Australians love nature. In fact, 94% of Australians agree that this country has some of the best landscapes in the world with plants and animals found nowhere else.

With iconic species like koalas, banksias, bogong moths, mountain pygmy-possums and glossy black cockatoos found nowhere else on the planet, Australia’s nature is truly unique.

But Australia’s nature is in trouble. Bulldozers are flattening forests and grasslands for agricultural expansion and urban sprawl, placing Australia as the only developed nation on the list of global deforestation hotspots.

And colonial Australia has caused the extinction of more mammals than any other country in the world. We are ranked third globally for the number of extinct and threatened animals, and they continue to be threatened by invasive species like cats and foxes and climate fuelled disasters like bushfires, droughts and floods.

The good news you ask? 95% of Australians agree that it’s important to protect nature for future generations to enjoy.
So, if we can translate this care into collective action, we have a real chance of halting nature’s decline and restoring it to better health in the future than it’s in today.

Here are some of the most impactful ways you can help protect Australia’s nature.

Recognise and support First Nations people who are leading the way in healing Country

This continent is home to the oldest continuing cultures on Earth. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lived in what we now call Australia for over 60,000 years and have deep spiritual and cultural connections to the land, waters, plants and animals of this big island. Non-First Nations Australians can go beyond “sorry” by respecting, actively supporting and investing in First Nations knowledge and leadership.

Contribute to a clear collective voice that pressures the people in power to do better for nature

When thousands of Australians all ask the government for the same thing at the same time, it builds pressure. Adding your name to ACF’s targeted petitions and letters is an effective way to help bring about the scale of change we need to halt nature destruction and get on with restoring it to better health.

Over half a million Australians signed our petition calling for strong national laws that actually protect nature and tens of thousands have signed our open letter to get dirty money out of politics.

You can keep an eye out for opportunities to amplify your voice on the most important and timely asks, and we’ll make sure politicians are listening.

Join an ACF community group near you

People-powered movements are key to bringing about the change you want to see for nature. You can connect with others who live in your local area by joining one of ACF’s 38 community groups or starting your own. You’ll meet like-minded people, run local campaigns to protect nature and be supported by ACF to learn new skills.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zi0yMoLl6A 

Keep pet cats indoors

On average, a pet cat kills about 75 animals a year, and many of these kills are not witnessed by cat owners.

Keeping pet cats indoors not only helps to guarantee their safety but it’s also a great way to ensure they have no link to harming Australia’s reptiles, birds and mammals that are already under so much pressure.

About nine in every 10 cats that go missing are never reunited with their owners, and many pet cats that are allowed to roam can suffer from fight injuries, disease and get hit by cars. There is plenty of advice available through initiatives such as Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife about how to keep your cat safe and happy indoors while ensuring it isn’t harming native wildlife.

Support nature in your local area

No matter where you live, you can support nature in your local area. Around 46% of Australia’s threatened species can be found in our cities and suburbs where about 90% of the human population also lives. So even city-dwellers have huge potential to help provide critical resources and habits for native threatened species.

One way to do this is by asking your local council or nursery for a list of plant species native to your area. Whether you’ve got a big suburban block, a farm or a balcony, you can help build up a network of habitat and food sources by returning native flowers, shrubs, grasses and trees to the local area.

You can also help by providing clean bathing and drinking water for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Cool water should always be put in a clean, shallow, non-metal dish with a stick or rock in it so animals can get out. Make sure to place the dish in an area away from roads, cats and dogs, then sit back and enjoy watching the creatures that come in for a drink.

Beyond the home, why not get involved with larger scale habitat restoration projects via a local Landcare group?

Make sure your money isn’t funding the climate crisis and nature destruction

Your money is powerful and can fund the kind of world you want to live in.

Between 2016 and 2020, Australia’s big four banks lent over $44 billion to fossil fuel companies and projects. As a customer and/or shareholder, you have the power to move the money away from fossil fuel projects and activities that destroy nature. While the big four have publicly committed to stop financing coal by 2030-2035, they all still invest billions in polluting industries like gas.

Find out whether or not your bank is funding the climate crisis and, if they are, be sure to let them know that this is the reason why you’re leaving them for another organisation that’s doing better.

You can also find out what kind of world your superannuation fund is shaping for you to retire in. Check out whether or not your fund is investing your money into fuelling the climate crisis and put them on notice if they are.

Plan meals and eat leftovers to avoid food waste

This might sound like a simple thing to do, but Australians have a huge problem with food waste. We throw out 7.6 million tonnes of food every year - that’s around 312 kilograms of wasted food per person.

Not only are Aussie households wasting money by spending around $2,500 per year on food that isn’t eaten, but we’re wasting the resources that have gone into producing that food.

Over half the land on the Australian continent has been converted for agriculture. Agriculture is the single biggest driver of habitat destruction in Australia and habitat destruction impacts more threatened species than any other pressure.

Producing food takes up a lot of land, and it also uses a lot of water. Our food wastage rates mean that around a quarter of all water used in agriculture is used to grow food that isn’t eaten. This is a wicked problem considering that Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth, and we urgently need to return water to the rivers and wetlands that provide homes and nurseries to this country’s incredible variety of fish, turtles, birds and amphibians.

Beyond ensuring that vital natural resources like land and water have not gone to waste producing food, eating everything you buy or grow is also a great way to stop the creation of more dangerous greenhouse gases. When food rots, it produces methane - a gas more potent than carbon dioxide that is contributing to the climate crisis.

To reduce or even eliminate your food waste, plan your meals, buy only what you need, eat any leftovers before cooking something new and deal with any organic waste by placing it in a worm farm or finding your nearest compost bin.

Photo: Joselyne Majambere and Jules Kangeta farming at the Food Next Door Co-Op Mildura.

Darcie Carruthers