Photo: Peter Morris
In my first few months as CEO of this wonderful organisation called Bush Heritage, I was asked what the word ‘bush' meant to me. I had to think for a moment - where should I start?
‘Bush' is a wonderfully Australian term. It conjures up all sorts of images: wild, beautiful landscapes; images of the outback and of tall forests, wet tropics and savannah woodlands; and places that are somehow ‘out there', beyond the metropolitan boundaries.
As a child I was drawn to the wild corners of my parents' farm. We lived in New South Wales' Southern Riverina region, which was cleared for agriculture decades ago, but there were still stands of grey box and bulloak trees in hidden-away corners of the property.
I'm proud to have joined a wonderful group of extraordinary Australians who are making a real difference to the protection of our precious bush.
That's where I could be found playing as a young boy - the bush, where the wild things were. Those days looking for thornbills and climbing trees in search of crows' nests were the beginnings of a strong connection with the bush, one I know you share.
For me, Bush Heritage provides a wonderful opportunity to contribute to saving those precious places that remain intact but unprotected. I'm proud to have joined a wonderful group of extraordinary Australians who are making a real difference to the protection of our precious bush.
It's quickly become clear to me that Bush Heritage's supporters are our biggest strength - people like you, who stand resolutely to protect that bush. You come from all kinds of backgrounds.
Some, like Sue Connelly (whose story you can read) spend time nurturing the land and being nurtured by it. Others, like a supporter I met in a Sydney high-rise office building, are less geographically connected to the bush, but equally inspired by it and equally passionate about protecting it. It is remarkable the difference people like these, and people like you, are making.
The challenge of protecting our bush has also quickly become very real. In my very first week I spoke on the phone to tired reserve managers who had battled fires on your Bon Bon Reserve. I'm aware from my time as a national park ranger in Kakadu and from my work with Parks Victoria, that fire is an incredibly powerful force in shaping the ecology of our bush.
So I felt thankful our team was so well prepared to fight the fires safely and effectively. It was a powerful reminder that opportunity is always accompanied by great responsibility, and of the reason that your ongoing support is so vital.
Thank you for the kind welcome so many of you have given me. I look forward to leading our shared vision into the future: a future where the Australian bush and its wildlife are protected forever.
Gerard O'Neill, CEO