Letters to the editor - June 22

Local volunteers speak out

The government’s fire services restructure is to go to the Upper House of Parliament for consideration. However, there are many things about the restructure that need to be better understood before politicians can make an informed decision.

The 4000 volunteers from the 85 brigades in our District 17 provide a vital service to our many communities and we owe it to them to ensure that any change in the fire services is done for the right reasons and will provide a better level of long term volunteer support and increase community safety to all Victorians.

The detail needs to be known around many things like future service delivery implications, long term funding, split fire services functionality, initial then long term costs, and many others.

Importantly, any restructure needs to enhance the essential ethic of volunteerism in our communities as volunteering provides many social benefits, particularly to regional and remote communities.

It is fundamental that our politicians insist on an inquiry of the proposed fire services restructure before it goes further through Parliament.

A key aspect of an inquiry will be to formally engage with our state’s volunteers and listen to what they have to say. It is a legal requirement of government to do this, but it has not happened to date.

It is requested that all politicians ensure that a proper and transparent inquiry of the intended restructure occurs now as part of parliamentary assessment.

GARRY SMITH, president of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria. 

Suicide prevention

Condolences to the families of our communities who have recently and in the past, lost loved ones to suicide.  Families, friends and colleagues can access postvention support through 24/7 services such as StandBy Response 0437 752 458 and Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

The Naracoorte and Districts Suicide Prevention Network would like to remind all members of the community to look after yourself and also look out for one another. The network encourages you to equip yourself with understanding signs of depression or ‘check in’ with a person if you see a change in behaviour in someone you know well.

If you feel distressed, seek support - talk to a friend or GP. Professional counselling services include: Lifeline 13 11 14; beyondblue 1300 22 4636 www.beyondblue.org.au.

For men of all ages – MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78. Youth Support Services – Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au and Headspace 1800 650 890 www.headspace.org.au; Veterans and families support services 1800 011 046. Access a range of local support services including counselling at www.limestone.servicesdirectory.org.au.

KATHY GALBRAITH, chair of Naracoorte and Districts Suicide Prevention Network.

$1b investment

The Coalition Government has underlined the importance of Landcare by investing more than $1 billion in the National Landcare Program (NLP).

The NLP is a key demonstration of the Coalition’s commitment to supporting strong natural resource management and the environment in Barker.

The program continues to focus on practical, on the ground ways to improve issues like soil health, erosion management and water quality, making the program relevant to all land managers – but especially farmers.

Our farmers manage about 53 per cent of our landmass and with global demand for food and fibre set to double by 2050 it’s important that we keep Landcare front and centre to assist them to manage our natural resources.

Every farming family I know wants to pass on their land in better shape than when they got it and our investment will help them achieve those goals.

The NLP will focus on applying well researched and innovative land and water management techniques and tools on the ground, including an Agriculture small grants program and on-going investment in regional delivery.

For more than 25 years, the Landcare movement has been protecting, restoring and sustaining soils, water and the diversity of Australia’s unique plants and animals and its threatened species. 

This $1 billion in funding is further evidence of this government’s commitment to continue this important work of looking after our environment. We will continue to support on-ground community projects that harness local know-how and deliver practical and tangible results.

Fast facts:

  • In Australia, there are around 5400 Landcare groups and 100,000 active volunteers in those groups.
  • Over 80 per cent of Australian farmers are involved in Landcare.
  • The annual economic cost of managing pest animals in Australia is estimated at about $1 billion. The cost of managing weeds in Australia is four times that, at $4 billion.
  • More than 80 per cent of our mammals and 90 per cent of our trees, ferns and shrubs occur nowhere else on earth.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site encompassing 3000 coral reefs. It is worth approximately $5.2 billion to the tourism economy alone.
  • Resources for Indigenous Protected Areas will also be boosted to help provide employment, education and training opportunities for Indigenous people in remote areas while protecting our cultural heritage into the future.

TONY PASIN, Member for Barker.