Australian Conservation Foundation

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Australian Conservation Foundation

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Description

ACF is Australia's national environment organisation. We are more than 600,000 people who speak out for a world where forests, rivers, people and wildlife thrive. We are proudly independent, non-partisan and funded by donations from our community.

Our challenge

Right now, a pollution and extinction crisis threatens our living world. Climate damage and habitat destruction are our biggest challenges.

We’re living with the consequences of bad decisions, discredited ideas and short-term thinking. The big polluters. The rigged rules. The politicians who forget they represent the people.

But we don’t accept the story we must sacrifice nature for a quick buck. People made this crisis and together we can solve it.

People power our campaigns, and always have

People like the scientists who realised the consequences of limestone mining on the reef. Poets who spoke out for our forests. Builders who refused to wreck urban green spaces. Farmers who love the land. Traditional Owners who protect country from uranium mining and toxic pollution. The volunteers who make banners, write letters and run events, over decades.

Our community

We are more than 600,000 people who speak out, show up and act. We are advocates, friends, explorers and leaders from communities right across the country. With you, ACF is growing a passionate community for nature.

Our community advocates against pollution and destruction, and for our living world. Together, we can match the power of big polluting companies and show our politicians that we, the people, care.

If you’ve ever asked, “What can I do to make a difference?” you’re in the right place. Join us as a member. Power our campaigns as an Earthvoice monthly donor. Take action in your community through fundraising with us. Find or start an ACF Community group.

Our community’s incredible support means ACF is proudly independent, non-partisan and funded by donations from tens of thousands of people. Our members are the heart of our democracy. Our organisation is led by a passionate leadership team of our volunteer Board and Council and our Executive.

We show up, speak out and act

We push for bold solutions, because the problems we face are big and urgent. We use evidence-based advocacy, courage, creativity and common sense to make this country a better place.

As an advocacy organisation, we expose corruption and destruction and create real solutions for a better future. We champion our trees, communities, reefs and wildlife.

We are nature's advocates

Big polluter lobby groups say we should plant trees. Instead, we campaign to stop logging companies from chopping them down.

We amplify the voices of those who would not otherwise be heard. Voices of critters, families and future generations. People who love snorkeling the reef, seeing critters in the wild and harvesting energy from their rooftops.

Managed/contributed to the following campaigns

Type of group

Foundation

Primary environmental focus

Conservation & Protection

Geographic sphere or activity

National

Primary location

Australia

Known address

60 Leicester St, Carlton 3053

Website link/s

Founding Year

History of group

Over 50 years, ACF and our community have had some incredible wins. We advocated against polluting projects like the Jabiluka uranium lease. We won World Heritage listing for the Reef and Kakadu. We protected places we all love, like the Franklin River, Antarctica and the Murray-Darling. We stood with Traditional Owners to hand back country and farmers to pioneer Landcare. We won billions for clean energy and led Australia's biggest climate march, helping to win a global pollution agreement.

Successes

We won World Heritage listing and Marine Park status for the Great Barrier Reef. When oil companies proposed plans to mine the reef in the 1960s, ACF was there to stop them in their tracks. In 1969, we made history when we kickstarted a Royal Commission and saved the reef from oil drilling. For over 50 years, the ACF community has spoken out to protect one of the greatest natural wonders of our world. Stretching more than 2,300km along Queensland’s east coast, the Great Barrier Reef is home to an astounding array of fish, coral, turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks and rays. Yet for decades, big polluting companies have threatened to destroy this incredible community of living things. When oil companies proposed plans to mine the reef in the 1960s, ACF members kickstarted a Royal Commission and saved the reef from oil drilling. To stop any further proposals for damaging activities, ACF and other community groups ran a national campaign to protect the reef under Australian law. In 1975, the Australian government responded – officially declaring the Great Barrier Reef a national marine park. In the 1980s, we campaigned for the reef’s World Heritage listing – and won. Our work didn’t stop there. In the early 2000s, one of our greatest successes was in influencing the expansion of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The ACF community made over 3,5000 submissions, convincing the Marine Park Authority to increase environmentally protected areas of the reef from five per cent to one third of its expanse. Today, global warming – fuelled by digging up and burning coal – is putting the reef under greater stress than ever before. Vast stretches of once colourful corals are bleaching and dying before our eyes – but our governments continue to approve giant new coal mines. That’s why, when our government made a reckless decision to approve one of the biggest coal mines in the world – Adani’s Carmichael coal mine – the ACF community stepped up so we could take the government to court. Our goal is to protect the reef from harm so the coral, turtles and rays that call it home can thrive for generations to come.
We won World Heritage listing for Kakadu National Park.
Together, we helped secure national park status for Kakadu and, standing with Traditional Owners, we halted plans for a new uranium mine at Jabiluka. Kakadu is a place all Australians should treasure and be proud they have stood up to protect from uranium mining. Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park and is World Heritage listed for both its environmental and cultural importance. It is no place for the contested and contaminating uranium industry, but the long campaign to end uranium mining in Kakadu continues. ACF has played a leading role in protecting Kakadu's cultural and natural values from uranium mining for over 30 years. We helped Kakadu secure national park status in three stages between 1979 and 1991 and worked to stop the Jabiluka uranium mine. In 1998 thousands came from around Australia and across the world to support the Mirarr people and blockade the proposed Jabiluka mine. The campaign gained international attention and in the early 2000’s the development of Jabiluka was halted. Since this time expansion plans at the Ranger mine have been halted and the nearby Koongarra deposit has been formally included into the Kakadu National Park. We continue to work with the Mirarr Traditional Owners to ensure the protection of the region and its values, focusing now on the importance of the comprehensive and credible rehabilitation of mine affected country. “"Any fair-minded Australian who has thought through the issue of having 20 million tonnes of radioactive tailings in a World Heritage listed area in the middle of the most significant national park that we have, on land that belongs to somebody else, will say that this mine is wrong" Peter Garrett. Kakadu is something all Australians should treasure and be proud to protect. It is one of our biodiversity hotspots with many species endemic to the region. Kakadu contains the world's richest breeding grounds for migratory tropical waterbirds, is home to majestic waterfalls, vast wetlands teeming with wildlife, and Indigenous rock art sites providing a glimpse into over 65,000 years of living tradition and cultural practices.
We stopped mining in Antarctica. ACF's campaign to protect Antarctica from mining in the late 1980s is regarded as one of the greatest conservation-related victories Australia has ever seen. It’s one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. A land of towering icebergs, vast valleys of snow and fascinating sea life, including emperor penguins, minke whales, leopard seals and albatrosses. But it is also the world’s most isolated continent. With no human population standing in the way, Antarctica was once a prime target for mining companies eyeing off the continent for its mineral and profit potential. In the mid-1970s, world leaders gathered to agree a “code of conduct” for mineral extraction in Antarctica. But ACF saw another way. ACF’s Council formed an Antarctic Committee – working with scientists and biologists to draft a policy that recommended a complete ban on mineral exploration on the continent. It took more than a decade of campaigning, but when mining in Antarctica was officially outlawed, former Director Geoff Mosley regarded the milestone as one of the greatest conservation-related victories Australia had seen. ACF argued that “complete protection was desirable and achievable, when most groups were tending towards compromise,” Geoff said. “We showed the way and argued the points to the end,” he said. “Not many groups can say in all honesty ‘we saved a continent’.” The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1991, banned mining in the Antarctic region indefinitely and declared Antarctica a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science.” "Not many groups can say in all honesty we saved a continent" — Former ACF Director Geoff Mosley.
People's Climate March 2015: Together, we made history. When world leaders headed to Paris for the UN climate summit we joined millions of people across the globe for the biggest climate march the world has ever seen. Now, for the first time in history, we have a universal agreement to cut pollution. WE MADE HISTORY. On the last weekend of November 2015, we made history. As world leaders gathered in Paris on the eve of the United Nations climate summit, we gathered in unprecedented numbers. More than 140,000 people came together in 55 towns and cities right across our sunburnt country. Melbourne’s rally, led by ACF, kicked off the wave of global marches and brought out 60,000 people. It was the biggest march in the world that weekend. We broke records. In every Australian capital city, more people joined People’s Climate Marches than ever before. Together, our power, our energy and our spirit beamed across the world’s media. The next week, world leaders watched footage of the marches at the UN climate summit in Paris. Then – in an extraordinary diplomatic effort – they made a global agreement to cut pollution. THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE POWER LOOKS LIKE. For more than a year, we collaborated with over 350 organisations – environmental groups, unions, faith leaders, Indigenous communities, health organisations, local councils and grassroots, climate and community groups. Hundreds and hundreds of amazing ACF volunteers spent their evenings and weekends flyering, postering, phone banking, doorknocking, making placards and banners, marshalling and doing all sorts of other unglamorous but oh-so-important things. People from all across the country chipped in with generous donations to make all of this possible. We grew relationships. We collaborated. And although the rallies are over, we’ll keep on working together, because we know together, we can turn the wheel of history. Sixty thousand people march through the streets of Melbourne in the largest People's Climate March in the world. THIS IS WHO WE ARE. We are a massive community of people who care. We are firefighters, Indigenous people, nurses, young people, old people, people of faith, health care workers, union leaders, grandchildren and gardeners. We are explorers, thinkers, innovators, superheroes, dreamers and doers. We all want a brighter future. We came together to tell our leaders, loud and clear – we the people will hold you to account. We showed the world, we’re all committed to a brighter future, and we are getting on with it, whether our politicians are ready or not. In every Australian capital city, more people joined People’s Climate Marches than ever before. WE DANCED, SANG AND MARCHED IN STREETS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. From Melbourne to Darwin, from Broome to Lismore to Burnie and Cooktown, legends turned out in droves. In capital cities and towns, we took to the streets to show our leaders what we’re made of. In Melbourne, 60,000 marchers stood for a minute’s silence to honour what we’ve lost and reflect on the unbreakable thread of hope that we hold for our future. Tears streamed down cheeks. In Sydney, 45,000 people snaked through the city with placards, puppets, maracas and pinwheels, calling for climate justice and a brighter future. In Adelaide, people on the footpath stood with jaws dropped as the march filed past. Armidale made the longest banner Australia has ever seen, and sweaty People’s Climate marchers in Cairns ended their march in a lagoon. People from all walks of life came together to tell our leaders: we, the people, will hold you to account. BIG AND SMALL, WE WERE THERE. From Melbourne to Darwin, from Broome to Lismore to Burnie and Cooktown, legends (big and small!) turned out in droves. WE KICKED OFF MARCHES ALL AROUND THE WORLD. The ACF community inspired people everywhere to get involved. And well over half a million people, at more than 2300 events in 175 countries, did. As people couldn’t march in the city of Paris, that beautiful city hosting the UN climate talks, we marched for them. FROM HERE ON, WE'RE ALL IN! We turned up. We spoke out. And because we did this, we now have a universal agreement to end climate pollution. Together, we’ll keep campaigning and speaking out and standing together, day after day, year after year, to create the brighter future we know is possible.
Wuthathi people return to Shelburne Bay. "My uncles, grandfathers... all these years they've been fighting for this land, now we got it back" - Moira Macumboy, Traditional Owner. ACF would like to warn Indigenous Australians that this information contains images of people who have since died. It’s moments like this that remind me what’s possible when as a community we step up, speak out, and never give up. When I first climbed the immense white sand dunes of Shelburne Bay with the Wuthathi people five years ago, I felt the enormity of the campaign we – the ACF community – were privileged to be a part of. This part of Cape York is the last intact landscape of its kind in Australia. A rare and spectacular stretch of snow-white sand dunes, spring-fed streams, ancient rainforests and sprawling wild-flower rich heathlands. Its seas include some of the most significant turtle and dugong habitat in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The campaign to protect this land started long before I first stepped foot on those sand dunes. For the Wuthathi, the struggle to return and protect their ancestral homelands has taken nearly 100 years. And ACF has been standing with them for 40 years. In 1976, ACF identified Shelburne's unique values as deserving of national park protection. Since then, the ACF community has stood with the Wuthathi people, to protect Shelburne from sand mining and industrial development. And along with many others, we have stayed by their side to campaign for the return of their land to traditional ownership. I'm lucky to have inherited a great legacy of work and respect by joining ACF that goes back decades. “Because this country is very unspoilt, very untouched, there’s a lot of sacred sites out there, a lot of story places that the younger generation need to learn and carry on those practices” – Phil Wallis, Traditional Owner. It’s taken time, courage, and perseverance, but today at a ceremony in Lockhart River, the Queensland Government handed back this remarkable stretch of land to the Wuthathi people. As part of the handback, 118,000 hectares have been returned to the Wuthathi including a new 37,282 hectare jointly managed national park, which they own, over most of the near-pure silica sand dunes. “All those years…my uncles, all the grandfathers, they travelled with other Wuthathi elders to stop the mining. We had determination – that really touched me. For all these years they’ve been fighting for this land, now we got it back” – Moira Macumboy, Traditional Owner. Change takes time. But today’s handback goes to show what’s possible when we persevere. When a mining company proposed a 400,000 tonne sand mining project in 1985 - including barge and port facilities in the Great Barrier Reef - ACF Councillor and coordinator of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Don Henry, spearheaded a legal challenge contesting the proposal. With a range of witnesses including Wuthathi elders, ACF Director Geoff Mosley, scientists and other experts, Don was successful in convincing the court that mining shouldn’t go ahead. When the threat of mining reoccured in the early 2000’s, ACF and The Wilderness Society joined the Wuthathi to call on the then Premier, Peter Beattie, to ban mining outright at Shelburne Bay. In 2004, the Premier introduced a ban on any further prospecting, exploration and mining through Shelburne, which remains in place to this day. All the while, ACF - along with the Wilderness Society, Balkanu and the Cape York Land Council - has played an important and collaborative role in transforming the region’s land ownership to both return country to Traditional Owners and establish new national parks with their consent. The Shelburne handback brings the total area of land returned to Traditional Owners to over 3 million hectares, with more proposed for next year. This is an historic day. Knowing its history, and how close it has come to destruction, it is a rare privilege to play a part in this handback, to see the land returned to the Wuthathi and protection for the dune system. From today, the Wuthathi people will no longer need to seek permission to enter their ancestral homelands. From today, they are free to return cultural practices to a landscape they are intimately connected with. The return of Shelburne Bay to the Wuthathi people will bring new opportunities. New tourism projects, ranger positions and land management opportunities are burgeoning across Cape York as a result of similar handbacks. Rare and threatened species, like the Spotted Cuscus and Palm Cockatoo, can continue to thrive among the tea-coloured creeks, monsoon forests and vast savannahs. Shelburne Bay will remain one of the world’s most outstanding natural and cultural landscapes. This has happened because a community of people who care came together, spoke out, and never gave up. Together, we’ll continue to create a world where we all play our part to care for country and community for generations to come. Change takes time. But when we work together, we can make a difference. “It’s Wuthathi people now, and we’re heading back to country” – Johnson Chippendale, Chair of the Wuthathi Corporation.
Working with farmers, we pioneered the national Landcare movement. Landcare – a now thriving network of volunteers across the country – is the epitome of everything we care about: our communities and our homes. For too long, Australians had witnessed the impact of pollution in their local communities and not known what to do. Across our wide, brown land, people cared deeply and wanted to come together to protect their local rivers, trees, land and wildlife. Landcare – a now thriving network of volunteers across the country – is the epitome of everything we care about: our communities and our homes. The idea behind the program is as old as human history: humans working together, caring for country. That’s why it works. It’s in our bones. The late Joan Kirner, (former Victorian Minister for Conservation, Forests and Lands) and Heather Mitchell (former President of the Victorian Farmers Federation) celebrate the 10th anniversary of Landcare in 1996. Photo: courtesy of Landcare. ACF was the spark that ignited the program – which started as a local group in Victoria in 1986 – to become a national movement. Joining forces with the National Farmer’s Federation (NFF), ACF proposed the idea to Prime Minister Bob Hawke, taking a local model and turning it into a national movement. "It's been overwhelmingly successful and is now looked back on as one of the ground-breaking initiatives," said the former ACF Executive Director (1986-1992), Phillip Toyne. Toyne, along with the NFF’s Rick Farley, were instrumental in the success of what many viewed as a most unlikely alliance. "The objective initially was to get something like 300 Landcare groups established by the end of the first decade of Landcare," he said. "Instead, it was well past 2000 groups." The federal government declared the 1990s as the 'Decade of Landcare'. Today, more than 5,400 groups are working together to protect local waterways, beaches, forests and farmland across Australia. "It's been overwhelmingly successful and is now looked back on as one of the ground-breaking initiatives." — Phillip Toyne, former ACF Executive Director (1986-1992).
With our allies, we stopped the proposal to dam the Franklin River. The campaign to stop the dam on the Franklin River in Tasmania created a very different type of environment movement – one powered by everyday people – and evolved into a social and political force that started green political parties and inspired people all over the world. Many members of the ACF community spoke out when, in the late 1970s, the Tasmanian government proposed to build a dam that would flood the Gordon and Franklin rivers – two rivers so ancient, they existed in the time of the dinosaurs. Many in the Tasmanian community had already seen Lake Pedder flooded in 1972 and were not going to let another natural treasure be destroyed. Flooding these rivers would have drowned the surrounding forest – home to 3000-year-old Huon Pines and many rare and endangered species. In the wake of the announcement, more people came together out of environmental concern than ever before. Thousands of people travelled to the rivers and were arrested for blockading the river and construction roads. People joined the campaign who did not consider themselves activists. Because people came together and spoke out, politicians took action and a 1983 decision by the High Court of Australia meant that the Franklin River remained wild. This was the first time the federal government had overruled a state in order to protect the environment. The campaign created a very different type of environment movement – one powered by everyday people – and evolved into a social and political force that started green political parties and inspired people all over the world. The Franklin campaign was a shift in the way ACF worked – from a scientific-based organisation to an activist one. It also planted the seed in others to stand up for other places in the following decades which included saving the Daintree, Kakadu, forests of NSW and south-west Tasmania, Cape York, the Kimberley and Victoria’s Little Desert.
We seeded the idea that became the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation. We campaign for governments and businesses to make economic decisions that support life, not damage it. ACF played a powerful role in the creation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) – a government body dedicated to investing in clean energy projects. Between 2010 and 2012, ACF played a powerful role in the creation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) – a government body dedicated to investing in clean energy projects. In 2010 our economist, Simon O’Connor, took a trip to the UK and marvelled at the green investment bank that had support of conservative politicians. He wrote a report to spark the idea for something similar here. And it quickly gained traction. In December 2010, ACF released a report, Funding the transition to a clean energy economy, which assessed the tools used to support clean energy investment in other countries. We were the first to put forward the blueprint for a $2 billion a year Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The $10 billion CEFC was accepted as part of the Clean Energy Future Package in July 2011, passing through parliament as law in June 2012. In July 2014 the Clean Energy Future package was voted down and nearly dismantled by the new Senate. In its first full year in operation, the 2013-14 financial year, the CEFC contracted investments of over $900 million in projects over $3 billion in total value. Today, we continue to campaign for governments and businesses to make economic decisions that support life, not damage it. Together, we can steer our economy to create a fair society in which our communities and all living things can thrive.
We stood with the Mirarr people to stop the Jabiluka uranium mine. Led by Mirarr senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula, ACF joined with other national and Northern Territory environment groups in a campaign to stop the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine The Jabiluka campaign was a game changer in the environment movement. It was a movement in which Australians and people from all around the world came together and stood alongside the Mirarr Traditional Owners. People from all walks of life protested together and said this is ours to look after, to care for and not destroy. It was a cause people believed in and were ready to take action to protect this sacred country. The Jabiluka uranium deposit is surrounded by the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park– on the lands of the Mirarr people. Drilling at the nearby Ranger Uranium mine had started in the 1970s, but with a change of government in the late 1990s there was a renewed pushed for uranium mining in Australia with a focus on the nearby Jabiluka lease. Led by Mirarr senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula, ACF joined with other national and Northern Territory environment groups in a campaign to stop the proposed Jabiluka mine. Meetings, films, exhibitions, speaking tours and protests carried the message of respect for culture, country and the future. "They kept on pushing us on Mirarr, they wanted to dig Jabiluka. But there is a djang (sacred place) there. If they disturb it they will make it wrong. They have already made it wrong. So they closed it back down." — Yvonne Margarula, Sept 2010. Diverse groups of people came together to support the Mirarr and the campaign grew from the local to the international. UNESCO, the European Parliament and the US Congress all became involved and in 1998 over 5000 people took part in a non-violent direct action blockade. These powerful collective efforts saw the mining company enter into an agreement with the Mirarr that Jabiluka would not be developed without their specific consent. It took a mining company to do what the Australian government could not – acknowledge the rights of the region's Traditional Owners. The anti-nuclear hand symbol was designed in 1996 by Kathleen McCann to support the Mirarr people's campaign against the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine. The symbol has been increasingly adopted by nuclear free movements and campaigns around the world. ACF also supported long-running efforts by Djok Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee to end plans for uranium mining at Koongarra. In Feb 2013 this special area was formally included in Kakadu National Park and protected forever - a massive tribute to Jeffrey's vision and tenacity. "I could be a rich man today. I could be a rich man. Billions of dollars...you know, you can offer me anything but my land is a cultural land." Jeffrey Lee, Djok Senior Traditional Owner. Today the work to protect Kakadu from the threat of uranium mining continues. ACF is working with the Mirarr to ensure the rehabilitation of the Ranger mine-site and supporting them to transition to an economy which supports long-term, sustainable solutions for maintaining country and culture.
We worked with governments to return precious water to the rivers of the Murray-Darling. For over a decade, local groups, the ACF community and people who cared, campaigned for legislation to leave enough water in our rivers to keep them, and us, healthy. The Murray-Darling Basin is the lifeblood for our communities, wildlife, 20,000 farms and millions of people. For a time, it seemed like the mighty Murray and Darling rivers would never dry out. Our governments let people take as much river water as they wanted. We straightened the rivers and controlled their flow with dams and locks. But as more people came to the Basin and irrigation got bigger and more widespread, we took too much. Some were greedy and didn’t care about the people and wildlife living downstream. Eventually, we bled our rivers dry. For over a decade, local groups, the ACF community and people who cared campaigned for legislation to leave enough water in our rivers to keep them, and us, healthy. Together, we cajoled our farming communities, the federal government and five different states to work together. We did the official stuff – submissions, appearing at inquiries, lobbying all sides of politics at federal and state levels. And we did the unofficial stuff: town hall meetings, colourful protests on the steps of state parliaments, billboards and media stunts. Eventually we had a plan – the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), which sets out fair rules about how much river water people can take. Signed into law in late 2012, the MDBP pledged $10 billion to recover 3,200 billion litres – six times more water than is in Sydney Harbour – every year for the rivers and wetlands of the Basin. The Plan reconnects the river with its floodplains and makes sure there’s enough river water to flow all the way from the Great Dividing Range to the sea. It promises healthier rivers and wetlands, wildlife and communities. But having a plan is one thing; making our governments follow it it is another. Today, a handful of cashed-up lobbyists are campaigning against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. They’re trying to erode it, bit by bit, so they can take as much river water as they want. So we are keeping the pressure on our governments to finish what they started. To put the interests of our rivers and rural communities ahead of corporate self interest. If we do it right, we will be able to keep swimming and fishing in our rivers – and the mighty Murray will flow all the way to the sea.
A victory for our democracy. How we fixed a bad law that tried to silence us all. I just want to say thank you. Today we can celebrate our right to speak out for our living world. Moments ago, the amended foreign donations bill (or the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill) passed through the Parliament. If you're one of the thousands of people who donated, signed petitions, or emailed or called a decision maker about this bill, thank you so much for standing up for our right to speak out. This is a victory for our democracy. Australians expect charities like ACF to be able to speak up on the issues they care about. I feel like this message won’t go anywhere near expressing just how amazing an outcome this is. Somehow, together, we managed to push this from a bill that would have more or less shut down some advocacy organisations – including well known charities – to a bill we can say we support. This really is incredible. To fully appreciate this win, let me take you back to November 2017… At this point, ACF and other charities like us had weathered several years of attacks on the legitimacy of advocacy. There are so many ways that advocacy makes Australia a better place for all. We knew another attack was on the way, but what was to come was completely unexpected. The “three bills” package was introduced into Parliament minutes after the marriage equality bill passed. And to be honest with you, we were shocked. Framed by the government as a package of “national security” measures which would “update” our espionage laws and get foreign money out of politics, the bills added a wide range of new offences and masses of red tape which would have significantly impacted ACF’s advocacy work to protect nature – and raise the money to do it. When I asked our in-house lawyer Elizabeth what she thought of the proposal, she replied “This just can’t happen. We have to stop it”. Unfortunately for us, the political climate was also extremely challenging at the time. Both parties had reasons to want the bills passed, and it looked like advocacy organisations might wind up as collateral damage. It was really scary. It was clear we needed to change the politics, and we couldn’t do that alone. So we brought together the Hands Off Our Charities Alliance – a network of environment, health, international development, youth, religious, and service organisations. This really was the most diverse and powerful alliance I’d ever seen. It’s kind of blown our minds actually. One silver lining to the government attacks on civil society was how it united us. We began by organising a series of lobby days, media briefings, and political meetings and events – to showcase the breadth and growing power of our alliance to decision makers. The ACF community – and supporters of dozens of other charities – swamped the parliamentary committee with a record-number of submissions. Everyone from academics to community groups told the committee they had to fix the bill. We talked to everyone – cross-bench, Government, Labor and the Greens, and were literally in people’s offices until nine or ten at night. That’s the kind of intensive effort that it takes to move a bill once it’s in progress through the legislative process. We worked with our allies to negotiate the text, line by line, to make sure we got a bill that would get foreign donations out of Australian politics without damaging our democracy. ACF has the political relationships and is a trusted ally across the sector, so together we managed to pull it off. I know most citizens don’t get to make the case for which words should go into the next edition of Australia’s electoral laws – and actually have those words become law. The reason I do is only because I get to surf in on a wave of ACF people power – our members, donors, supporters, staff, former staff – all the people who’ve built up ACF’s reputation over decades and keep it relevant and powerful today. It’s such a thrill to get to work on behalf of our community to make the world a little bit better. And I feel the privilege immensely. So thank you. Today we celebrate, and tomorrow we get back to what we’re here to do. To speak out for a world where forests, people, oceans and wildlife can thrive. In the near future, we’ll launch new campaigns to fix our democracy. This whole sorry episode has galvanised us to get on the front foot. Because in a healthy democracy, dollars don’t determine public policy – people do. That's why we’ll campaign for big, systemic change, to get big money out of politics and to make our government work for people again.

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