By Landcare NSW CEO, Dr Adrian Zammit
This article by Dr Adrian Zammit, CEO of Landcare NSW, is about a project that has been initiated to review the governance system for Landcare in the state of NSW.
Landcare NSW is implementing a project to review our governance system and ‘connect up’ the many elements that make up the Landcare NSW community.
Landcare has grown organically. Our community consists of individuals, local groups, regional organisations, paid staff, volunteers and, since 2007, the state peak body of Landcare NSW.
Building a community movement that is relevant to current conditions and able to make the most of opportunities while holding steady through hard times, is no easy feat. However, we are following in the footsteps of some of Australia’s best known volunteer organisations which started as a local response to an identified need and have grown into large, stable institutions.
The Country Women’s Association was formed nearly 100 years ago. Surf Life Saving is even older, dating back to 1907, and the first organised volunteer bushfire brigade was formed in 1900. These iconic organisations continue to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances while retaining their core values and mission.
Landcare is young in comparison, starting out in the 1980s, nevertheless renewal is critical to ensure we are fit for the future.
A strong governance system will help us fulfil our vision to nurture a volunteer movement that provides a way for all Australians to participate in caring for our land and natural resources.
Landcare NSW’s Governance Project is being facilitated by Randall Pearce of Think Insight Advice. Randall consults to not-for-profit organisations across Australia and has worked with Landcare NSW since 2014.
Work began in late 2020 with extensive research to understand the current system and identify areas for reform. There has been in depth discussion with the Council of Landcare NSW and engagement with the Landcare community via distribution of a Discussion Paper and online meetings. Engagement will continue in the coming months to ensure changes are made with the knowledge and support of the Landcare community.
By ‘governance’ we do not just mean the Executive Committee or Board of Landcare NSW but all the elements that make up how we organise and govern ourselves: the LNSW Council, regional and district Landcare organisations, the muster and the member groups of Landcare NSW.
Our starting point was to consider whether our system reflects governance best practice. We asked ourselves: is our system fit-for-purpose, clear, efficient, accountable, and transparent?
We reflected on how, in embarking on a reform process, we can stay true to the grassroots nature of Landcare and ensure the voices of Landcarers at all levels are heard, from the local paddock to the State Peak.
Our discussions around the Landcare NSW Council table point to a growing consensus around the need for reform. This is a large project with many dimensions that will be discussed extensively in a range of forums over the coming months but some key issues and questions are emerging.
There is strong agreement in Council that doing this work is critical if Landcare is to survive and grow.
Our future is linked to our success in attracting investment from a range of sources. An exemplary governance system is essential if the Landcare movement is to receive funds from donors, funders and investors.
For Landcare NSW to have legitimacy as the state peak body, we must have a governance system that ‘connects up’ the many elements that make up the NSW Landcare community. Through having a strong state peak, Landcarers can focus on local projects and priorities while we work at the state level to raise awareness of your work and secure more recognition and resources.
With the rapid growth of the past few years, it is timely to look at the role of, and relationship between, Landcare NSW’s Executive Committee, Council and muster, and to consider membership of each of these bodies.
Given the challenges facing our volunteer leaders, are the roles on these bodies ‘do-able’ for busy volunteers? Is our system understandable to Landcarers and others who deal with us? If not, how can it be simplified? Do our representatives have sufficient mandate and profile in their regions? Are there conflicts of interest issues? Do we have the right mix of skills and representation? What is the role of the Council vs the Executive Committee? How can we strengthen our regional organisations and align our representative boundaries more closely with our government funders?
These are some of the many questions under discussion as part of this major project. These issues will be discussed in detail at the May Council meeting. An in-depth regional consultation process will follow in July. You can read the Governance Project – Connecting Up Landcare NSW – Discussion Paper here. Additional resources are available on the Landcare NSW Members Portal here.
All feedback is welcome and we encourage all Landcarers, especially those on committees and in leadership roles, to engage with this project. If you have questions or comments, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org