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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13384

Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (12:17): I always welcome an opportunity to talk about the Green Army, because it is such a fantastic program. I thank the member for Ryan for bringing this motion to the House and I share her enthusiasm for the positive impact the program is having in our respective electorates. It is wonderful to see generations of young people taking not only a strong interest but also a strong sense of responsibility in the care of our local environment and natural habitats.

Just last week I attended the Wyong Shire Council's Primary Schools Environment Program Awards ceremony. The program is a Wyong Shire Council initiative and it has been running for the last 27 years. This year's theme was 'All about that waste', encouraging students to consider waste in individual and community contexts and to consider the subsequent impacts on the environment and waste management systems. It was fantastic to see students so involved and aware of their surrounding environment and coming up with their own initiatives on how they can take care of it. I take this opportunity to congratulate The Entrance Public School for taking out the award for overall winner in the large school category, as well as winner of the waste audit and waste management plan; Tacoma public school, runner-up in the overall small school category as well as winner of the student oral presentation performance; Brooke Avenue Public School, runner-up in the large school category as well as winner of the schools eco-tour category; and Warnervale and Woongarrah Public Schools, who also received awards for their outstanding commitment to our local environment.

By providing education and practical hands-on experience through schools, tertiary institutions and at all levels of government, we are seeing our younger generations growing up with a greater awareness and positive attitudes towards caring for our natural environment. The government recognises the importance of harnessing our young people through education and participation and promoting and facilitating grassroots environmental action to affect real changes, which is the reason the Green Army program is specifically geared for young people aged 17 to 24.

The government's Green Army program is proven to be successful. The policy was built on a pre-existing platform from the Howard government which resulted in over 14 million trees being planted and over 50,000 hectares of weeds being cleared amongst other achievements. The coalition government revitalised the proven Howard program. Upon implementation this program has been strong. The evidence across Australia is clear. As it builds to a $700-million, 15,000-strong environmental workforce over the coming years, it will be our largest ever environmental deployment, taking practical and direct action to remediate and regenerate our local environment by employing the people who understand it best, the locals.

Since the launch of the Green Army in Dobell by Minister Hunt, I have visited numerous Green Army sites and met many outstanding participants. Last month I visited the young people involved in the new round of Green Army projects at The Entrance North and Tuggerah Lakes. They were enthusiastic, passionate and dedicated to the restoration project. The Green Army have been involved in removing lantana, improving vegetation and rehabilitating the landscape. They have collected seeds, propagated plants and removed weeds. They have undertaken revegetation of dunes, and installed public access-ways and fencing to reduce the human impact on the dunes and to prevent erosion. They have monitored flora and fauna by establishing photo points and using various surveying techniques.

Along with the practical labour, the Green Army are engaging with and educating the community, by erecting signage, distributing publications and conducting interactive seminars. The Green Army is an outstanding initiative for young people to be trained in environmental conservation under the supervision of approved project hosts. Program participants are paid an allowance during their placement with the Green Army and have an opportunity to formalise their participation with accredited training modules.

As I talk with different young people who are involved with the Green Army team, I am always impressed at their pride in what they are achieving; their self-confidence and their sense of team camaraderie. Many of the participants I have spoken to express a desire to continue working in the fields of conservation, natural resource management and other environmental fields. One recent graduate was beaming as he told me he had joined a Green Army program because he was unemployed, and through his participation he has now gained employment as a landscaper.

Green Army is creating real jobs and making a real difference in young people's lives. And it is generating tangible, environmental and conservation benefits for our community. I look forward to continuing to see the outstanding projects across Dobell in the future.