Highlights from October to December 2023
The important work for nature your incredible support has delivered in recent months
Protections for Channel Country in Queensland, an epic walk in the Jarrah, a push for World Heritage in the Great Australian Bight and more.
Protections for Channel Country!
Christmas came early last year!
On 22 December, the Queensland government announced protections for the Channel Country. It announced it would expand protections over the rivers and floodplains and ban new oil and gas on these sensitive areas.
This is a HUGE win for communities, nature and the climate.
This is the Queensland Labor government making good on its promise to Queenslanders. Traditional Owners, regional communities and conservation groups have been standing strong for the protection of these globally significant rivers and floodplains for decades, and the announcement is very welcome good news.
It is also thanks to the thousands of people who wrote submissions, emailed the government, met with their MP, came to community events and highlighted the need to protect these last remaining, free-flowing desert rivers and fertile floodplains from dangerous oil and gas.Throughout 2022 and 2023, thousands of us made sure the government gave Queenslanders a fair say on protecting the Channel Country rivers and floodplains from oil and gas. Together, we pressured the government to release a key report on the future of the Channel Country that outlined options for how it could protect this globally significant place.
Then alongside our partners in the movement, the Wilderness Society mobilised around 20,000 community members to make sure the government heard that the Channel Country rivers and floodplains deserve the strongest protections—they’re no place for nature-destroying, culturally damaging, climate-wrecking oil and gas.
For years, Traditional Owners, Channel Country landholders, scientists and environmentalists have been calling on the government to protect these globally significant river systems from the disastrous impacts of oil and gas developments.
The government has heard us all loud and clear.
This wouldn’t have been possible without our supporters.
Our work in numbers
Light For The Bight
On Saturday 14 October 2023, the community came together for Light For The Bight—a twilight event celebrating the Great Australian Bight and Nullarbor with the Traditional Custodians. The Yerkala Mirning of the Nullarbor and Great Australian Bight have a hereditary belonging with sky, sea and land Country for over 65,000 years.
Together with the Mirning Council of Elders, the Wilderness Society has been negotiating with relevant government and World Heritage officials about the Case for World Heritage Nomination.
There were over 50 people from Mirning families and hundreds from the wider community who came to participate in the magical parade by lantern light with song and story.
And Light For The Bight was named the Community Event of the Year at the 2024 Citizen of the Year Awards SA!
Read more on the Light For The Bight event in issue #028 of Wilderness Journal.
The colourful Light For The Bight parade. Photograph by Bill Doyle.
Photograph by Bill Doyle.
Wilderness Society South Australia Director presents with Bunna Lawrie at Light For The Bight. Photograph by Bill Doyle.
Will 2024 be the year that WA’s Jarrah forests are protected from forest mining?
Late last year, we kicked off a campaign with eight other environment organisations to call for the WA government to end forest mining and secure enduring protections for the magnificent Jarrah forests.
It’s thanks to your generous support that we were able to launch the campaign with a giant billboard in the Perth CBD and a full-page ad which was featured in The West Australian. Our WA Campaign Manager Tim Clifford even walked 55km in one day from the forests of Jarrahdale to Parliament House in Perth to raise awareness and funds to protect these iconic forests!
"Many people don’t know that just over an hour’s drive from the Perth CBD, companies such as Alcoa and South32 are strip-mining for bauxite—destroying globally-significant northern jarrah forests. The WA government and the companies involved need to end forest mining for good, because once the northern jarrah forest is cleared and mined, it’s changed forever."—Tim
Thanks to you, we also released a Corporate Deforestation Benchmark, The Uncovered—the first of its kind in Australia—which revealed that Australian companies, including Alcoa, are international laggards when it comes to deforestation-free commitments.
We will be updating you on the companies’ progress to remove deforestation from their supply chains, and reduce their pressure on Australia’s special forests.
With Alcoa currently facing increasing scrutiny, the pressure really is ramping up. Together, we're campaigning for enduring protections for the precious Jarrah forests and the myriad native species they support.
Nature Repair Market
In late December 2023, Labor and the Greens announced a surprise deal to pass the government’s 'nature repair market' bill and extend the water trigger in Australia’s nature law to require consideration of the water impacts of all types of unconventional gas projects.
The Albanese government’s Nature Repair Market is a dangerous distraction from its core responsibility of funding and implementing the protection and restoration activities Australia’s unique nature needs. Passing the bill also wasted precious time and effort that should have been dedicated to the once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform Australia’s broken nature laws.
The nature repair market scheme introduces the risk of the government over-relying on private sector contributions to fund nature restoration and protection, and stepping back from its crucial role as funder and manager of environmental conservation.
“A nature repair market alone will not stop wildlife extinction. Properly enforcing the current EPBC Act is the action we expect the government to be taking right now, while also reforming Australia’s nature laws,” says National Campaigns Manager, Amelia Young.
Thanks to our supporters, the Wilderness Society’s submission, backed by petition-signers, set the tone for the parliament's handling of the government's Nature Repair Market.
On 6 December 2023, Federal Policy Director Tim Beshara's appearance at the Senate Inquiry into the Bill then helped to shift the political tide against the Bill. The subsequent deal to pass the law included important restrictions stopping businesses from using the Market to enable more destruction via the use of biodiversity offsets.
Overall, we're cautious rather than celebratory: this is more seeping of private sector and market mentality into the protection and management of a public good: nature. The risk of offsets being reintroduced into the market through future amendments to the Act is also real.
With your support we will continue to hold the federal government to its responsibilities to ensure there is adequate funding to help threatened species recover and flourish and to protect Australia’s globally significant biodiversity from the risk of destruction.
We will also continue to push for the change that nature needs. It’s because of people like you that we continue to build pressure for federal nature law reform. Campaigners Sam Szoke-Burke and Victoria Jack recently attended a closed door consultation with select stakeholders to review parts of the government’s proposed reforms to Australia’s nature laws.
2024 will be a critical year in the fight for laws that stop the destruction and help nature to thrive.
The Uncovered is launched!
In October, we released a Corporate Deforestation Benchmark, The Uncovered—the first of its kind in Australia. This revealed that Australian companies, including Alcoa, Coles and Strandbags are international laggards when it comes to deforestation-free commitments. The campaign was supported by targeted advertising to companies and their employees.
All the companies we analysed make and sell products that are associated with deforestation in Australia—yet only half even have a public commitment to remove deforestation from their supply chains. Now your support is helping campaigners engage these companies in sectors that are driving deforestation in Australia, and pressure them to go deforestation-free.
Take a look at The Uncovered Reports
In the media
Check out some of the Wilderness Society's most impactful media mentions from October to December 2023. Including:
- The Land - Qld's Channel Country a no-go for future gas exploration
- Carbon Pulse - Opinion: Westpac says no to deforestation – others will soon have to
- Canberra Times - Opinion: Bad oil and gas tenants leaving us to pay clean-up costs
- Carbon Pulse - Amended Nature Repair Market legislation welcomed, but overarching concerns remain, groups say
- AAP - Protesters take stand against fracking in outback
- The Guardian - Conservation groups challenge Labor over ‘lack of urgency’ on environment laws
- Newcastle Herald - Environment groups blast government's use of 'hypotheticals' in gas ban debate
- The Australian - Sacred lands at risk in government drive for development
- The Guardian - Delayed environment laws spark calls for urgent government action on water and fracking
- ABC - Coalition of environmentalists calls on Premier Jacinta Allan to abolish VicForests
Taking action to protect the southern oceans
Over a month-long period to 18 December, 3,750 of you let the offshore oil and gas regulator and the Federal Environment Minister know you don’t support new gas drilling in Australia’s wild southern oceans. Thanks for taking action to defend the biodiverse-rich southern waters from new gas drilling.
ConocoPhillips' plan for new gas drilling threatens the climate, First Nations’ cultural heritage and endangered species—including the blue whale, southern right whale and the critically endangered orange bellied parrot.
If allowed to go ahead, this new drilling risks a spill that could impact the environmentally sensitive and culturally important coasts of Victoria and Tasmania. Even the iconic Great Ocean Road and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area are at risk.
While fossil companies like ConocoPhillips try to ignore the community, together we can make it clear we expect our government to actually listen.
A review of the offshore regulations is happening right now and, as part of that, we're working to protect the right of the community to have a fair say about destructive projects like this.