What is Landcare?
Landcare, born in Victoria in 1986, is a highly successful community-based volunteer movement that facilitates and coordinates actions to care for our environment. Landcare is about a simple idea; people organising to come together to discuss shared land management issues, and to design and implement practical solutions to take action to address these issues. People see results and want to be part of it. Landcare is community based leadership in action.
Landcare began when farming neighbours recognised that they could be more effective and have a greater impact if they addressed common natural resource management concerns together. Since the first Landcare group was formed at Winjallok near St Arnaud in central Victoria hundreds of Landcare groups have formed across Victoria. Landcare quickly became a national movement and in recent years it has expanded internationally to more than 20 countries.
Landcare has achieved success in nurturing a more sustainable land management ethos and practice. From its perennial roots in production agriculture, Landcare has branched out to encompass environmental citizenship of both public and private land - in the bush, along the coast, as well as in urban and peri-urban areas. Among the wide variety of on-ground activities undertaken by Landcare are: rejuvenation and repair of habitats, restoration of waterways, improvements to farmland, and addressing land management issues such as erosion and pest plants and animals.
Research affirms that the on-ground works undertaken by Landcare lead to improvements in the condition of our natural resources. What's more, these works are accomplished in a very cost effective way in terms of the on-ground actions achieved relative to the amount of public funds invested. This cost effectiveness is attributable to low coordination and administration costs, the provision of volunteer labour, and significant landholder contributions (both cash and in-kind) to projects.
Landcare groups and networks
Victoria has a long history of groups working together. Experience has shown that the group approach achieves better results than individuals working alone. Sharing of information with other Landcare group members can lead to an improved understanding of both problems and solutions. Landcare groups also have more access to a wider range of advice and financial support than is available to individual landholders.
In Victoria there are now more than 630 Landcare groups and 67 Landcare networks, and more than 500 other community-based natural resource management groups. The State's Landcare and other community-based natural resource management groups have around 60,000 members and involve an additional 45,000 volunteers who contribute their time and energy each year to help care for our natural resources.
The advantages of working in groups are:
- improved long-term productivity and amenity value of an area
- access to a wider range of technical, financial and other help
- community pride in and ownership of projects
- a sense of achievement
- public recognition of a group's efforts, which may encourage others to take part
Over time, Landcare has become more connected. While Landcare groups continue to operate at the local community scale, a large proportion of the State's groups are now linked to or members of Landcare networks, which operate at a broader or more strategic landscape scale.
Landcare groups and networks develop their own priorities, organise community activities, and source support and funding from entities including federal, state and local governments, catchment management authorities, private businesses, non-profit organisations, and individuals. Key activities include undertaking on-ground projects, building partnerships, community capacity building and engagement, sharing stories and skills, and celebrating success. Landcare, therefore, is a partnership between production and conservation, with whole communities caring for the land – local councils, conservation groups, schools and interested individuals
Over the decades since its inception, Landcare has become part of the social fabric of Victoria. The public value of Landcare is significant. In addition to the environmental gains, major social and economic benefits are produced for participants and the communities in which they live.
Landcare on public land
About 40 per cent of Victoria is public land such as national parks, forests and reserves that are managed by Government agencies.
While Landcare has traditionally worked on private land some groups and networks also work collaboratively with public land managers to undertake projects on public land. And where land management issues overlap between public and private land, Landcare provides an opportunity for private and public land managers to work together to tackle these issues.
In Melbourne and the state's larger regional centres there are around 500 'Friends of' groups or urban Landcare groups who work on public land. These groups work in close collaboration with the public land manager, i.e. usually a local government or Parks Victoria, to undertake practical on-ground works to protect, enhance, maintain and restore local parks and reserves, many of which have significant environmental values.
There are lots of opportunities for members of the wider community to get involved in Landcare activity in urban areas. To locate or find the contacts for an urban Landcare or 'Friends of' group in your local area go to the Victorian Landcare Gateway.
Landcare in schools
Landcare activities in schools help provide students with an understanding and appreciation of environment and local land management issues and the role they can play to address these issues.
Waterwatch is a fun hands-on river education program that supports community members, schools and businesses to be actively involved in monitoring and protecting the health of our rivers and creeks. For Waterwatch activities and programs across Victoria go to http://www.vic.waterwatch.org.au/ and for Waterwatch in and around Melbourne go to http://www.waterwatchmelbourne.org.au/