2021 United Nations Award Recipient – Landcare Australia

Group of young men and women standing amongst landcare worksite

It is my great pleasure and tremendous honour to receive the 2021 United Nations Day Honor on behalf of Landcare Australia in recognition of our contribution to the work and purpose of the United Nations.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration highlights opportunity over despair and positive action and empowerment over apathy or willful neglect. Patricia has highlighted some of the achievements of Landcare Australia’s programs which demonstrate the UNAA’s focus in making this award on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and particularly reforestation and Caring for Country.

I am also accepting this award on behalf of the volunteers, groups and organisations involved in landcare across Australia, and the many shoulders I stand on, and rub beside. Some of whom are represented in this room.

Since our inception, Landcare Australia has been driven by the belief that Australia can and will be a global leader in sustainability through using the landcare model as the blueprint for environmental and agricultural land management success. And by supporting the diverse landcare community with funding, capacity-building, on-ground projects, information, networking and promotion of their incredible landcare achievements, we are making this belief a reality.

But we have only been able to do this through the support of those involved in the landcare movement- put simply, our power lies in the people.
Landcare evolved in Victoria through an initiative of Joan Kirner, (then Victorian state Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands and subsequently Premier) and Heather Mitchell, (then President of the Victorian Farmers Federation). With the generous support of community members, farmers and Victorian departmental officers, Heather Mitchell and Joan Kirner were able to launch ‘landcare’ in central Victoria in November 1986.

Yet 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 1989, the national landcare movement was officially recognised with Rick Farley of the National Farmers Federation, and Phillip Toyne of the Australian Conservation Foundation, successfully encouraging former Australian Prime Minister the Hon. Bob Hawke AC, to commit to supporting the emerging movement.

The dedication and passion of these landcare pioneers led to the formation of Landcare Australia in 1989. Our partnerships and activities have led us to expand the 1989 Decade of Landcare into a restoration journey that has spanned over 30 years, transforming landcare into one of the largest volunteer movements in Australia and inspiring people across the globe to care for the land and water that sustains us.

The national formation of the landcare movement brought farmers and conservationists together to resolve environmental issues. In his speech to launch Landcare, former Prime Minister 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 all of us individually and together.

For over 30 years, there have been 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.

The strength of Landcare lies in the commitment of local communities and the countless partnerships between volunteers, Traditional Owners and First Nations people, business, researchers, natural resource management agencies, governments, youth, and landcare peak bodies including Landcare NSW, that build local ownership of issues and unlock volunteer knowledge, capability and capacity to create better outcomes for the environment and those that seek to protect and enhance it.

And it lies in the 6000 landcare groups and 140,000 landcare volunteers who every day are working tirelessly to revegetate critical habitats, diligently protecting vital waterways and coastlines from degradation, and inspiring the next generation of junior landcarers to take action for the environment in their classrooms and homes.

It is because of these people, their work and their belief in the power of landcare that the United Nations is recognising us here today, and I want to thank you all for your unwavering devotion to supporting each other and our communities, and protecting our precious environment.

2021 marked the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, a global rallying cry to heal our planet that Landcare Australia is intent on answering.

We are already delivering practical, community focused programs to halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems – in the past financial year we have distributed over $14 million in grants, supporting landcarers to engage in a diverse range of activities including planting over 700,000 trees, installing over 5,000 nest boxes and artificial habitats and conducting over 3,500 biodiversity surveys.

But we are determined to go further, starting with a focus on three key areas:

First, we are championing alignment with First Nations people- Indigenous Australians are the first landcarers, and we know just how important Traditional Knowledge is to the landcare movement’s success.

To grow our partnerships with Traditional Owners and Custodians and continue to uplift First Nations voices, a First Nations Landcare Working Group is aspiring to set the benchmark on building mutually respectful, effective relationships based on trust. In addition to this, we are also supporting the upcoming IUCN, Indigenous-led “Reimagining Conservation Forum” – in Brisbane in a fortnight, where we will discuss how to better acknowledge and respect Traditional Knowledge in caring for land and water, and build a way forward together with knowledge holders, respecting the need and rights of First Australians to own, manage connect with and get on to Country.

Second, we are focused on setting the next generation of landcarers up for success.

We are guided by young female leaders in the movement including our board member and co-founder of Intrepid Landcare Naomi Edwards, along with Sophie Taylor-Price, Bob Hawke’s granddaughter, who is a sustainability consultant and a Youth Landcare Advocate.

In addition, landcare advocate and Junior Landcare ambassador Costa Georgiadis – of Gardening Australia fame, has inspiring messages mobilising thousands of people across Australia to care for the land, water and biodiversity, embracing First Nations perspectives and care for communities. From the immensely popular Junior Landcare Program through to exciting Intrepid Landcare projects and beyond, we are ensuring that young people are not only empowered to take action, but have the opportunity to develop the skills they need to create new and innovative solutions for environmental challenges for generations to come.

Finally, we are building upon our belief that a key characteristic of landcare is the integration of productive land management with conservation and protection of natural assets.

Through our innovative Landcare Farming program we are committed to supporting Australian farmers to be recognised as world leaders in landcare and sustainable agriculture. We have been helping farmers across the country better understand and become more literate in environmental markets, particularly the carbon market. In line with this commitment, earlier today we launched Landcare CarbonSMART. Landcare Australia is excited to be re-entering the Australian carbon market. Landcare CarbonSMART will focus on providing corporate Australia with high quality Australian carbon credit units, sourced from projects delivering outstanding ecological co-benefits. Through Landcare CarbonSMART, Landcare Australia will be able to provide better support and further build capacity for the many thousands of Landcare groups across Australia.

So it is not only because of our achievements and our commitment to landcare people, but because of our ambition for the future that we are proud to accept this award and assist in the UN’s vision of a world ‘living in harmony with nature’.

I invite you to join us in our pledge to continue to grow our impact, inspire change and create a lasting landcare legacy.

Thank you to the United Nations Association of Australia for awarding Landcare Australia the 2021 United Nations Day Honor and to all the landcare heroes across the country whose unrivalled dedication to restoring our environment and landscapes over more than 30 years has made this possible.

Doug Humann AM
Landcare Australia

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