If there’s one thing that makes country communities stand out and indeed tower above their city cousins, it’s the ability of people to pull together to solve problems. Landcare would have to be one of the finest cases in point.
This past month of November has been officially designated the 30th birthday of Landcare.
Several small farming communities, including one at Warrenbayne, had already begun extensive tree planting as the realisation of the importance of flora in containing salinity and soil structure began to spread.
But Landcare really came to life in 1987 when the then Victorian Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands in the Cain Labor Government, the late Joan Kirner, grabbed the Landcare concept by the roots.
As a former teacher and knowing little about farming or conservation, Mrs Kirner made it her mission to understand the significance of the growing farm conservation movement.
The Warrenbayne Landcare Protection Group was given its official Landcare accreditation by Mrs Kirner in July 1987, which, according to The Ensign then, ‘‘topped off a series of unparalleled successes for the group.’’
Mrs Kirner was quoted as saying, ‘‘I think that the kind of miracles in halting land degradation we are seeing are in fact being created by the community and that is what Warrenbayne/Boho are all about.
‘‘They are producing results — they have doubled their tree planting this year to 60000 and this is clearly outstanding work.’’
The following year, in one of the most successful and productive partnerships of two groups usually at loggerheads, National Farmers’ Federation chief executive officer Rick Farley and the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Phillip Toyne formed an alliance and persuaded Prime Minister Bob Hawke to commit $340million over 10 years — and the National Landcare movement was formed.
In what I believe to be a great travesty, much of the political clout of the movement has been whittled down over progressive governments.
Farmers are now largely expected to carry out conservation work as a matter of course with very little government assistance.
In my mind, this is yet another example of short-term thinking damaging the long-term future of our precious farm land.