Highlights from 2020

Highlights from 2020

A year of success in a turbulent year

2020 was a year like no other, with bushfires and floods pushing the impacts of climate change to the forefront. Not to mention the pandemic. Yet despite all this, with your support we achieved spectacular successes for Australia’s nature. These victories deserve to be celebrated. They bring renewed hope for the places we love as we start 2021, and we hope you feel proud of what you’ve achieved and empowered for the year ahead. Image above: Melanie Erler.

Australians want real safeguards for nature

Thanks to you, Australia’s failed nature laws are now on the political agenda. With your help, we’ve delayed the Federal Government’s plan to rush through the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) amendment bill to hand over their environment powers to state and territory governments.

The Government could have pushed this bill through the Parliament at any time from September. But because supporters like you chipped in, made submissions, sent letters, engaged MPs and activated your local communities, we've delayed the Government passing the bill.

In November Campaign Manager Suzanne Milthorpe delivered a passionate speech to the Senate hearing on the matter, while more than 4,400 people like you put in a submission to the Senate inquiry in just 48 hours.

With your backing, we’ll continue to build pressure on Sussan Ley to deliver the legislation that we—and the 30,000 Australians who lodged submissions—know nature needs.

A story of hope for 2021

Cassandra Plesman lost everything in the 2019-2020 bushfires, which tore through her home in Nymboida, NSW. She has emerged from the disaster with a renewed sense of hope for her community and nature, in part thanks to the unwavering support and backing of supporters like you.

The bushland surrounding Cassandra's home is recovering.

“Over the Christmas holidays period I spent many happy hours with my children and grandchildren at Nymboida. We created new and happy memories at the site which was so familiar to us all; the place where my house had burnt down.

"Only one year earlier I had brought my daughter and two grandchildren out to visit; the house was gone and the bush was charred and blackened. My granddaughter (3) and grandson (5) refused to get out of the car back then. They were so afraid of the bush which they had once loved.

"Thanks to the heavy rains we’ve had, the bush is looking green and vibrant with new life and bird sounds are returning. This gives me hope. What has also given me hope are the hundreds of messages I’ve received from everyone who donated to the Wilderness Society in December. These were delivered to my temporary home just before Christmas in a beautiful photo album.

"Everyone's words of support have made me believe that we are all standing together, and it’s in doing it together that recovery happens for me, individually and for the wildlife and wilderness. I know that together we can fight for a future where my grandchildren know and live in wonder and awe of the bush where I raised my children. Thank you.”—Cassandra

Queensland deforestation laws are safe

Cape York. Image: Kerry Trapnell

Thanks to your support, we fought hard to secure stronger deforestation laws in Queensland in 2018, but our success was under threat at last year’s state election. The Queensland LNP promised that if it won, it would start a review of these laws within the first month to make it easier to bulldoze trees!

Your backing meant we were able to rapidly take a stand to defend these hard-fought wins. Community volunteers were empowered to contact thousands of Queenslanders about the need to keep strong laws in place to protect threatened wildlife—like our iconic koalas. This included 161 volunteer shifts; 6,855 calls; nearly 40,000 flyers distributed; digitals ads in key electorates; and 13 meetings between communities and their state MPs. And, for the first time, community leaders were involved in developing our campaign planning and messaging.

Making the plight of koalas a key issue in the Queensland election campaign.

Backed by you, our hard work paid off. Polling showed that stopping deforestation and protecting koalas were still important issues for voters, even in the midst of the global pandemic. And the re-elected Labor Government agreed to keep the current laws in place for the next four years.

A year ago, we did it!

Image: Jarrah Lynch Photography

On 18 December 2019, the government regulator for offshore oil drilling—NOPSEMA—approved Equinor’s Environment Plan to drill in the pristine marine sanctuary of the Great Australian Bight.

And nearly a year ago on 22 January 2020, the Wilderness Society South Australia—working with the Environmental Defenders Office—announced legal proceedings in the Federal Court to challenge NOPSEMA’s approval of Equinor’s Environment Plan. Thousands of Wilderness Society supporters like you chipped in to support the legal case. This was just one arm of the campaign.

In February 2020, Equinor became the fourth fossil fuel company to withdraw from the Bight in recent years, following the exit of BP, Chevron and Karoon Gas. It is because people like you have protested and paddled out, written to Equinor and the Government, and funded a legal challenge.

Read more about the campaign to protect the Bight from Big Oil and how together we can make sure this thriving marine sanctuary is protected from the fossil fuel industry for good.

Victoria’s forests given a critical reprieve

Forest recovers near Mallacoota, Victoria. Image: Ben Baker.

Late last year, more than 8,000 people like you wrote to the State and Commonwealth governments. Together, we called for a Major Event Review into the impacts of the bushfires on Victoria’s forests, wildlife and areas available to logging—as well as impacts on the community and industries. And we succeeded! This is a positive step for bushfire-affected forests and holding our governments to account. Together, with your support, we can work through the review to ensure bushfire-affected forests and wildlife are better protected into the future.

Other wins:

  • We celebrated a major court case victory brought by Friends of the Leadbeater's Possum against state logging agency VicForests.
  • Officeworks followed Bunnings’ example to stop sourcing wood from state logging agency, VicForests. This was the culmination of years of work behind the scenes that you supported.

A “net-gain” for koala habitat in Queensland!

Research shows that koalas are hurtling towards extinction in South East Queensland (SEQ). With your backing, we told the government that ambitious action is needed now if future generations are to have any hope of seeing these incredible creatures in the wild.

In 2019, the Queensland Government released its draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy, but it simply didn't go far enough. Thanks to your support, we were able to work hard to get your voice, and the voices of thousands like you, heard loud and clear. The majority of the written submissions on the draft Strategy came through our organisation—2,483 to be exact. People want to see these iconic animals saved!

A key concern was that koala numbers would continue to fall if the Strategy allowed ongoing loss of habitat.

The pressure worked and in August 2020 the government committed to target a “net gain” in koala habitat—a real, on-ground increase in the overall amount of koala habitat. Plus, they agreed to implement a process for community members and local councils to nominate additional koala habitat that should be protected. Read more about the great outcomes for koalas.

This is fantastic news for SEQ koalas and is proof that people power works! Thanks for chipping in to secure a future for koalas.

Ningaloo’s famous whale sharks are safe again

Last year, your support meant that we claimed another huge win for our marine ecosystems, this time in Western Australia. Ningaloo and Gutharraguda (Shark Bay) were under threat from the impacts of fossil fuels extraction, after the Federal Government proposed the release of offshore acreage near these World Heritage Areas.

The Wilderness Society provided a submission to the Federal Government that was co-signed by 7,626 supporters. And 13,500 people like you added their names to the petition to stop the threat before it starts. And it worked. Because of the public outcry to protect Ningaloo and Gutharraguda (Shark Bay), the Federal Government has now withdrawn these sensitive areas from the 2020 acreage release!

We also raised a number of concerns in our formal submission about the risks present at every stage of the exploration process, and the litany of threatened wildlife that would be impacted.

Continuing to protect the precious Pilliga

The Pilliga forest. Image: Mark Pearce.

Thanks to unwavering support from people like you, coal seam gas in the Pilliga forest remains on the national agenda. And we continue to stand up for this precious biodiversity hotspot and sacred land of the Gamilaraay peoples.

Our volunteers have played a vital role in bringing people power to the campaign by holding information sessions, organising film nights, meeting with MPs, and writing to decision-makers. In total, we generated 1,735 submissions into the NSW Independent Planning Commission's review of the project, which prevented Santos being given a free pass to exploit the land and water.

While conditional approval has been granted, there are still many hurdles for Santos to overcome. Santos still needs to get finance, insurance and make a final investment decision on this economically risky project. There remains no pipeline to transport the gas to market. The world is moving away from dirty, expensive gas, thus any delays will help make the project obsolete.