Australian sustainable land management practices and environmental conservation.
From the coast to the country, and from cities to the outback, Landcare’s greatest asset is its people. With over 6,000 groups and 100,000+ volunteers, the landcare movement is diverse and encompasses sustainable farmers, landcare groups and networks, Traditional land managers, Bushcare and ‘Friends of’ groups, Coastcare, Dunecare and Rivercare groups, Junior Landcare (including early learning childhood centres, schools, Scouts, Girl Guides and youth groups) and other community groups involved in restoring and protecting their local environment.
What makes landcare unique to any other community movement, is the effective partnerships created between business, researchers, natural resource management agencies, government and community. These partnerships build local community ownership of issues, unlock volunteer knowledge, capability and capacity to create better outcomes for the environment and those that seek to protect and enhance it.
In the last three decades we’ve achieved a great deal of good work. Yet there is much more to do. We are all confronting the impacts of a changing climate, biodiversity loss, droughts and bushfires.
Landcare Australia will continue to work in partnership with multiple stakeholders to support the landcare community so they can continue to restore and protect the environment in their local community through sustainable land management and conservation activities.