Advocate for Soil Health
On 23 October 2012, the former Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard MP, announced the appointment of former Governor–General, Major General the Hon. Michael Jeffery, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Retd), to the role of Advocate for Soil Health.
As the Advocate, General Jeffery intends 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 issues.
General Jeffery will also drive the development of cross-sectoral soil research and development priorities. These will support the implementation of the national soil research, development and extension strategy, being developed under the National Primary Industries Research, Development and Extension Framework.
The terms of reference for the Advocate for Soil Health are available.
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.
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.”
Work program to date
The Advocate will submit two interim reports to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry over the course of the year, and his final report to the Prime Minister at the end of the year.
The Advocate has established an Expert Advisory Panel of soil scientists to provide advice on specific soil topics. A separate Consultative Group of experts has also been established to support the Advocate in developing a set of cross-sectoral soil research and development priorities.
Meetings, events and site visits undertaken by the Advocate
- Keynote address to the National Committee on Soil and Terrain (NCST) about the future of Australia’s soil.
- Meeting with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) about Australia’s soil information database and the recently released SoilMapp application.
- Meeting with the National Landcare Facilitator to discuss strategic linkages between Landcare and the Advocate role.
- Meeting with the Expert Advisory Panel of the Filling the Research Gap Program to discuss outcomes of research that has been funded so far, including research on soil carbon.
- Meeting with senior executive staff from the Australia Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) to discuss research into agricultural productivity, soil health and biodiversity management, land use mapping and social drivers for soil management
- Meeting with the Director General of the Department of Agriculture and Food (WA) to discuss the role of the Advocate and how it can feed into addressing some of the challenges facing agriculture in Western Australia.
- Meeting with senior executive staff of the Bureau of Meteorology to discuss the work of the Bureau, especially the measurement of Australia’s water assets.
- Field trip to Goulburn (NSW) to meet with land managers participating in the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Authority’s Soil and Land Program.
- Meetings with the Northern Territory’s Department of Land Resource Management and Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, and field trip to a near Darwin.
- Opening address at the Talkin’ Soil Health Conference in York (WA) and field visit to a Western Australia No-Till Farming Association (WANTFA) project.
- Meeting with senior researchers at the University of Western Australia to discuss the direction of future research relating to soil.
- Address as part of the Chairman’s Panel at The Australian Global Food Forum on Australia’s role in future global food security.
- Meeting with South Australian state government representatives and visits to a number of soil and land management projects around Adelaide.
- Meeting with the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries and field trip hosted by the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority.
- Opening address at the Victorian No-Till Farmers Association Conference.
Proposed future activities
- Visit to the University of Western Sydney’s Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.
- Meeting with state government officials and visiting soil and land management projects in Queensland and Tasmania.
- Keynote address at State Landcare Conference (QLD).
Media Releases made by the Advocate for Soil Health will be made available from the DAFF 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 2299 or 1800 186 029 or email the Advocate for Soil Health.
16 Jul 2013