Like most Australians, 2020 turned out nothing like I had planned. Being my first as President of Bush Heritage Australia, I had hoped to get to know our staff and supporters in person. But instead I got to know them through their determination to connect and protect.
When the world shut down, Bush Heritage was confronted with the challenge of recovering from bushfires and continuing our daily conservation work, all within the constraints of COVID-19 restrictions.
It was an absolute highlight for me to see our staff and partners embrace this challenge and achieve some outstanding results.
Across northern and central Australia, Bush Heritage’s Fire team supported our Aboriginal partners to continue with their planned burning programs, providing technical advice and assistance via online platforms to ensure that vulnerable remote communities were protected.
On Edgbaston Reserve in central Queensland, our staff released 27 captive-bred Red-finned Blue-eye fish into the reserve’s artesian springs after years of planning. This species was on the brink of extinction when we purchased Edgbaston in 2008, so to see the population now growing and breeding is immensely satisfying.
On Maiawali country in Queensland, we celebrated the designation of Pullen Pullen Reserve as the state’s first ‘Special Wildlife Reserve’. The title represents a new protected area category that provides privately-protected land with the same level of legal protection as that afforded to national parks.
In the end, I was able to spend some time on country, too – meeting staff and supporters in Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales.
Through these encounters and the aforementioned achievements, I’ve learnt that when the going gets tough, the Bush Heritage community doesn’t turn away; rather, it leans in.
This financial year, Bush Heritage’s revenue was $29.1 million. These funds will be put to good use where they’re needed most: in the field. Notably, we received several significant donations for multi-year projects focussed mainly around bushfire recovery on our fire-affected New South Wales reserves.
We have also increased capacity in our ecology and field-based teams to ensure we are properly equipped to return the bush to good health. Now, 68% of Bush Heritage staff are field-based.
Individually, we all have a small part to play in the race to conserve and protect the bush. But collectively we are a force to be reckoned with – a force for enormous good.
Thank you for being a part of our story.
Sue O'Connor, President.