An innovative approach to the green army

The National Landcare Network (NLN) and a significant number of Natural Resources Managers (NRMs) and landcarers have struggled with the implementation of the Green Army (GA) program, key sticking points being the need for project hosts to find funds for on-ground works, the need for volunteer time commitment from the project hosts and the ongoing perception that the GA came into being out of funds intended for Landcare and this disenfranchised many in this large well resourced volunteer movement.

Uptake of the program was, as a consequence, slow initially but as time went by it became clear that unless NRMs actively embraced the GA then the funding of NRMs into the future might be at risk.

Some of the perceived deficiencies in the GA program have been addressed but not all.

At our local network and group level there was considerable reluctance to engage the GA, mainly because we felt disenfranchised, even undervalued because our capacity to convert a dollar of funding into up to $6:00 of environmental outcomes was being ignored.

The key sticking point still remained – an inability to voluntarily provide project management from the host organization.

We asked our Network Project Officer to enquire of our member groups and adjoining networks if there was any interest in cross network collaboration to make a submission for up to three successive rounds of GA. The list of over 60 projects came as quite a surprise.

Our Shire Council, recognizing a need for a Project Management component for the program contributed $10K toward this, we in turn sought a similar amount from the CMA and then a contribution from all participating project hosts, ranging from $500 to $2000 to make up the $30K necessary to provide project management for the first two rounds.

Our application was successful and works have commenced with Landcare Australia Limited (LAL) as our service provider. Projects extend over three adjoining networks and our Project Manager varies the tasks to give participants a wide range of experience.

I see this partnership between the Shire, the Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and the landcare community as the ideal example of how we can work collaboratively together to make a GA program a success. For a small outlay we have provided consistent project management which we identify as the biggest single impediment to GA uptake.

An ideal solution for future GA programs would be to build in a component for project management – it is unlikely that the arrangement we made is sustainable long-term.

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