One of the many things I enjoy about living and working in a rural area is that there is no such thing as an average day. For me that can mean a week like this one where I’ve gone from the BCG board meeting, to our building climate resilience event, helping shift paddocks for harvest, deliver sandwiches, clean out the gutters in the rain, to now, where I am sweating away in Darwin talking drought resilience.
I’ve spent the last few months filling in for Chris Sounness and whilst that has been a busy but rewarding time, I am absolutely delighted to welcome Fiona Best as she returns to BCG as our new CEO. I look forward to BCG continuing to deliver for our members and stakeholders under her leadership.
Helping coordinate the Building Climate Resilience event has been a highlight of the last few months. The day attracted over 130 people and it was great to hear so many inspiring speakers present the latest science on our projected future climate. What I enjoyed the most, unsurprisingly, was the stories from farmers and rural communities who are not just weathering the climatic challenges but thriving. Pete Mailer from NSW with his solar panel system developed using his brother’s engineering wizardry. Stuart McAlpine, a champion of soil health from northern WA busted a few myths on regenerative agriculture and what it means. Paul Dettman from Social Foundry, a pioneer in landscape restoration for both productivity and biodiversity protection. Not to mention local farmer Craig Henderson making the most of the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline with his free-range chooks and off- the-grid power system. All tremendously motivating stories.
I was also very happy to speak about the process we went through getting our event certified as Carbon Neutral with the federal government’s National Carbon Offset Standard.
Delivering an event with not just the Buloke Shire Council but also the Mallee CMA and North Central CMA gave us the opportunity to connect with a wider audience than Mallee and Wimmera farmers and hear a different perspective, important for an organisation like BCG which has always recognised that farmers exist as part of rural communities and the success of each is closely entwined.
But that was last week, and this week I am taking part in a public consultation process on behalf of the federal government’s Future Drought Fund. As one of the consultative committee, it is my role to help design the fund which will provide $100m each year across Australia to help farmers and farming communities develop drought resilience. The three strategic priorities are economic, social and environmental resilience and the fund will support a wide range of measures from infrastructure, research, development and extension, capacity building and technology adoption to name a few.
The detailed funding programs will be developed after public consultations with submissions closing on December 13. We are in Melbourne and Horsham next week and I encourage people to come along if they can or have your say at www.haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/future-drought-fund.
For more information or to complete an online survey, visit the Department Agriculture’s website www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/future-drought-fund.
The final plan is expected to be presented to the Minister in February 2020 and programs rolled out starting July 1.