When I first attended a Bush Heritage talk about 20 years ago I was struck by several things, including the dedication of its staff, the science-based nature of its decision-making process, and how much Australia needed such an organisation. What impressed me the most, however, was the compelling evidence I was presented showing the positive impact that Bush Heritage’s work was having on species and habitat recovery. I came away from that talk without a shadow of a doubt that this was an organisation bringing about real change.
It has been profoundly rewarding to have been a part of Bush Heritage’s story ever since, first as a supporter, then as a Board member, and now as President.
In just 29 years, we've gone from a $50,000 operation protecting two small blocks in the Liffey Valley of Tasmania, to a national environmental force for good that invested $24.6 million into conservation in the last year alone.
The vast majority of those funds came from likeminded people, and the scale of your generosity continues to astound me.
But the real impact of Bush Heritage’s work is to be found not in how much money we’ve spent, but in what we’ve accomplished with that money.
These achievements are too numerous to list here, but some of the highlights for me include establishing a world-class Aboriginal Partnerships program, leading the way on natural capital accounting, and our pioneering work enhancing protection of the Tasmanian Midlands in partnership with farmers and the Tasmanian Land Conservancy. And, in my final days as President, I have seen a longstanding dream come to reality – our first ever engagement reserve, acquired solely for the purpose of educating and engaging the general public, just 45 minutes’ drive north of Melbourne.
Working in the environmental sector, I'm often asked how it's possible to stay optimistic given all the challenges that we are up against. My answer is tangible impact; one need only look to the examples listed above to see that good news stories abound in our line of work, and each time I step out on a Bush Heritage reserve I find more reasons to hope.
Over the course of my travels with Bush Heritage I have watched frogs emerge from under the sand after years of dormancy when it unexpectedly rained in the Simpson Desert; I have marvelled at a healthy 500-year-old Coolibah tree on Naree Reserve that endured fires, floods, insect invasion and droughts; celebrated the rediscovery of an orchid on Nardoo Hills Reserve that had been declared extinct some 70 years previously; I’ve learnt how life on Planet Earth began some 3 million years ago with the Stromatolites at Hamelin Station Reserve; and I’ve been privileged to hear Traditional Owners share stories on country about their culture and people.
As the global population approaches 8 billion, we should all be asking ourselves not how we can stay optimistic, but what we can do to safeguard nature for the benefit of all.
It is true that we have a daunting task in front of us. This time last year, bushfires were starting to break out across Queensland heralding what was to come over the long Black Summer. Climate change will bring many more summers like this, but we know, as you do, that nature can be incredibly resilient if given the chance. Bush Heritage Australia is giving nature that chance.
This organisation is a good news story that only exists because of people like you. It has been an immense privilege to play a role in that story over the past 20 years, and I’m looking forward to sharing in Bush Heritage’s journey in the decades to come. I hope you’ll join me.