9th August 2016
Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 17:10 :54 ): One often hears people despair about the world we will leave for future generations, particularly in relation to loss of our natural areas and our native animals. With so much already gone and seemingly relentless pressure on our bushland, anyone would be a fool to dismiss such concerns. I, too, sometimes despair, but then I meet people who convince me that, while some people appear blithe to the risks to our environment, there are lots of people working hard to repair it and to save it from further degradation. They restore my faith in the future a little.
I was recently delighted to be a small part in a quiet revolution going on within the Landcare movement—a quiet generational shift that is engaging young people on environmental issues in a way not seen before. Landcare, as members of this House well know, has been regenerating our natural environment for decades, but it is benefiting from a youthful makeover from an organisation called Intrepid Landcare, which aims to connect young people, inspire change and involve young people in environmental initiatives that blend travel, adventure and environmental action.
Intrepid Landcare was launched in the Hunter region in June this year with a retreat at Glenrock Lagoon Scout Camp. It brought together 16 young people aged between 16 and 30 years for a leadership retreat that aimed to educate and empower them to lead other groups of young people into a new era of environmental action. I sponsored the initiative along with Lake Macquarie City Council and the Hunter region's Landcare groups because I was amazed at what was being done. Getting young people interested in these types of initiatives has always been difficult, but Intrepid Landcare is drawing them in with a modern twist on something that, with respect, had become the domain of older people with a bit of time on their hands for good community deeds—and what great work they have been doing.
Of those who attended the leadership retreat, two-thirds had never volunteered for a community initiative before. Almost half had never heard of Landcare before or were never aware of the opportunities it offered. This program has struck a real chord with young people. One of the retreat participants, Kara Agllias from Tighes Hill in nearby Newcastle, said the Intrepid Landcare program was appealing to the younger generation because it was all about adventure and the opportunity to see different places while getting involved in planting programs and other environmental projects. She said the traditional Landcare model of working on one single area of land had changed with Intrepid Landcare. Under the new program, groups will travel to different locations and undertake different activities combined with a bit of adventure.
During the weekend retreat the young leaders planted native trees and grasslands at Burwood Beach, abseiled within the Glenrock conservation area, discussed leadership roles with mentors, went on birdwatching walks, learned about the local history and socialised. They also identified four key projects to undertake within the next six months and started their own group on social media through which they can keep in touch and stay involved in the projects. Intrepid Landcare's co-founders, Megan Rowlett and Naomi Edwards, have been blown away by the enthusiasm for their little Landcare revolution not just in the Hunter but throughout the State, and so am I. This is the kind of generational change we need. I note the presence in the Chamber of the member for Keira. I am sure he is very pleased that Megan Rowlett is from the South Coast; she is doing a fabulous job in his electorate.
Landcare in Lake Macquarie generates millions of dollars worth of volunteer labour each year. Ecosystems receive enormous benefits including work to stabilise critical habitat and enhance wildlife corridors, stormwater and riparian processes as well as dunes, foreshores, rainforests and wetlands. Landcare works by engaging people in environmental work and puts them on the ground where work is needed, achieving far more than could ever be paid for by governments or local councils. Lake Macquarie is a significant geographical region and the local Landcare network takes a lead role in caring for our urban forests and landscapes. It is therefore imperative that it finds ways of not only keeping people engaged and active but attracting more young people to its ranks of volunteers so it can continue to meet the growing demand on its resources. That is why the Intrepid Landcare program is so important to the future—not just Landcare's own future, but the future of our natural environment.
The Hunter group has not sat idle since that first weekend. It has been busy working on key projects and is in the process of seeking funds from the Environmental Trust to hold an Intrepid Landcare retreat for Indigenous youth in the Hunter region. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the young people I met during Intrepid Landcare's inaugural retreat at Glenrock. These young people were genuine in their desire to make a difference to the environment and to their local communities as well as far and beyond. I am pleased to be able to support them where I can and to bring knowledge of this great new movement to this House.
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