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The value of Landcare to the Australian community
reportposted on 10.02.2020, 00:00 by A Henry, Richard KoechRichard Koech, J Prior
Landcare is a unique community-based approach to managing and restoring Australia’s natural environment and improving the sustainability of agricultural activities. Established in the late 1980s, Landcare and its associated networks of community-based action have constantly evolved, responding to the opportunities and challenges posed by successive Governments’ approaches to managing Australia’s challenging natural environment. Consistent throughout these past three decades has been the critical role that Landcare has played in leading Australia’s approach to agricultural practices, natural resource management, environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. While these positive environmental and agricultural impacts of Landcare have been well recognised, the multiple benefits derived from the economic, social and cultural contributions of this volunteer and not-for-profit movement have not been as widely appreciated. This Landcare NSW Position Statement outlines the extent of these economic, social and cultural benefits, highlighting the enormous role Landcare has played in building and maintaining the capacity and social cohesion of many communities, particularly in rural and regional Australia. As this statement demonstrates, Landcare has provided a framework for land owners and managers to formally and informally recognise existing expertise and knowledge, to share information and experiences and to support further learning and communities of practice. Landcare groups and networks have also provided a foundation for intergenerational learning, particularly through its school-based activities. Founded on the understanding that community action is required to collectively address environmental and sustainability challenges, Landcare has brought together people of different ages, cultures and socioeconomic groups, positively impacting on the health and wellbeing of both communities and individuals. The volunteering aspect of Landcare has further supported individual wellbeing and mental health by helping people feel valued and part of their community. Individuals and communities involved in Landcare have developed extensive experience and skills in working with governments, non-government organisations and businesses, in grant management, project management, financial, communication and governance systems – all transferrable experience, skills and systems which are utilised in a broad range of other social, economic and community activities. Landcare groups, networks and programs have also provided a forum for engagement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians, and a platform for increasing the recognition of women in regional and rural communities. On the economic front, the Landcare model has matched vast volunteer time and effort with major in- kind and financial investment in communities, resulting in significant multiplier effects for Government investment. For a relatively small investment there have been significant returns for Government and the community at large. The benefits of investment in Landcare – for instance clean water, improved health and community relations – extend well beyond the (private) individual landholder or a Landcare group, to the community at large. In summary, Landcare has brought enormous value to Australia over the past three decades, extending well beyond its positive environmental and agricultural impacts.