Advocate for Soil Health

​​Photo of Major General Michael JefferyThe Prime Minister the Hon. Tony Abbott MP has extended the appointment of former Governor–General, Major General the Hon. Michael Jeffery, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Retd), as the national Advocate for Soil Health for 2015, the International Year of Soils.

As Soil Advocate since December 2012, General Jeffery has worked hard to raise public awareness of the critical role soil plays (integrated with good water and vegetation management) in underpinning sustainable productivity, delivering high quality ecosystem services and helping to meet global challenges including food security and climate change.

General Jeffery has travelled to every state and territory to meet with farmers, scientists, policy makers, students and community groups to learn about soil management issues and opportunities and to speak at various forums, conferences and field days. This process of broad consultation has informed the reports provided by the Soil Advocate to the Australian Government.

During his first term as Soil Advocate General Jeffery provided input into the first national soil research, development and extension strategy, and he continues to support the implementation of the strategy, which works to a vision of Securing Australia’s soil for profitable industries and healthy landscapes. Another key piece of work, during 2014, was the provision of high level input to the development of the Australian Government white papers on agricultural competitiveness and development in northern Australia.

In response to the Prime Minister’s decision to extend the Soil Advocate appointment, General Jeffery said that “the 2015 International Year of Soils is a great opportunity to recognise the critical role healthy soils play in helping to sustain our economy and environment.”

To view the Advocate for Soil Health 2015 terms of reference.

From the Advocate

“I see my appointment as Advocate for Soil Health as an opportunity to provide leadership and national strategic direction to the good work being done by soil scientists and landscape managers across Australia every day.

There are a number of matters I want to address as Soil Advocate, including communicating the primary indicators of soil health and the importance of understanding soil processes.

Photo of Major General Michael Jeffery in a paddock holding a clump of grass in soil

I want to explore the temporal dimension of soils, assess where we were in the past, where we are now and where we should be in the future.

We must clearly articulate our goals and examine how we go about improving soil health for the future. I want to bring scientists and land managers together to get a better understanding of the processes underpinning changes in the landscape, how they can be improved and how we can work together to make sure we are addressing the highest priority issues.

We need to communicate to the wider community the vital importance of improving soil condition and demonstrate how it benefits us all. To do this effectively, we must break down technical barriers and focus on the narrative, communicating in a meaningful way which captures the public’s attention. I will be consulting with soil scientists specialising in soil chemistry, biology and physics, as well as experts in land management and degradation in developing a set of soil research and development priorities.

Because soil health is integral to the health of the broader landscape, we must take an integrated and nationally coordinated approach to managing the whole system – soil, water and biodiversity. In recognition of this, I will also be engaging with experts in hydrology, agronomy, biodiversity management and plant and animal health.

I am looking forward to exploring new opportunities for improvements in soil health, not just for the benefit of those who manage the land, but for all Australians.”


During his first term the Soil Advocate presented two reports to the Minister for Agriculture. The first report was released in July 2012. The second report pdf icon PDF [905 KB] mswordicon Word [141 KB], which presents a more detailed overview of the Advocate’s work and findings, was released in March 2013. The report includes a set of priorities for soil research and development, discussion of themes for future focus, and information on meetings, events and site visits undertaken during 2013.

The Soil Advocate will report to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture during the 2015 International Year of Soils, outlining recommendations for future direction of soil management and policy in Australia.

Media Releases

Media Releases made by the Advocate for Soil Health will be made available from the Department of Agriculture Media Centre.


For more information or to invite the Advocate to an upcoming meeting or event, please contact the secretariat for the Advocate for Soil Health on +61 2 6272 3933 or complete an online inquiry form.

Last reviewed:
21 Apr 2015