What Is Landcare?

How did the Landcare movement start?

The name ‘Landcare evolved in Victoria through an initiative of Joan Kirner, (then Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands) and Heather Mitchell, (then president of the Victorian Farmers Federation).

As a Minister for Conservation in the Caine Government in 1985, Joan Kirner came to learn quickly that there was a pressing need to develop a program that would reverse the degradation of farmland, public land and our waterways.

With the generous support of community members, farmers and Departmental officers, Heather Mitchell and Joan Kirner were able to launch Landcare in a small town in central Victoria in 1985.

What has transpired since is remarkable, Landcare groups have formed all across the state, around Australia and in over 20 countries around the world. The keystones of Landcare are that it is community owned and driven, it is bi-partisan in nature, it encourages integrated management of environmental assets with productive farmland and a more sustainable approach to private land management.

In January 1988 Australias first official dune care groups formed on the mid north coast of New South Wales at Hat Head, Diamond Beach, Scotts Head and Diggers Beach. Many Australian communities had already begun practising Landcare decades earlier, accounts from some of our most enduring Landcare groups have them tackling grass roots environmental issues as early as the 1950s.

In 1989 the Landcare movement officially began with Rick Farley of the National Farmers Federation and Phillip Toyne of the Australian Conservation Foundation, successfully lobbying the Hawke Labor Government to commit itself to the emerging movement. Landcare became a national program in July 1989 when the Australian Government, with bipartisan support, announced its “Decade of Landcare Plan�? and committed $320 million to fund the National Landcare Program.

Understanding the Landcare movement and Landcare groups

Landcare is a grassroots movement that harnesses individuals and groups to protect, restore and sustainable manage Australias natural environment and its productivity. It had its genesis in initiatives to improve agricultural productivity through sustainable land management. The movement has grown from this to a broader focus on sustainable management of all of Australias natural resource assets and now encompasses individuals and groups across the whole landscape from coastal to urban and remote areas of Australia.

With over 6000 Landcare and Coastcare groups nationwide there is likely to be a group near you, possibly working on a project right under your nose. Volunteers range from kids to retirees, surfers to farmers and CEOs to students. United by a shared desire to create positive change in their communities, these individuals recognise that as a group their efforts have greater impact.

The success of the Landcare model is due in part to its bottom up philosophy. A Landcare group usually starts when community members with common objectives connect over their observations of a local environmental issue. For example, erosion of sand dunes due to mismanaged beach access or weeds affecting agricultural productivity. Groups set their own agenda, undertake work as often as they like and choose their own project sites. Groups may apply for funding from a variety of different sources to support their work including local, state, federal government and Landcare Australia.

Generally, small group committees oversee operations, apply for project funding and organise communal activities like community workshops or tree planting. Most groups have one to six formal meetings annually. They may run discussion sessions, and short trips to other Landcare groups and other activities to gain and share knowledge. Some larger groups may have a paid coordinator providing part-time assistance, arranging meetings and activities and providing management guidance. Funds to pay these salaries mostly come from government. Increasingly, Landcare groups amalgamate into Landcare networks managed by community boards that take a more regional approach to environmental issues and coordinate activities to achieve catchment wide outcomes. Networks are now a major community link to all levels of government and industry for financial support and information.

The success of the Landcare bottom up model can be attributed to the inspiring contributions made by the passionate individuals who make up Australias Landcare movement. Their sense of stewardship, enduring commitment and deep appreciation for our natural environment is why Landcare exists today. Its people are its greatest asset.