Landcare, Australia’s biggest volunteer environmental program has received a major blow in the recent Federal Budget with a $484 million cut to its funding. Instead, $525 million will go to a ‘Green Army‘ of inexperienced young people.
Despite protestations that the environment is a chief concern, Federal funding for programs like Landcare have been steadily reduced by both sides of politics, say Ian Rutherford of Melbourne University and Andrew Campbell of Charles Darwin University [The Conversation: Another broken promise: budget switches Landcare for Green Army] . They also maintain that by redirecting Landcare funding into the new ‘Green Army’ program, the Government is promoting a much less efficient model for several reasons.
1. Landcare work is mostly done by seasoned professionals and volunteers who have developed skills over several years.
2. Landcare involves whole communities in local projects, building social capital.
3. Landcare projects, because they involve local communities with a vested interest in their success, are more likely to be supported and succeed long-term.
4. Landcare involves about half a million Australians, including 50% of all farmers.
The ‘Green Army’ is made up of teams of 9 inexperienced 17-24 year olds, working with a supervisor on projects that must last between 20 and 26 weeks, and being paid the National Training Wage (below the minimum wage but higher than NewStart and Youth Allowance). They will be “deployed across the country to help communities deliver local conservation outcomes”. The Federal Government expects the Green Army to number about 15,000 by 2018-19.
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