Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year Speech

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to start by acknowledging the Gadigal People, one of the 29 Clans that make up the Eora Nation and pay my respects to the Elders of the past and present. I would particularly like to acknowledge our Indigenous youth, those who will inherit the world and have to use the knowledge passed down to them to rectify the mistakes made by mainstream society in the past. I would also like to recognise the role my work colleagues at PwC's Indigenous Consulting play in keeping our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture alive, particularly through sharing knowledge and wisdom with the youth.

I also want to begin by thanking those who jointly share this award. Those who have supported me and the wider network to achieve much needed change;

  • My Mum, Dad, sister and partner- thank you for always being there to hear my crazy thoughts, pushing me to be more than who I am and secretly Mum and Dad, probably funding half of my agricultural climate works in the past 2 years.
  • To my family, friends and mentors, thank you for your constant inspiration and pushing me further, promoting and working towards a better future every day.
  • My work, PwC’s Indigenous Consulting. You play such an important part of protecting and teaching Indigenous culture and knowledge to our youth and have provided me with the opportunity to pursue my advocacy work.
  • The broader climate movement who have welcomed farmers with open arms. Your support and drive to protect our environment deserves all the attention it can receive.
  • And the farmers who have spoken out so publicly, often against the wider industry. Your courage is one of the most inspiring acts I have seen.

I was introduced to the world of environmental advocacy and activism just 2 years ago, an invitation to be part of the WWF Earth Hour Cookbook which has led me on the most incredible journey to share my story and the wider Indigenous and agricultural storylines to create unprecedented change in the way we work together and are publicly perceived.

From knocking on the door of every politician that would let us in, attending the COP21 climate talks, to filming a documentary for Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, the environmental movement proves there is hope for a better world. In just 2 years, we have seen over half a million dollars move into the agricultural industry for climate research, established some of the first relationships between green activist groups and farmers, had farmers actively speak out against the agricultural industry and recently ride a horse across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and created some of the first proactive agricultural climate policy in the world. It has certainly been a journey of change and hope.

Yet for me, the greatest moment came filming the Al Gore documentary under a tree on our farm with my Dad, just after watching the birth of a new calf. With over 40,000 years of agrarian practices passed down on the land in which we farm, sharing the cattle that we love with the world, dreaming 40,000 years into the future, is a memory that will stay with me forever.

Like most climate activists, embracing the activism world has often meant understanding and acknowledging where to draw lines in the fight to protect what we have left in this world. It’s the rush we get before we want to publicly protest, the nerves that kick in when we get to finally ask that question publicly to a politician and the tears of joy that we share when we get the outcome we have been fighting for. The life of a climate activist, much like an Indigenous advocate, has been to keep pushing for change, fighting for what we deserve as global citizens.

It is the thrill of the fight excites us. It’s the rallies when we get to stand as one, the joy as we march in solidarity to create change and the piercing sound of the microphone as we grip to the words we need to keep pushing.

But while the fight has produced results in the past, no longer can we publicly punish the Government and dictate to politicians what they need to change. Our climate crisis is beyond this. While our politicians are an important voice to create change, we can no longer let them restrain us from what we need most-true action on climate change now.

To achieve this, it means we can no longer fight. We must reduce public action, acknowledge the role of all the people we have as part of this journey, particularly our access to Traditional Indigenous Knowledge, and work together to just create the action that we need. It is time we lead the way with action, not just encouraging our politicians to carry the flag.

No longer can we afford to wait for the social conscious of our politicians. Our time to come together and drive climate action is now.