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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13387

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (12:27): I would like to thank the member for Ryan for this important motion acknowledging the significance and success of the government's Green Army program. The Green Army is a major government commitment with more than $700 million budgeted over four years. It will become Australia's largest ever team-supported environmental action, building to around 15,000 young Australians by 2018. The Green Army provides young people across the country with a chance to take part in important environmental and conservation activities while at the same time receiving training and qualifications.

This year, 2015, has been a fantastic year for the Green Army in my electorate of Macarthur. Over the course of this year, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many young people who have had the courage and tenacity to take part in Macarthur's Green Army. Many of these young people have had difficult upbringings, and the Green Army has offered a positive environment to learn about the importance of conservation and develop a passion for this kind of work. The Green Army participants are supported to work towards certificate I and II qualifications or nationally endorsed skills sets to help them prepare for the workforce and improve their career opportunities. It is crystal clear from talking to people on the ground that the Green Army in Macarthur is making a real difference to the environment and the local community, transforming the lives of these young people by putting them on the right path in life and allowing them to fulfil their potential.

In March this year, Macarthur's first Green Army team graduated at the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan, marking the achievements of a group of young Australians who have spent six months working on the Cumberland Plain Green Army project. The Australian Botanic Garden woodland regeneration program is of great benefit to the Macarthur region through the conservation of the Cumberland Plain's critically endangered ecological communities. The program focusses on conservation management, restoration and enhancement of the woodland, targeting both the Cumberland Plain Woodlands and the Western Sydney Dry Rainforest remnants, and looking to achieve weed control and assist regeneration and replanting in degraded areas.

Over the past 15 months or so, successive Green Army participants have been highly effective in eradicating invasive weeds such as African olive, Brazilian nightshade and prickly pear from the critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodlands. In September, the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Greg Hunt, and I visited the garden to attend a graduation ceremony. It was incredible to see what the participants had learnt, including such things as specialised weed control techniques for use in sensitive bushland, as well as seed collection and plant propagation. It was a special day for the Green Army team and their friends and family, as well as their organisers—in particular project supervisor Jacinta Rheinberger and the Curator Manager of the Australian Botanic Garden, John Siemon, who have passionately supported this programme from the beginning.

I again congratulate the graduates: Amy Peacey, David Lefu, lsaha Wickey, Joshua Araya, Kodi Gaddes, Mark Rutten, Tasman Stoker and Tiffany Bliefnick. These terrific young people gained experience working in an ambitious and productive team environment, which will be invaluable to them as they move on to the next stage of their lives. As Minister Hunt said on the day, 'The team we're celebrating today is yet another example of how the Green Army is making a real difference for the local environment and community. Through their management, restoration and enhancement of the Cumberland Plain, these graduates have made a real difference to the area.'

There are two other Macarthur Green Army projects in operation in Camden and Campbelltown, in addition to the program at the Australian Botanic Garden in Mount Annan. The Campbelltown Green Army project, run by Bridie Gough, is involved in improving biodiversity within key threatened ecological communities in the Campbelltown LGA, such as Cumberland Plain Woodland, Shale Sandstone Transition Forest, River Flat Eucalypt Forest and Sydney Sandstone Iron Bark Forest. This will be achieved through the control of weeds of national significance, noxious weeds and environmental weeds; removal of gross pollutant waste; and revegetation activities. Participants are undertaking water quality monitoring using the council's bushcare water quality testing kits on a bi-monthly basis at Smiths Creek Reserve and Fishers Ghost Reserve, and gaining nursery related skills through training at Wollondilly Council Community Nursery.

Camden's Green Army participants have been busy creating habitat for a national vulnerable species, Camden white gum, by removing 2.4 hectares of its main threat, privet, and planting 1,000 plants, including 50 Camden white gums. The team were tasked with removing 8.85 hectares of African olive and African boxthorn in the Cumberland Plain Woodland at Gundungurra Reserve and at Elizabeth Throsby and Charles Throsby reserves. At the end of last month I had the pleasure of meeting the team and handing out certificates at the Camden Green Army's inaugural graduation. I was told by supervisors Adam Wood and Lachlan Baird that two people from this small team had already found jobs and that the others were in a much better position thanks to this great program. They explained that the community were quickly becoming aware of how good the program is and that, in the short time their project had been in operation, they had seen a dramatic increase in enquiries about joining Macarthur's Green Army. This year, 2015, has been an incredibly productive year for the Green Army in Macarthur. I look forward to these projects building on their success next year and beyond.