Local, Independant and Effective

Landcare - wonderful protectors of our landscapes

Posted November 09, 2015


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (11:27):  It gives me great pleasure today to support this motion [Farmers Motion, moved by Member for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone]. I want to talk on behalf of the Australian primary producers and our Landcare groups and support the call for a national day for farmers. In recognising the member for Murray, can I also congratulate you on the fantastic job you have done on the ground in protecting farmers in your own community, particularly through your work in protecting manufacturing jobs around the Shepparton-Mooroopna area. You have been an outstanding champion for SPC and related people. So congratulations on that work.

Today I would like to claim my space, with my background in agriculture, and acknowledge the important work that happens in north-east Victoria with agriculture. I am a lifetime member of the organisation Australian Women in Agriculture and know the work that women in particular do in sustaining farming families. I am a member of the Victorian Farmers Federation and have been on the policy committee of the VFF. I am a producer of prime lamb, which I am delighted to say is some of the best that you can possibly have. I am a tree planter. I am also a member of the Indigo Valley Landcare Group. I join with one other member of this House, Nola Marino, in being a proud Australian woman farmer. When I talk about this word 'farming', I bring to the knowledge of the House that farmers are more than just the one person. Farmers mostly operate in a family context. They are multigenerational, so we have men, women, children, grandparents, uncles and aunts and also the people who work on our farms. So that generic term for 'farmer' covers an enormous number of people who are actively engaged in the production of our food.

At the local level these farming families and businesses are supported by many community groups. Today I would particularly like to talk about landcare groups—in particular my local Indigo Valley Landcare Group. Established in 1986, it was one of the forerunners of landcare groups in our region and took upon itself the task of sharing knowledge, sharing work, creating celebrations, doing planning, welcoming newcomers to the community and doing fantastic field days. Most importantly, from my perspective, the landcare group introduced me to some of the wise elders who were well established in my community and gave me access to their knowledge and to the experience that generations of farming families had built up.

Today I particularly acknowledge and thank publicly Carol White. I thank Carol, John and their family for the fantastic work that they have done in the Indigo Valley as farmers and as wonderful protectors of our landscape. I also acknowledge Phil and Norm McLean—Phil in particular for the introduction she gave me to trees and to the landscape. Phil, Norm and their family have done a fantastic job in the Indigo Valley, teaching so many people so many things and introducing me, as a young farmer, to agriculture and to the community.

These landcare groups operating in a small local area—there are about 71 in my electorate of Indi—are also supported at the regional level by our catchment management authorities. Today I also acknowledge the work done by the North East CMA and the Goulburn Broken CMA. They do a fantastic job at a regional level, helping and supporting farmers and landcare groups, helping with the planning and the marketing, sharing the knowledge and giving farmers the infrastructure and the support we need to do our job.

Attached to the fantastic work of the CMAs there is another group that I particularly want to mention today: a partnership between CMAs and philanthropy. In my electorate of Indi I had the pleasure in July of launching the Swamps, Rivers and Ranges blueprint for the north-east area of Victoria. This is a community-driven landscape restoration project. It is funded by the Norman Wettenhall Foundation, which is a well-known and respected philanthropy group dedicated to supporting community-driven environmental projects. One of the wonderful things about the work that they have done—and I particularly acknowledge Stephen Routledge for his work—is that they have been involved in over 60 environmental projects across 19 landcare groups, bringing them together and taking a priority approach so that they can be funded.

I support the member for Murray's call for a national day of Australian farmers. But a day is not enough. We need government support and community support. We have to work together as a nation to protect the diversity and variety of people who call themselves farmers and to bring their work to the national level and say to them all, 'Well done. Thank you.' In closing, I acknowledge the work of our Australian women farmers, often unrecognised, and in particular I thank Australian Women in Agriculture for the terrific job they have done on behalf of us all.

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