Landcare in Australia
Landcare is the name for a type of community not-for-profit organisation which involves local groups of volunteers repairing the natural environment. Originally projects focused on agricultural farmland. The idea was that farmers, conservationists and scientists could work together to improve both farm quality and natural ecosystems.
The Landcare Australia organisation has grown and diversified since its small-scale origins in the 1980s. The Landcare concept has grown to include groups working on town and city green areas, waterways, beaches and larger park areas. For example, Landcare Australia now has Coastcare and "Junior Landcare" groups.
The concept of "landcare" brings people together who share a common problem and usually live in the same drainage basin or "catchment", an area that collects and directs water to a common point. By working together in a catchment, land degradation problems can be tackled successfully.
Many of the first groups were set up to eradicate rabbits in Australia and to address other specific farm land degradation issues. The Landcare concept has now extended beyond this, to include rural farming, lifestyle and community development.
A related concept is Caring For Country. This focuses on local Indigenous people working to repair Indigenous lands and to preserve the environment using Cultural knowledge, and in conjunction with non-indigenous people and organisations who are willing and able to assist. The organisation and funding of Caring for Country projects is often different to local Landcare groups, however Federal government Landcare and Caring for Our Country budgets has funded projects and Ranger positions.
The movement began in Victoria, Australia in 1986 when a group of farmers near St Arnaud in central Victoria formed the first Landcare group, a voluntary group to repair the natural environment. Since then, the Landcare concept has spread across Australia and to about 15 other countries. There are approximately 4000 Landcare groups in Australia.
Important people in the creation of Landcare were Rick Farley of the National Farmers Association, Environment lobbyist Barbara Hardy A.O and Phillip Toyne both from the Australian Conservation Foundation. Joan Kirner and Heather Mitchell were early proponents of the idea.
Landcare as an organisation received a great boost when the Australian Federal Government of Prime Minister Bob Hawke declared a decade of Landcare and established a continuing funding mechanism to enable the volunteers to continue and expand their work.
In the thirty years since the first group formed, Landcare Australia has become a well-recognised organisation, and its principle of stewardship (where land managers work to protect or improve the land for the future) has become widely understood.
Landcare Australia appears to have broad-based respect amongst the public in Australia. The organisation appears to be successfully navigating a field that is often troubled by acrimonious arguments around landuse, environmental policy/practice and Indigenous sovereignty.
The range of activities now included within Landcare programs has expanded to include research that measures effectiveness of previous activities, fencing out stock so that vegetation can regrow, creating windbreaks for livestock protection, channelling and speeding waterways, and combating soil salinity. Many of the tasks are carried out to correct mistakes in farming practices conducted decades ago and sometimes a project simply involve the sharing of ideas related to caring for the land. Other activities include weed removal, using biological controls and farm beautification.
Organizations and structure
Landcare groups in Australia are supported by Landcare Australia as a national body, the National Landcare Network as a national community network, and also by the relevant national and state agencies or organizations.
Peak bodies for Landcare exist in each state and territory, and are run by volunteer committees with support from a small number of paid staff. Their purpose is to represent Landcare groups, landholders and others involved with managing and caring for our environment at the state level. Most of these groups work in association with the State Agencies or regional bodies.
These bodies include Landcare ACT (Australian Capital Territory), Victorian Landcare Council, Landcare Queensland, Landcare NSW, Landcare Tasmania, Landcare Association of South Australia, Landcare NT (Northern Territory), and WA Landcare Network (Western Australia).
Landcare Tasmania is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation established in Australia's smallest State in 1994. It is the oldest State-based Landcare organisation in Australia and supports a network of around 200 community 'care' groups, with a collective membership and volunteer base of over 3,300 performing over 90,000 hours or voluntary community work annually.
Australian Landcare International (ALI) is a not-for-profit organisation started in 2008, which promotes and assists other countries to use the Landcare model.
- Meredith, Peter (1995). "Landcare: A grassroots revolution down on the farm". Australian Geographic. Terrey Hills, New South Wales: Australian Geographic Society. 40: 69–85.