The Coalition’s Green Army has been launched, with the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announcing the service providers who will roll out the program.
Two service providers, Skillset and X, will recruit participants aged between 17 and 24, who’ll be in placed in groups of ten including a team leader.
Skillset is a not-for-profit regional training organisation based at Bathurst in central west New South Wales.
Operational manager Ashley Bland says that he’s very optimistic about what the Green Army will be able to achieve.
“We’re really excited about it. Having been involved in its predecessor Green Corps 10 or 15 years ago, we’ve seen that it can do some really terrific things.
The service providers will work with community groups and natural resource management organisations, such as Landcare, to implement projects.
Skillset will recruit and train the nine participants and leader for six Green Armies across regional NSW to work on conservation projects lasting 22 weeks.
“When nine people and a supervisor get stuck into a project, it’s amazing what you can achieve. You can plant enormous amounts of trees, build boardwalks, fix tracks, and restore buildings.
“All these things that councils, Landcare networks, community groups, all struggle to find people to do, you can get a Green Army team in there and really make a dent in the work plan quite quickly.”
Skillset will also have a role in overseeing applications for Green Army projects in NSW and Queensland, to advise the government on their conservation values.
“It’s a quality assurance role to make sure that’s a project that participants will find enjoyable and worthwhile with the correct learning outcomes, and that it will actually to the right type of work that will have long lasting benefits for the community,” Mr Bland said.
He says that the program isn’t only about achieving environmental outcomes, but will have social benefits too.
“They’ll get some really good foundation skills in conservation and land management, first aid, workplace health and safety; it’s a really good job readiness program.
“It’s showing to a future employer that they can turn up for six months in a row and do well.
Mr Bland has rejected criticisms of the Green Army that it will essentially be a work for the dole scheme.
“It’s a very different program than the work for the dole. The people who are on the Green Army teams have been interviewed and have decided to be there. They are not being forced to be there.
The Federal Government has committed $525 million over four years to the Green Army scheme, after slashing close to $500 million from Landcare.
There’s concerns that Landcare community projects will be mothballed because of a lack of funding, which means finding projects where Green Army groups partner with Landcare groups could be an issue.
Mr Bland has recognised that this will pose challenges.
“There is no doubt that the Landcare networks are a bit under the hammer at the moment, a bit depleted.
“But we would hope to see that the 20-million-tree program that we are about to see unfold will help in that regard.
“There are also a lot of projects that can be done that don’t necessarily require a lot of resources, like seed collections and propagation.”
The Green Army passed the Senate with bipartisan support in June. It will start off with 2,500 participants and is pitted to grow to 15,000 over four years.