The following talk was delivered by BHLG Chair, Kaye Rodden, to a “webinar” hosted by funding body, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network (AEGN), in May 2018.
Webinar – 2nd May
Hi – I am Kaye Rodden, a farmer from West of Geelong, a founding member and current President of my local landcare group in the Barrabool Hills, the deputy Chair of the peak landcare organisation in Victoria, Landcare Victoria Inc; and also the acting deputy chair of the Members Council of the National Landcare Network. As an aside….Following on from Doug’s comment regarding River Trusts I was also in 1998 one of the first women to chair one when I lived in the Yarra Valley.
I have been a landcarer for over 40 years. I say this because even though the official forming of the landcare brand now attributed to the then Minister for Conservation, Joan Kirner and co-sponsor, Heather Mitchell President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, was in 1986, the gestation period was much longer…
Probably going way back to the 1950’s when land managers realised that repairing the landscape, after widespread and often government-sponsored clearing, needed to be on a catchment basis, not farm by farm. This needed community support and some form of peer group oversight.
The launch and support of the landcare movement in 1986 was as stated by the minister, “an exciting new concept in integrated land management”. One which “enables the combined efforts of government at all levels, industry and the community to constructively achieve a better rural lifestyle for both this and the future generations”
What was integral to the acceptance and growth of the movement in Victoria was the support provided from across government and industry. This included , helping landcare groups to establish, incentives and services for projects, administrative systems such as insurance and incorporation and recognition through awards.
The recently formed Landcare Victoria Inc, who I represent, is a product of this initial support structure. In an earlier guise, as the FTLA, it was set up by the VFF to provide insurance and incorporation for the new groups,
The community landcare movement in Victoria now covers 82% of all private land and 32% public land which equates to 65% of the state. There are now 105,000 volunteers that are members of a landcare or environment group. These range from a group in the far north west of the state, Millewa Carwarp where the focus is on sustainable agriculture, developing new agricultural practices to limit soil loss to a Friends group in urban Melbourne who has transformed the Westgate construction site into an urban park and another on the Merri Creek that has rehabilitated what had become an urban drain, to groups abutting Westernport who are working to improve the water quality entering the Bay.
The vast majority of these landcare groups are organised into geographically and sometimes issue based based networks, which provide an avenue for an economy of scale, whilst allowing them to maintain their own autonomy and ability to follow many of their own objectives which are based on years of experience and observation.
The sharing of administrative resources and amalgamation of projects offers the potential to increase the size of the funding pie and also the effective portion each individual group receives. Whilst sharing administrative resources sounds a great idea, the actual funding of this is becoming increasingly difficult. It is often not very fashionable for investors to support the community to attend meetings, contribute to policy and planning processes, and report on projects and develop project bids, but this is a major contributor to community burn out.
There is now credible evidence which calculates that, when community landcare is involved at least $4 is added to the value of a project for every dollar invested and in some cases this leverage factor can be over 7 to 1 when community plan and implement National Resources Management (NRM) programs.
These figure though do not include the $ benefits to the government that accrue when healthy resilient community groups, like landcare, are established: in terms of physical and mental health and ability to respond to emergency situations etc. In a number of cases of major wildfires in Victoria, the local landcare community, with an integral knowledge of their members, is the first responder, coordinating long term support for farming families.
In some rural communities landcare is the only remaining community infrastructure that exists! What social support would these communities need from government if there was no other community infrastructure? In the far northwest of the state, which I mentioned previously, only the CFA and landcare remains to service what was a population of 600 + landholders and is now less than 70 spread over the same area. This region has, I have been told, some of the highest mental health issues in the state!
Funding for Victorian landcare comes from many sources.. and has been declining over time. Most of this funding is brokered by the Catchment Management Authorities (CMA’s) through various processes.
The state government resource a Victorian Landcare Program (VLP), which I mentioned previously, supports 78 part time landcare community facilitators, who assist landcare groups, networks and “Friends of “ groups, spread geographically across the state. A statewide indigenous facilitator, 10 Regional landcare facilitators who are embedded in the Catchment Management Authorities , a landcare magazine and website, an award process, co-sponsored with LandCare Australia Limited, and a nominal amount which is competitive for on-ground works and support.
The VLP program also has actions which address the need for work place training and employment support, and the LVI is contracted to undertake some of this.
The state government also support:
- a river health program for on ground repair and protection of the states waterways, this is project managed by the CMA’s and is based on their waterway strategies,
- a new biodiversity implementation program also exists , which is being implemented through a different engagement process outside the CMA’s,
- and PPA programs for gorse, blackberries and serrated tussock, and sometimes rabbits.
- In addition there are projects for coastal management, many implemented by volunteer coastal groups.
All the above programs are competitive, based on local, regional and state priorities or a combination of all.
Federal government also has competitive and priority driven programs which at the moment are generally brokered through the CMA’s.
The centre of community landcare’s success has been its ability to build relationships and partnerships . Between individuals in a community, with local government, schools, universities, industry and philanthropic organisations to name a few. Often these partnerships provide financial support and/or administrative and in-kind assistance.
The appeal for investing through the landcare model is that the cornerstone is people…. People “on country”. There for the long haul, not fly in fly out, but committed to their patch. Whether this is the local park, their beach and its dunes or a stretch of river or creek.
The spin off is that investing in landcare means that you are not only providing a cost effective and long term NRM investment but also and importantly you are investing in social benefits
Many talk about landscape management and cross border projects, but what we have learned from bitter experience is that the landscape needs people and they are an asset in themselves!
Landcare means many things to many people…. No single landcare group is the same. They may have been established to combat a weed, or fight rabbit infestation, improve perennial pasture production, plant trees, conserve and/or manage a plot of precious biodiversity on public or private land or create a biolink. They may be farmers, first people, city dwellers or a mixture of all and more…
The fact is, that Landcare with some help, initially formed to improve productive farming techniques and enhance environmental assets, and in partnership with others is achieving this and more on public and private land across the urban and rural landscape…..
…… but what sets landcare apart is its primary focus on building resilient and sustainable communities.
This was so succinctly expressed by Bernie Wonder(2014) in his report to the Australian Federal Government looking at Smallholder Value Chains for Food Security,
“Landcare is driven by its membership and thereby empowers participants to address issues of common interest. Their individual human and accumulated social capital bring skills and expertise as well as cohesiveness and trust to the work of the group, and these are qualities essential for enterprise development as well as NRM”.
Deputy Chair LVI
Advocacy and Partnerships.
Editor’s note: I have published an extract from this publication to outline the infrastructure that supports the Barrabool Hills Landcare Group. In the process, I have cut a segment from the middle, which deals with state and national political issues. If you wish to view the entire document, please contact the author, or the web editor, via our email: firstname.lastname@example.org