2CC 1206 AM AFTERNOON DRIVE WITH LEON DELANEY
THURSDAY, 10 AUGUST 2023
SUBJECTS: ACT Waterways, Volunteer Groups, Ending Loneliness Together.
LEON DELANEY: The Federal Government has announced a $3.2 million investment into improving Canberra's waterways, and Lord knows, our waterways need improvement. Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury and Assistant Minister for Employment, and of course, most importantly our local Member for Fenner, Dr Andrew Leigh, good afternoon.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Good afternoon, Leon, great to be with you and your listeners.
DELANEY: Well, thanks for joining us. Your name is on this media release along with your colleagues, Alicia Payne, David Smith, and of course the Minister for the Environment, Tanya Plibersek. But what exactly does this $3.2 million funding mean for the waterways here in Canberra?
LEIGH: It's supporting the volunteer‑led groups that help to maintain good quality waterways, whether it's the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, or the Ginninderra Molonglo, Southern ACT catchments, there's a whole lot of lovely waterways that many of us enjoy getting out there and walking around, checking out the extraordinary birds, and just enjoying being in nature. And so those volunteer groups do a lot of work, cleaning up weeds, getting out the pests and making sure that our local creeks and waterways are as good as they can be for the natural environment, but also a great place that we humans can enjoy as well.
DELANEY: Yes, we do enjoy having a picnic by the waterside, going for a walk around the lake, but we just don't swim there, because really the water's not good enough, is it, and we've got a problem with blue‑green algae, constantly emerging in various of our water bodies around the ACT, and sometimes that's the fault of the ACT Government that seems to allow all of this cut grass and other debris to go into the waterways that generates that blue‑green algae in the first place.
LEIGH: Well, you certainly can swim in some of our waterways, I did a Sri Chinmoy 10K swim in the lake last year and loved it, so there's opportunities there, but it's got to be said that our waterways are not always as pristine as they could be, hence the need for this investment.
Tanya Plibersek made the comment this morning at the announcement that she wants her term as Environment Minister not to be one of just arresting the decline in our natural environment, but actually leaving a better national environment behind than when she came into the job.
DELANEY: Okay. Now, of course, we do have a big challenge in managing our waterways here, and I, you know, I might have been a little bit facetious, but part of the problem is things like cut grass, not only from ACT Government mowing, but also from private properties as well. How do we stop that from getting into the waterways?
LEIGH: You know, we've got to make sure that we've got those processes in place and so you don't get more gunk ending up in the waterways. That's important for the migratory birds. We saw this morning that a bird called "the Snipe" has just landed in Jerrabomberra Wetlands, it flies from Japan to Australia, it takes five days to fly down, so when a bird like that gets to Australia, we've got to make sure it's got a nice environment to be landing in.
We've also got to ensure that those local groups are able to sustain their volunteers. Volunteering's been under pressure in Australia over recent years, and the woodlands and catchment groups, like Landcare ACT, are a really important part of revitalising community, and ensuring that people have a chance to give back to their community.
DELANEY: Actually, that's really fair and square in your portfolio, isn't it, the question of volunteering, and it does seem to have been a challenge to attract sufficient volunteers in recent times, and perhaps the intervention of COVID may have had some impact there, but why is it so difficult to get people to find the time to volunteer? Is it just because the cost‑of‑living crisis means we're all too busy actually making a living to have any time left over to volunteer?
LEIGH: Digital devices, long work hours have all played a part in reducing community life in Australia. The solution is not throw away our iPhones or to go back to an Australia of the 1950s, but to support volunteer‑led organisations in order to engage with the local community.
We've got some great volunteer match engines out there for any of your listeners who are thinking about volunteering, VolunteeringACT will help you find the right organisation to give a bit of your valuable time, and we need to be supporting, as a government, the work that volunteering organisations do.
The former government waged a war on charities. That ended when we took office, and we've been determined to work with the community sector to build a more connected Australia.
DELANEY: Can I just pick you up on one thing. What's wrong with an Australia of the 1950s? I mean in the 1950s your typical, average everyday family could afford to have an average house on an average income in a single‑income family, and that house had a quarter‑acre block of land with a big back yard where the kids could play cricket. I mean things were not all bad in the 50s, were they?
LEIGH: It was a more, egalitarian place and a more connected place, but you know, for people who aren't Anglo blokes like you and me, Leon, sometimes people faced a lot more discrimination. If you were gay or lesbian, if you were migrant, if you were a woman looking to stay in the workforce, Australia of the 1950s wasn't necessarily an ideal place.
So I reckon we can take the more enlightened views of today and add to that the community connection and egalitarianism that we had in the 1950s to build a better society.
DELANEY: And speaking of community connection, I note that something called the Ending Loneliness Together organisation has produced a report called the State of the Nation Report Into Social Connection, and it has revealed that across Australia about one in three adults report being lonely. But the truly alarming thing from this report is that it turns out that ACT has the highest rate of adult loneliness recorded around the nation, where apparently 40 per cent of ACT constituents report feeling lonely.
Now, Andrew, I find this extremely hard to believe that here in the ACT, in Andrew Barr's socialist communist utopian paradise that people are feeling lonely.
LEIGH: I wonder about that one too, Leon, because on most other community measures the ACT actually comes out as better than Australia. We've got higher‑than‑average donation rates, higher‑than‑average volunteering rates, lower‑than‑average litter rates from the Clean Up Australia surveys. We tend to have higher joining rates than the rest of Australia. So I hope it's just a small sample problem out of one survey, but I'll certainly be watching the next loneliness survey to see whether that troubling figure's replicated.
DELANEY: Yeah, interesting, isn't it, but if anybody is feeling lonely in the Canberra community, look, a great thing you can do is volunteer for an organisation, whether it's a land care organisation, or a pet rescue organisation, or there's so many community organisations that are crying out for volunteers, aren't there?
LEIGH: That's right. And one of the things, great things that you do, Leon, is to give a voice to those community organisations who are looking to connect with the community. So I want to give a big shout‑out to you for that, for giving a platform to our local volunteer‑led groups, our local charities, and for seeing the important role that they play and building a more connected society.
DELANEY: Oh, now I'm worried you're sucking up to me.
LEIGH: You've got tell those stories, right, and when they come on, they're doing remarkable work.
DELANEY: That is absolutely right, and it's not about me, it's about them. So Andrew, thanks very much for chatting today.
LEIGH: Thanks for the conversation, Leon.