Do you remember when…
All we wanted to do was protect the places we love because they were simply amazing?
We just had to show everyone how amazing they were.
In doing so, we secured World Heritage Areas and National Parks, essential habitat mapping, the Directory of Important Wetlands, threatened species listings, marine parks, environmental impact assessment processes, anti-litter legislation and the list could go on. These weren’t ideas that governments just came up with – they came about because everyday Australians, especially up here in the Far North, stood up, spoke up and called for change.
The 80’s were full of such calls for change. Over the last few decades, we saw those changes come to life through policy and implementation and so the calls died down. But as the challenges facing the environment continue to grow despite the policies and programs we now have, we are going to need to use our minds, our voices and our hearts to call for change. If you believe environmental advocacy is needed now more than ever, you can help by making a tax-deductible donation before the end of the financial year (EOFY).
So what are the big challenges looming in FNQ?
Well if you haven’t heard of it yet, you should really find out about the ‘Developing the North’ white paper. Check out:
The Federal Government’s promo video
The Office of Northern Australia’s website
The White Paper report
There will likely be more talk around Cairns and in the media in the coming days with the Developing Northern Australia Conference 2017 coming to town early next week – first speaker Senator the Hon. Matt Canavan and last speaker Gina Rinehart (both pre-recorded by the way).
The vision for the North that is being promoted by governments at both levels and of both persuasions is one of a much bigger population, super-charged resource extraction, increased defense presence, large-scale irrigated agriculture and of course the roads, rail, pipelines, ports and dams that will support these industries (seriously watch their video). This is far from the future anyone I know in the North, wants. If we think we are being bombarded with issues now – we have another thing coming. Finance for these plans is already rolling out – with Adani’s yet-to-be-approved $1 billion concessional loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) taking the spotlight. These challenges are on our door step right now.
Did I mention climate change barely gets a look in? It’s not like we’re dealing with two consecutive years of reef bleaching or an unprecedented die-back of mangroves or bulldozing an area the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground every 4 minutes (in Qld) and approving one of the world’s biggest coal mines ever (Adani Carmichael Mine). Oh wait… we are.
Seriously, we need real climate action because Far North Queensland is feeling the heat.
Protecting our environment is going to get a lot harder, so as a region we will have to be louder, stronger and more cohesive in our approach.
The digital transformation of the last 15 years has been a wonderful thing. It has given many more individuals and groups a platform to seek change in a way that makes sense to them. This is great. It means more people than ever are able to speak out on issues that are close to their heart.
Back in the 1980’s, conservation groups came together and decided a central agency was needed that could raise the profile of environmental issues facing Far North Queensland – this meant an office, a phone line and better access to media, politicians and information – and out of the discussion emerged CAFNEC – the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre.
But 35 years is a long time and coming together in 2017 looks a lot different than it did in the 1980’s. Technology now means individuals and groups have phones and computers in their pockets and as a result, better access to media, politicians and information. A central agency is now about demonstrating our numbers – we are not the exception, the fringe or the minority. We are people of Far North Queensland.
With sophisticated communications strategies, governments and industries have convinced the rest of the country that all the people of the North want, is mining jobs and industrial-scale agriculture. But we know there is different story. One where protecting our natural environment is part of the DNA of the Far North and we feel it in every part of our being. The environment is why we come and it is why we stay. We need to be able to demonstrate that the story that is being told of the Far North is simply not correct. A petition just won’t cut it. We need a robust network of groups and individuals, spread out across the region, whose vision for the Far North is centered around the protection and restoration of our natural environment – not just because it is amazing but because we know that the economic future that will sustain our livelihoods for generations to come, and allow us to keep sharing in this place, depends on it. The bottom line is, we believe our communities can thrive and meet our needs without compromising our values and environment.
The strongest and most effective networks are full of lots of different people complete with a complex mix of attitudes, mindsets, personalities, ambitions, motivations, skills, capabilities and needs. To hold them together and keep them functioning effectively takes resources. That’s why we need people who believe in the value of a well-connected environmental movement in the Far North, to invest their money in the central agency that has been advocating for the protection of the Far North for more than three decades – CAFNEC.
We know we have to do things differently.
It’s going to take new skills, new approaches and new energy. But it will also mean returning to our roots, our base and our values to rediscover the strength within.
Bess and I have spent the last year learning from world leading experts in advocacy. It is this learning that gives us the confidence to pursue a new networked approach – it’s how other advocacy organisations and communities have succeeded all across the world as digital technology continues to transform the way people make change happen. With the support of the CAFNEC community we will work to rebuild, reinforce and repower a new wave of environmental advocacy in the Far North.
Far North Queenslanders values are rooted in respecting, protecting and connecting to our unique, tropical environment. It’s time we stand together and tell our stories.
While we talk of big changes to come, we’re already on the journey to a more connected environmental movement in FNQ. Just in the last year we have:
- Hosted the incredibly successful EnvironmentFNQ Roundtable which brought together more than 25 conservation groups/organisations (both big and small) for 3 days of presentations, workshops and capacity building training
- Rebooted Green Drinks in Cairns to provide much needed regular informal networking for anyone working or interested in the environment
- Launched the first Boomerang Bags Collective and Plastic Free July initiative in FNQ
- Partnered with MangroveWatch to host ReefBlitz mangrove citizen science events
- Partnered with the Australasian Bat Society and Cairns Regional Council to host the most successful Cairns Bat Festival yet
- Supported member groups with digital technology and strategy support
- Worked with Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth FNQ and StopAdani Cairns to deliver community organising training for volunteers
- Supported local action on issues such as the esplanade sand dumping, proposed clearing of mangroves at the Jack Barnes Boardwalk and threats to our iconic keystone species like the Cassowary and Spectacled Flying-fox
- Inspired action through our community outreach events – actions like that of Molly S an amazing 8 year old who, after coming along to our Marine Response Team’s screening of A Plastic Ocean, started StrawNoMore to tackle the issue of plastic straws in school canteens and local businesses
This year we will be focusing on overhauling our internal systems so that we are better able to support groups and individuals taking conservation action in a way that makes sense to them.
We will continue to grow and foster opportunities for networking and collaboration as we know it takes lots of people working in all different ways to bring about the changes we need to protect our environment. We will support conservation action in it’s many different forms, including advocacy, policy work and implementation.
We want the strongest conservation sector possible in FNQ and believe focusing our efforts on supporting people to act in a way that makes sense to them while at the same time increasing connections to, and understanding of, each others work and role in creating change, will lead to stronger advocacy, better policy and more effective implementation.
Now more than ever we need to stand together, united, as people of the Far North whose story and vision is centered around the protection and restoration of our natural environment. Add you name today
Like last year – we promise to stretch your dollar more than anyone would think possible. For now, donations of more than $2 to your local environmental advocacy organisation are still tax deductible so donate before 30 June 2017 to claim it on your next tax return.
By continuing to support the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre through the challenges and changes that lay ahead, you will be helping to lay the foundation for a new wave of environmental advocacy in the Far North.
Thank you for all that you have done and all that you do to keep CAFNEC and environmental advocacy alive and thriving in FNQ.
With my warmest regards,
One last thing… Help us spread the word!
Please help spread the word by sharing a link to this page via email or social media with a quick sentence or two about why you support CAFNEC and ask your friends and family to also invest in us to build a strong and united voice for conservation in Far North Queensland. Together we will rise to meet the challenges that lay ahead for our region.