Landcare and the Australian Government: a union of 30 years
Stakeholders gather for a Landcare event in 1986
Photo: Landcare Victoria Inc. archives.
The Australian Government first met Landcare in 1986 in a small town in rural Victoria. It would not take long to make the union official. In July 1989 the government, led by the late Bob Hawke, with support from both sides of the political family announced the upcoming 1990s to be the ‘Decade of Landcare’.
The unwavering partnership of the Australian Government and Landcare has produced an internationally renowned approach to caring for our country’s soil, water and biodiversity, and supporting productive farming. The Landcare partnership model has proven to be the most resilient relationship in terms of delivering environmental, social and economic benefits and it continues to influence broad-scale community participation in natural resource management today. With 30 years of continuing adaption, relevance, and contribution stemming from the partnership, it is timely to celebrate success, and in doing so take a closer look at the elements which have made this 30-year union a national triumph.
There is no one model for a successful partnership, though there is one key ingredient in all partnerships: the motive or belief that working together is more effective than working in isolation. The Landcare partnership was formed on, and has been maintained over, a shared vision and clear reasons to collaborate. These reasons have evolved over the decades as understandings about environmental issues increased. Yet the underlying purpose of encouraging the integrated management of Australia’s soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity, remains a driving factor for the accomplishments and longevity of this partnership.
The philosophy of Landcare has always been community owned and driven, bi-partisan in nature and encouraging a holistic approach to land and water management. The Australian Government, regardless of political persuasion, has always valued and supported Landcare’s ability, its focus, and delivery of outcomes. Analysis of three decades of information on the partnership between the Australian Government and the Landcare movement has identified 20 critical factors for its ongoing success, listed below.
There is another key influential factor in the success and growth of the Landcare movement, the ‘Fairy Godmother’ factor; A high level person or organisation willing to invest more than their share of financial, human, and political capital to make the effort a success.
Many people brought the need for the Landcare movement to the attention of Australia’s leaders in the late 1980s and before. However, it is in the passion and leadership of Bob Hawke, then Prime Minister, where we find an enduring element of a good partnership – high level, credible, passionate and courageous leadership. Champions take on much of the risk associated with establishing a partnership, and provide the generosity and sheer force of will that helps to build trust. The partnership between the government and Landcare may not have been the achievement we are celebrating today without the high level leadership from the Fairy Bob-mother.
The Landcare partnership has been an enduring, relevant and successful relationship for the Australian Government since its inception 30 years ago. Perhaps most importantly, the environmental issues of soil loss, and land and water degradation are increasing in intensity, as is the need for increased sustainable agricultural production. There is no denying the need for the Landcare partnership remains current and necessary. The alliance delivers locally legitimate results for national and international environmental issues, and continues to adapt, grow and share.
The Australian Government’s National Landcare Program continues to be a key part of the Australian Government’s commitment to protect and conserve Australia’s water, soil, plants and ecosystems, as well as supporting the productive and sustainable use of these valuable resources.