LANDCARE in Victoria has paid tribute to the significant contribution made by the late Joan Kirner AC in bringing communities together to tackle local environmental issues.
In the 1980s Joan Kirner, then Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands, joined forces with Heather Mitchell, then president of Victorian Farmers Federation, to develop an integrated program that would reverse the degradation of farmland, public land and our waterways.
Landcare was launched by Ms Kirner and Ms Mitchell on November 25, 1986 at Winjallock, near St Arnaud, making the connection between rural communities and the Government to help resolve the significant challenges facing farmers.
It’s thanks to her vision, her belief in community action and her early stewardship of Landcare, that it grew into the phenomenon of today.
There are now more than 600 Landcare groups and networks operating around Victoria and over 5000 groups in Australia, as well as extending to more than 20 countries worldwide.
Joan Kirner didn’t visit this area often when in office but a number of farm and land conservation representatives from this area had a bit to do with her.
For six months Meeniyan’s Neville Meikle was a stand-in member of the Victorian Vermin and Noxious Weeds Board, a three-person panel that was key advisor to the State Government.
“I used to attend Cabinet briefings on alternate Tuesdays when Ms Kirner was in attendance.
“I suppose one of her greatest legacies was to give the Landcare movement a good kick along.
“But I recall at the time, when we were setting up 16 local committees around the state to advise the board on land protection issues; principally on soil conservation, weeds and vermin issues, that she was obsessed with the idea that women be well represented on these boards when it was actually difficult even finding any women who were interested.
“That was the main issue I suppose but I think she had poor advice and came into office at a very difficult time.
“I don’t believe she was as bad as people made out she was at the time.
“I can’t recall her visiting this area but I did attend quite a few conservation and land management events with her,” he said.
It’s particularly for her support of women in representative roles that the new Member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing, remembers her most fondly.
“She was a wonderful person, so crucial to me pursuing a role in State Parliament.
“I first met Joan in 2001 and through the years, she has been encouraging and tremendously supportive. She remains a symbol of what women can achieve.”
Ms Shing listed some of Ms Kirner’s key achievements as creating the land restoration network, Landcare, helping people with special needs, the introduction of the Victorian Certificate of Education to make schools fairer and paving the way for women to enter Parliament.