Reef Assist Leaves Long-Term Legacy

REEF ASSIST LEGACY

19 OCTOBER 2022

New mini forests that have sprung up on three sites around Innisfail and Tully are one of the legacies of an economic boost program that delivered environmental benefits while also creating jobs and training opportunities for young and indigenous people in reef regions.

The Queensland Government’s $23.5m Reef Assist program injected $6.3 million into the Wet Tropics since late 2020 and created over 115 ‘green’ jobs. One of the organisations that received funding through the program was Johnstone Landcare who spent the past two years planting and maintaining over 40,000 new trees.

Fay Falco-Mammone who led the project for Johnstone Landcare said the group was thrilled with the new forested areas and proud of the social benefits that were passed on through the project.

“Over the course of this project, 33 people have been employed in various capacities, over half of whom were First Nations people, and many young people. Our older volunteers have said how proud they are of the opportunity to build a legacy by engaging and training young people to continue their work in the region.

“Like many volunteer organisations, we are mostly supported by older retired people but making that connection with young people so they can pass on their knowledge is essential for future conservation work.”
“Our trainees have also been grateful to be given the opportunity to participate in both the on-site revegetation work and training. Many of them love this work and they’re proud to have contributed to a legacy for their family and community. Many also want to continue working in this field. One of our trainees specifically moved out of their community to take on the role so they got the skills and qualifications to take back to the community to help with land management and future employment.”

Ms Falco-Mammone said they were able to access the funding quickly because the group already had ‘shovel-ready’ projects identified and agreed with landholders.

“The most successful landcare projects are the ones that have buy-in from lots of different stakeholders and we achieved that by having good conversations with landholders right from the start and making sure everyone was on the same page – it takes a community effort to get a lasting impact.”

Stewart Christie, CEO of Terrain NRM who oversaw the project, said the Reef Assist program clearly demonstrated that investment in ‘shovel ready’ land restoration projects is a win win for the environment, economy and community.

“There have been multiple benefits from this program. The meaningful jobs and training created by this program have been highly sought after, regional businesses have benefitted from direct spending, and thousands of newly planted trees have improved habitat connectivity and reduced sediment flowing to the reef.”

“The work doesn’t stop now once the trees are planted, though. It takes new forests at least two to three years to get to a height where they can look after themselves – until then, it’s critical that groups like Johnstone Landcare are funded to maintain revegetation.”

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