…or read on for an excerpt from the President and Director

From the President:

“The last 12 months have been like no other year. Soon after our AGM in 2019, Australia was engulfed in fires of a scale and ferocity previously never witnessed. The horrendous consequences have been well documented. Not long after the fires ended, Covid-19 began to spread across the world, and soon Australians were in lockdown. While we sat at home, marine heatwaves hit the waters of the Great Barrier Reef and we saw the third mass bleaching event occur off the Queensland coast. Now as the second wave of Covid-19 hits the southern states of Australia, we are facing the reality that the world is changing in irreversible ways, and we are likely to be living with this pandemic for some time yet. 

However, with great adversity comes opportunity – the opportunity to build our community connection; to highlight the solutions that can solve these challenges and create a better ‘normal’. Over these last 12 months, CAFNEC has been doing just that. The efforts have come from all corners of the community, our management committee, our staff, our members and volunteers, and new partnerships that have formed to face these challenging times. 

In late 2019, we saw stewards of our waterways in Cairns join the Warriors of the Waterways program. Restoration groups, Aboriginal land management groups and community groups were trained in digital media and communications that allowed them to promote their work and tell their stories. As the project involved many different groups, we saw some great collaborative conversations and actions happen. Warriors of the Waterways are essential to our region and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

In September we saw the School Strike For Climate bring together people from across the region to strike, calling for action on climate change. At the time, it was one of the largest rallies that Cairns had seen and was a huge success across the nation.

As the year came to an end, the Management Committee and staff were working hard to create the kind of strong future vision, and ambitious goals needed to face the challenges ahead. Over two months the team worked with For Purpose to establish a 5-year Strategic Plan for 2020 – 2025. The process included workshops from experts in our field with focused sessions on where we were, and where we wanted to go. It wouldn’t have been possible without funding provided by the Queensland Community Foundation and we would like to thank them for their support. The plan can be seen in this report on the page proceeding, and further detail is available on our website.

As we began 2020, the fires continued across the country, and still our government wouldn’t speak or act on climate change. In February, CAFNEC’s Director Lucy headed down to Melbourne for the National Climate Emergency Summit where she was able to hear from the experts, understand the work happening across the nation and what role CAFNEC could play in the solution.

Simultaneously, events were occurring in Cairns about climate change in our region. The Wet Tropics Management Authority hosted the “Creating our Climate Future Forum” which had industry leaders, rainforest peoples, conservationists and young people coming together to talk about climate impacts and what our region needed to do to take action. At the same time, the first meeting of the Cairns Climate Forum was held, a meeting of climate activists from across the region making plans for our collective activism. So, while the country was facing some of the worst climate impacts yet, our communities were drawing together, finding strength and making plans to move forward. 

In March, the Queensland Local Elections were held and CAFNEC hosted a successful Mayoral Forum about climate change. The four mayoral candidates were given the opportunity to present their policies and proposed actions to address climate change. The 100+ attendees were also invited to ask questions which plainly revealed the varied depth of knowledge and understanding our potential mayors had on the issue. 

Just over two weeks later, the nation went into lockdown as the Prime Minister responded to rising Covid-19 cases in the country. This meant that CAFNEC was closed to the public and staff worked from home. Although these were challenging times, our staff, management committee and members rose to the occasion. Thankfully in 2019, CAFNEC had adopted the use of Zoom, Slack, Asana and Google Drive, which meant we were able to immediately switch to a virtual office and continue our great work. The following report describes in more detail how we switched our projects and events to virtual platforms, creating opportunities for members to connect during this challenging time.

Importantly, the Covid-19 pandemic led to a region-wide collaboration, driven by CAFNEC, Terrain and the Wet Tropics Management Authority, to ensure that there would be strong advocacy for a recovery that prioritises the environment and people. The Green and Blue Economic Stimulus Package, which is described in more detail in this year’s report, calls for the government to invest in land and sea management, to get people employed in work that restores our environment and stimulates our economy. The collaboration is incredibly exciting and we are seeing groups work together like never before, asking for a safe climate future.

Amongst all of this, our CAFNEC staff and volunteers have kept up our citizen science projects, policy reform and legislative review, working with our member groups, advocating for threatened species, supporting member group campaigns, and participating in state wide campaigns like the renewable energy campaigning that has recently resulted in the announcement of a $145M investment in renewable energy zones across Queensland. 

With great challenges come great opportunities and we would like to thank all those members who have generously donated both their time and money to ensure that CAFNEC can continue our important work. We are all desperately hoping for better times ahead,but if the past year is anything to go by, we know that this organisation and its members are ready to meet any eventuality head on.”

Denis Walls (President)

From the Director:

“My first 12 months as the CAFNEC Director have been interesting and challenging. I have learned more than I thought possible during this time, and I want to personally thank everyone who has support me and this organisation. CAFNEC has the most incredible members and volunteers, and the pandemic has truly demonstrated that, and our strength as a result. So a huge heartfelt thank you.

Additionally, we will soon be saying goodbye to our long standing staff member, Bess Murphy. Bess has dedicated huge amounts of time and energy both as a volunteer and a staff member. She has helped this organisation grow and flourish, and we will miss her greatly on the staff team. Thank you Bess.”

Lucy Graham (Director)