The Federal Government’s Green Army program aims to employ young people “to combat land degradation, clean up our waterways, provide real and practical solutions to cleaning up riverbanks and creek beds, re-vegetate sand dunes, re-vegetate mangrove habitat and a host of other environmental conservation projects”.
Consensus among the group was that while the program had potential, the environmental, social and economic benefits of it would depend on how the program was pitched and operated. In particular, the purpose and outputs of the program were not clear. Is the purpose of the Green Army to provide a “work for the dole” option for the unemployed or is it about boosting on-ground resources for environmental restoration? Can it effectively achieve both? This is where concerns lay: how much does the Green Army actually benefit the environment, specifically in the context of rivers and catchments?
Concerns include the quality of the work undertaken by the Green Army, the high turnover of participants and the use of resources associated with this. How much use would the Green Army be to the various NRM groups that ordinarily carry out these tasks? Could the Government achieve more bang for their buck if they directed the funding for the Green Army to these NRM groups instead? What other approaches are worth considering for boosting resources to undertake the on-ground restoration works? How would the success or otherwise of the program be measured?
Pitching the Green Army as an alternative work for the dole scheme may risk creating stigma around the program. While it is claimed the Green Army is open to a range of participants, a work for the dole stigma could deter a number of potentially valuable participants. Rather than sending out teams of Green Army participants integrating smaller numbers of participants into existing on-ground works crews may provide better quality outputs and be the best use of these resources.
Only time will tell!
Clean air, clean land, clean water and direct action on climate change. What does it really mean for our industry? And what are our top ten priorities for strategic Green Army action?
The discussion will focus primarily on the plans to create the Green Army:
You can read more about the Government’s policies and commitments and various reactions to them here: