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Fifth National Landcare Awards, Canberra, Tuesday, 24 March 1998: address on the occasion.

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It is a great pleasure for Helen and me to be with you for the presentation o f these Fifth National Landcare Awards. As Patron o f Landcare Australia and as Governor- General, I extend our best wishes to all whose achievements in good landcare management and environmental practice led to their being considered for an award, and, more particularly, I offer in advance our congratulations to those individuals and organisations who have been adjudged national winners in one or other o f the various categories.

The names w ill be announced a little later this evening. What I would like to do at this stage is to pay tribute to the remarkable success o f Landcare Australia over the past 9 years in helping to raise our awareness o f the great importance o f caring sensitively and sustainably for our land, our waterways, our coastlines and our atmosphere. The credit for that success is shared by a great many people, including many o f you who are present this evening: Landcare’s officers and staff, the all-important sponsors and supporters in both public and private sectors, all associated with Landcare’s many projects, including o f course, these awards.

We in this country are blessed with a unique and extraordinarily diverse and rich environment. The corollary is, o f course, that we Australians bear an extraordinarily heavy burden o f obligation to ourselves, our country and future generations to protect and preserve that environment, and to overcome the problems which confront us

To no small extent, those problems reflect developments over the years that have followed European settlement: the cumulative consequences o f population growth, its distribution around our coastal fringes, our life-styles, the new technologies and the increased demands for, and exploitation of, fuel and other resources There are the threats to the diversity o f our native fauna and flora caused by loss o f habitat and introduced species. There are the problems o f the scarcity and the quality, including the salinity, o f water caused by use o f land and disposal o f waste. There are the problems o f land degradation caused by clearing, over-stocking, marginal cropping, irrigation and introduced species There are the problems o f global climate change. There are the problems o f urban environments which reflect the low relatively density and spreading character o f our cities, our dependence on private cars, the scale o f urban waste disposal,

and the past neglect o f urban heritage




I mention these problems not to cause gloom. To the contrary, I see hope rather than gloom. Indeed, it seems to me to be apparent that, as we approach the beginning o f a new millennium and the centenary o f our nation, we Australians are more conscious than we have ever been o f the overwhelming importance o f our obligation to protect and preserve our environment I mention such problems mainly to provide the context o f what is being done and to remind ourselves o f the plain fact that, i f we do not remain vigilant to address and overcome those problems, they w ill overcome us.

In marked contrast to the situation which existed as recently as 25 years ago, one can, these days, point to many areas in which considerations o f the environment are shaping policies and controlling action at the national, the regional, the local and the individual level. Time does not permit me to detail them at length But it seems to me to be apparent that, over the past quarter o f a century, a revolution has taken place both as regards the importance which Australians generally ascribe to the environment and as regards our perceptions and expectations regarding government, corporate and individual conduct and responsibility in relation to sustainable environmental practice.

Since its incorporation in 1989, Landcare Australia has played a very significant part in fostering that revolution in public attitudes and expectations - and, just as importantly, in individual behaviour with respect to the environment It has become a world leader in the grass roots application o f sustainable land use principles

At the end o f the last financial year, there were some 4270 urban and rural landcare groups working in all States and Territories - an increase o f almost one-third over the previous year With the establishment o f Coastcare some three years ago, people living in the cities now have many more opportunities to be involved in natural resource management. Last year, within 3 years o f its establishment, the Landcare Foundation, under the National Chairmanship o f Sir James Hardy, reached its pledge target o f $10 million - with very significant support from the corporate sector. The Foundation has funded more than 350 landcare group projects tackling land and water degradation around

Australia. As Patron o f Landcare, let me express my most sincere thanks to all who have contributed to the work o f Landcare and Coastcare through government, through company sponsorships and donations, through individual and group effort. Truly, Landcare’s symbol o f the caring hands forming the outline o f our continent says it all.

Ladies and gentlemen, the bi-annual National Landcare Awards have become a very important element in shaping public attitudes towards good environmental management and understanding. They give us all an opportunity to publicly recognise and honour fellow Australians —men, women and young people - who in their many ways demonstrate daily that the key to sustainable environmental practice lies in doing something about it. In taking action I sincerely thank and congratulate all who by their contributions, their efforts and their achievements have made possible these Fifth National Landcare Awards and this evening’s festivities.