The winner of Australia's highest landcare honour says farmers will continue to face big challenges when it comes to integrating environmental outcomes into practical and profitable production systems.
NSW farmer and landcare legend Bruce Maynard was awarded the 2022 Bob Hawke Landcare Award at the National Landcare Awards Gala Dinner in Sydney last night.
Mr Maynard, who farms near Narromine, is the inventor of the No Kill Cropping System, a technique that relies on the retention of full grassland functions and the use of almost no external inputs.
He also initiated the Constructive Farming Cooperative - a group of farmers and researchers committed to extending the application of regenerative agricultural techniques and pioneered a new field of animal behavioural science called Self Herding alongside Dr Dean Revell.
Mr Maynard said he was humbled to have received the Bob Hawke Award and said while the challenges where great for farmers, there were also opportunities.
"I really believe that the challenges facing us globally such as climate change and species decline present us with creative opportunities to work together for the greater good while improving the results for individual landholders," he said.
Mr Maynard was joined on the stage by fellow New South Welshman Dr Oliver Knox who took out the other major prize of the night, the General Jeffery Soil Health Award, for his work in driving the Soil Your Undies education program.
Soil Your Undies campaigner receives top soil award
Dr Knox is an Associate Professor in Soil Systems Biology in the School of Rural and Environmental Sciences at the University of New England, where he reintroduced soil biology into the undergraduate syllabus in 2014.
As the CottonInfo technical lead in soil health since 2016, he has developed and delivered field workshops to land managers in the cotton production areas of Australia. He has also written numerous industry articles on soil health and land management, which have included how to access soil resources in NSW and Queensland.
Dr Knox has been instrumental in driving the Soil Your Undies soil health program in Australia.
In the past two years, it has been undertaken in around 500 classrooms, educating an estimated 12,000 school children in soil health.
WA farming duo named top Landcare farmers
Meanwhile sustainable farming duo Sylvia Leighton and Peter McKenzie were recognised for their biodiversity work on their 1214ha property, Wilyun Pools Farm, near Wellstead on the south coast of Western Australia.
The couple received the Australian Government Landcare Farming award after transforming Wilyun Pools Farm into locally recognised haven for biodiversity.
The highly productive farm now boasts thriving wildlife corridors connecting to the remnant bush comprised of Kwongan shrubland, Swamp banksia, and Yate woodland communities.
"We're humbled to receive the 2022 Australian Government Landcare Farming award for our work on Wilyun Pools Farm and hope that it inspires others to take action on their own patch," said Ms Leighton said.
"Wilyun Pools Farm is a testament to our whole community including Landcare WA, Southcoast NRM, Green Skills and the Noongar Elders, who have supported our work to restore health to this precious, biodiverse part of the planet.
"Revegetating Wilyun Pools Farm has taught us how much easier it has become to farm sustainably- if we can do it, others can do it too! It's exciting to be in a new chapter for agriculture where being ecologically friendly is commercially valuable and commercially relevant."
Roper River champions awarded for neem tree work
A pastoral landcare group hoping to rid the Top End of the highly invasive neem tree was named the 2022 Australian Community Media Landcare Community Group Award winners.
Working to improve land and natural resource management across the Roper River Catchment in the Northern Territory, the group is made up primarily of land owners, land managers, and residents committed to monitoring, maintaining and improving the Roper River catchment and its natural values.
Roper River Landcare Group has been especially committed to controlling the neem tree, a highly invasive tree forming monocultures along the Roper River as well as the Katherine and Victoria Rivers.
Despite a critical shortage of labour and resources, RRLG Secretary Doris Baylis said the group is currently tackling neem trees around the Mataranka township with the aim of declaring it 'Neem Free 2023'.
"This is a long-term project that aims to provide awareness and ongoing education to the general population. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and it is often a simple conversation that keeps the momentum going. There has been a huge ripple effect with people from Katherine, Darwin and Kununurra becoming aware of their surroundings..." she said.
Australian Community Media, the publisher of this masthead, sponsored the award with ACM chief marketing officer Paul Tyrrell noting it was an honour to put a spotlight on those actively making a difference for their communities.
"We congratulate the Roper River Landcare Group and thank them for their efforts at a time when landcare has never been more important to restore and protect the deteriorating health of the environment," Mr Tyrrell said.
NSW's Ivanhoe School picks up juniors award
Among those most excited about their Landcare achievements getting national recognition was the Ivanhoe Central School who took home the 2022 Woolworths Junior Landcare Team Award.
Members of the remote school in western NSW were on hand at the gala event in Sydney to receive the award, which recognises a school, youth organisation or young community landcare team that is implementing landcare practices within the local community or school.
Through the school's successful 'Outback Adventure Farm' project, which encompasses sustainable living and healthy food choices, students have been able to grow a connection to food, along with the responsibility of looking after their own garden.
Students have also been encouraged to be involved in all aspects of the farm from basic planting and picking at kindergarten level to more advanced mathematical equations, solutions, nutrition and building associated with running any farm enterprise.
Since launching in 2020, the Outback Adventure Farm has expanded due to the students' continued desire to learn more, understand and participate, with growing a farm from bare ground enabling the students and wider community to see what can be achieved when working as a team.
"Our Outback Adventure Farm is about sustainability, literacy, numeracy and supporting our wider community with high quality organic produce," said Greg Edwards, Principal of Ivanhoe Central School. "It's affirming to be recognised for all the hard work that has gone into our farm."
Gold Coast landcare legend takes the stage
He's been a dedicated Landcarer for more than 40 years and now Gold Coaster Wal Mayr has been officially honoured with the Australian Government Individual Landcarer Award.
Mr Mayr is the coordinator of Austinville Landcare and the President of Watergum, the umbrella Group for Landcare groups in the Gold Coast Region.
Since the 1970's he and his wife have restored their remote 25ha degraded property back to its original rainforest habitat, protecting the land in perpetuity as Blue Fig Creek Nature Refuge.
"It's an absolute honour to be here with my friends, family and amazing landcarers from across Australia to receive this award," said Mr Mayr.
"To me this is a joint award - my wife Heather, the incredible landcarers at Austinville Landcare and the team and volunteers at Watergum have been with me every step of the way. It's only by working together that we have created real momentum in maintaining and restoring the beautiful natural landscapes of the Gold Coast and hinterland.
"I am especially inspired and motivated by the young landcarers I have the privilege to work with, and am hopeful that this award shows them that by undertaking meaningful environmental work and combined with passion, energy and good management, we can realise our dream of changing society and making a positive environmental impact."
Victorian indigenous trailblazers recognised
Champion Indigenous landcarers, Victoria's Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation Narrap Unit, have been announced as the winners for the 2022 KPMG Indigenous Land Management Award.
The Narrap Unit cares for Wurundjeri Country by blending conventional environmental conservation and land management methods with Wurundjeri cultural practices, and is currently one of the only Traditional Owner groups within Australia delivering Natural Resource Management services in the open market.
Due to their incredible work and demand for their services, the current team of 20 full-time employees - all with a Cert III in Conservation Land Management, is expected to grow to 40 in the next year.
"We're honoured to accept this award which acknowledges the benefits thousands of years of cultural knowledge brings to land management here in Australia," said Narrap Unit Manager and Wurundjeri Elder, Sean Hunter.
"Providing our people with meaningful, secure employment where they can not only connect with Country but elevate the cultural ecological values of Country and Aboriginal perspectives, has never been more important."
"We hope our work will inspire young Aboriginal people across Australia to pursue a future in conservation and land management, and join us in our commitment to restoring and managing the health of Country."
Australian Association of Bush Regenerators awarded
The Australian Association of Bush Regenerators was announced winner of the Australian Government Partnerships for Landcare Award.
One of eight finalists in the running for the award, AABR was recognised for its outstanding efforts around its First Aid for Burned Bushland (FABB) initiative.
Supported by a range of sponsors, the AABR developed resources, including a series of engaging videos and webinars, to provide guidance for assisting in the recovery of bushland post fire.
"Many ecosystems across Australia were severely impacted from the 2019-20 bushfires due to the effects of a drying climate. While extensive areas of vegetation are recovering well, others remain in trouble," explained AABR President, Peter Dixon
"Being nominated for this Award has helped to reaffirm our contention that Landcare groups play a critical role in managing Australia's ecosystems and can undertake very technical and complex projects," he added, with the FABB series covering a range of topics from assessing priorities for post-fire bush regeneration to techniques commonly used by bush regenerators for controlling weeds after fire."
Young Tassie ecologist now a Landcare leader
Twenty-five-year-old ecologist Yanti Winoto-Lewin from Hobart, Tasmania, is the winner of the 2022 Steadfast Young Landcare Leadership Award.
Presented at the National Landcare Awards held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, Yanti was one of seven finalists in the running for the award, which acknowledges an individual or youth group aged 15 to 35 that has displayed leadership and excellence in landcare practices.
Recognised for her outstanding efforts to protect Tasmania's unique ecosystems, connect communities to natural places and foster respect for the environment, Yanti established the group Friends of Franklin Forest (FoFF) in 2020 while in her final year of a plant science/geography degree at the University of Tasmania. The group's main activities are stewarding an area of forest, introducing people to the area and teaching about its ecology.
"Stewarding the land involves maintaining a clear and safe track for visitors to use, so the impact of visitors is contained to a small area. It also involves working to remove a large patch of gorse at an old mill site," she said.
Thanks to FoFF's petitioning and awareness raising, the area - which provides core habitat for threatened species such as the masked owl and swift parrot, but is in land zoned for timber production - has been removed from Forestry Tasmania's three year felling rotation, with the group now working to ensure it is removed altogether.
"We are delighted to acknowledge the inspirational actions of young people like Yanti, who are finding ways to encourage wider community participation in managing the environment and natural resources in their local area," said Landcare Australia CEO Dr Shane Norrish.