Reflections on four decades of land restoration in Australia

Colin Campbell, Jason Alexandra, David Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The past four decades have seen a transformative process in Australian agriculture – the gradual incorporation of conservation practices such as ecological restoration, revegetation and agroforestry as a response to land degradation. Although actions have been impressive they remain fragmented, are confined to particular districts or properties and run the risk of not being built upon in the future. This paper traces the history of this movement and draws out lessons and implications for future policy development and research.
Landscape-scale restoration and the integration of conservation into farming landscapes have been recognised as a global imperative for decades, for which Australia has generated many innovations – in the technical, social and policy domains. Scanning the ‘big picture’, we identify many pixels of best practice in policy, incentives, planning, regulation and on-ground practice. We wonder why we have not pulled these together, to work in concert over time. If we had, Australia would have a world’s best natural resource management framework. However, we have neither integrated these elements at multiple scales nor sustained them. Unfortunately, although we are excellent at innovating, we have been equally good at forgetting. Progress remains partial, patchy and slow. Too often, we have made gains then gone backwards, reflecting a tendency towards policy adhockery and amnesia. With Australia’s continuing depreciation of institutional memory, we risk losing critical capabilities for making sound policy decisions.
Australian expertise in revegetation, restoration and regeneration of landscapes remains formidable however, with an enormous amount to offer the world. We are still learning to live and farm more sustainably, but we have made big strides over the last four decades. The challenge will be to maintain the momentum and provide adequate succession so future generations continue the work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-416
Number of pages12
JournalRangeland Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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