The best job in Australia - Gerard O'Neill

Published 30 Sep 2016 
"I had the privilege, a few years ago, of speaking with a man named Peter Edwards about what motivated him to donate for so long. He simply said "I wanted to be part of creating something much bigger than I could do by myself". I’ll never forget that conversation."

In the late 1990s I was working in the conservation policy field and I received a brochure from an environmental organisation called Bush Heritage Australia that caught my eye. It simply read: ‘We don’t beat around the bush. We buy it.’

CEO Gerard O'Neill. Photo Bec Walton.
CEO Gerard O'Neill. Photo Bec Walton.
The approach piqued my interest, and I was prompted to find out more. As I learned about Bush Heritage Australia’s projects and its philosophy I recall thinking what an energetic and effective group this was. As I continued my career I kept an eye on Bush Heritage and its work, and was increasingly impressed with its commitment to private conservation, indigenous collaboration and its science-backed approach.

As fate would have it, by 2011 Bush Heritage Australia was looking for a new CEO. By then, I knew the organisation well. I could see a well-run operation, outstanding governance, a strong board and a great team of people who were looking to further the conservation cause in Australia. I applied, and I was appointed to what I firmly believe is the best job in Australia, and I’m lucky enough to be here as we mark our 25th anniversary.

Bracken fern and Black Wattle Acacia species, Liffy River Reserve. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
Bracken fern and Black Wattle Acacia species, Liffy River Reserve. Photo Wayne Lawler / EcoPix.
This is a celebration of Bush Heritage Australia’s growth from adolescence to maturity.

From those early days in the Liffey Valley of Tasmania to achieving our millionth protected hectare, Bush Heritage Australia has continued to evolve and inspire people to support its cause.

The success has been built on the hard work of thousands of people. Yet, in a way, the work is just beginning. Our job is to continue the journey so those that come after us inherit an organisation that is well placed to meet the challenges of the next 25 years and beyond.

The landscape at Pullen Pullen Reserve, Qld. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
The landscape at Pullen Pullen Reserve, Qld. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
And when I think about the work happening at places like Carnarvon and Naree, the protection of the Night Parrot at Pullen Pullen, our collaboration with the Central Desert Native Title Services team and the Birriliburu partnership and our plans for Hamelin Station Reserve, I can’t help but be encouraged about the future.

In achieving this milestone I want to say thank you for your support, your tireless efforts, your intellect and your passion. Without you, we could not have weathered the growing pains of an organisation in its infancy to become the highly effective, internationally recognised organisation we are today.

It’s something for which we can all be immensely proud.

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