2016 Tasmanian Australian of the Year
Jane Hutchinson, CEO of Tasmanian Land Conservation, a not-for-profit environmental organization that raises money to protect unique natural landscapes, is passionate about connecting all Australians with nature. Jane was also named Tasmanian Australian of the Year in 2016 for her work and contribution to critical conservation projects. Born in Tasmania, Jane is an avid hiker, kayaker and mountain biker.
1. Tell us about how it felt to be named Tasmanian Australian of the year?
When I was told I was nominated to the Tasmanian Australian of the year for 2016, I thought it was a hoax! Then when it was announced that I was the recipient of the award, I felt enormously proud of the organisation that I have been connected to since its humble beginnings, in 2001. I knew it was an important opportunity to promote the work of the Tasmanian Land Conservancy and for nature conservation to be front and centre on the national stage. It’s been an amazing journey being Tasmanian Australian of the Year. I’ve met so many hopeful, optimistic and positive people from all walks of life. Individuals who see an issue or a challenge in their lives and roll up their sleeves and do something about it — because they want to make change for the better.
2. Can you tell us a bit about the not-for-profit work TLC does?
The Tasmanian Land Conservancy, or TLC, as it is fondly known, has one of those “from little things, big things grow” stories. It was started by three blokes who decided, over a meeting in a local café in Hobart, to one day to start a not for profit, an environmental organisation to protect biodiversity on private land in Tasmania. Seeing a need for such an organisation, they pooled together $150. It cost $101 to incorporate, and they opened a bank account with the balance of $49. It all started from there, and now the TLC is one of the largest private landowners in Tasmania. The TLC has a vision for Tasmania to be a global leader in nature conservation. Our mission to achieve that vision is protecting nature on private land. We are a not for profit, non-government, a-political, science, and community-based organisation using business principles to achieve nature conservation. We work in three main ways: creating permanent TLC reserves for nature, forever; operating a revolving fund by buying land on the open market, registering a conservation covenant on the title of the land to permanently protect its natural values and then on-selling that land to people who want their own private reserve for nature; and by working with private landowners to look after nature on their own land. My hope is that in the future nature conservation is mainstream. We all need nature to survive. Nature gives us clean air, clean water, healthy soils, productive crops, cultural connection, medicine, shelter, a stable climate, places to recreate and restore, inspiration for art, music, and literature (among other things!). For all of these reasons and its inherent value, it is critical that we look after nature.
3. Where do you live now, and tell us what is so special about the area?
I live in South Hobart, Tasmania under the shadow of Mount Wellington. On my back doorstep is a trail that leads to the top of the Mountain and beyond to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area with only one road to cross. So, I am surrounded by nature which is such a privilege and a joy.
4. What are some of the environmental challenges facing this area?
The environmental challenges facing my local area, which is peri-urban are representative of the environmental challenges that we face globally. Threats such as habitat loss, climate change, wildfire, feral animals, weeds, and disease all put pressure on the environment, locally and globally.
5. What are some of the local wildlife native to this area?
We are blessed with wonderful local wildlife, being surrounded by the bush. Around my home, I’m likely to see possums, pademelons, wallabies, platypi, echidnas, snakes, lizards and skinks and an array of woodland birds such as honeyeaters, cuckoos, wattlebirds, and cockatoos. We are also near the coast, so silver gulls are a regular in the sky above. If we are lucky, we will see Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles, goshawks and peregrine falcons and at night time bandicoots and owls. So, we are very lucky to live so close to such a vast array of fabulous creatures.
6. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced that you wouldn’t have expected?
My biggest challenge always is what to say “no” to. The TLC has so many opportunities to get involved in so many wonderful projects, but we can’t do them all so choosing those things that have maximum impact for conservation is the biggest challenge. I still haven’t learned how to do that very well, but I’m never bored!
7. What is so special about Australian wildlife?
What’s special about Australian wildlife is that it’s so unique! Australian wildlife is also part of our identity as Australians. It is in our story, our song, our art. It is in our literature, on our currency and on the Australian coat of arms. Wildlife is part of our mythology and part of our reality.
8. Tell us about your relationship with the Indigenous community, and what they have taught you about conservation.
The TLC acknowledges Tasmanian Aboriginal people as the traditional owners of the land. TLC have partnered with Tasmanian Aboriginal organisations many times to protect places of significant natural and cultural heritage across Tasmania together. The largest area of land we have protected in this way is Trawtha Makuminya. Meaning “Big River Country Tracks”, Trawtha Makuminya is almost 7,000 hectares of highland grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and forest adjacent to the TLC’s Five Rivers Reserve in the central highlands of Tasmania. TLC played a facilitation role for Trawtha Makuminya to be acquired by the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania and managed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for its Aboriginal cultural and natural values. We are proud partners and friends, and I hope we continue to share and learn from each other and grow together in our journey to protect natural and aboriginal cultural heritage.
9. Do you think Australians do enough to conserve and appreciate our wildlife?
I think Australians love wildlife. But not everyone makes the connection between all of the threats to nature that I spoke of earlier and to the decline and loss of Australia’s wildlife. We make choices every day that impact on nature and therefore wildlife. Saying that, there are so many wonderful people from all over Australia who do as much as they can to preserve nature, from those who are custodians and stewards of a Land for Wildlife or revolving fund property to those who support nature conservation organisations and agencies either by making a donation or volunteering their time.
10. What are you most passionate about, and what are you working on next?
I am passionate about two things. Two things which I believe are Tasmania’s greatest assets: people and nature. At the moment I’m working on nature conservation becoming mainstream. By that I mean it’s not just something that only NGO’s, environmental agencies or individual landowners and supporters of the natural environment do or think about but it’s something all Australia’s do and think about — as a matter of course.
For more information on the Tasmanian Land Conservancy visit http://tasland.org.au.