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13 February 1997
Thank you Mr Service. Its a great pleasure to be asked to launch 'Ann Fibian', which I believe is an excellent interactive educational tool for primary school children, particularly because it will foster environmental awareness as well as critical thinking.
The Government supports the development of educational tools to aid understanding of environmental issues, and this CD-ROM, featuring a corroboree frog, (and we know frogs are good indicators of ecosystem health), will assist children to learn about some fairly serious issues, in a fun and dynamic way.
We all know that the primary school children of today are often more computer literate than their parents, although all levels of the community now recognise the value of computer based learning tools. It is pleasing to see a program taking advantage of our children's natural curiosity and ability with these educational tools, which are clearly the way of the future.
One of the most important messages that such a tool as Ann Fibian can convey is about the interrelatedness of the Murray-Darling Basin's environmental problems. The program raises awareness about the relationship between the history of human activity and current environmental problems and demonstrates ways of addressing these problems.
Whether the problem is related to soil erosion, salinity, blue-green algae, deforestation, loss of native fish or flooding regimes, the message conveyed is that communities within a catchment must work together, be they city or country dwellers, to correct environmental problems.
And the beauty of teaching primary school age children about environmental problems is that they often possess a clarity of vision and an ability to understand matters without clouding them with broader issues. And children tend to take the environmental messages home to their parents, often in strong terms!
Information and education programs can help raise community awareness to the nature and importance of the environmental challenges confronting Australia and promote informed discussion and debate, as well as motivate the community to act in response to environmental problems.
The expansion of the travelling exhibition "A Changing People, A Changing Land" into environmental education targeting schools, will, I'm sure, reap future environmental benefits, as our children grow and become the land managers and consumers of tomorrow.
Australians, particularly young Australians, are concerned about the environment. Protecting our natural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations is one of the most important challenges we face as a nation.
The Murray-Darling Basin is one of Australia's most productive agricultural regions, and it is well known that land and water degradation poses a significant threat to its future viability. However, the Murray-Darling Basin is not alone. Many rivers across Australia are under similar stress.
In order to effect a strategic, integrated approach to tackling the environmental problems facing our nation, the Government has established the one billion dollar Natural Heritage Trust, which is the major mechanism for the implementation of the Government's policies for the protection and rehabilitation of Australia's natural environment. Overall the Government will spend an additional $1.25 billion over the next 5 years, on a comprehensive package of measures aimed at tackling the environmental and sustainable agriculture challenges facing Australia.
One of the major initiatives under the Natural Heritage Trust is the Murray-Darling 2001 initiative, which will contribute $163 million over the next 5 years towards achieving a sustainable future for the Murray-Darling Basin, its natural systems and communities.
This initiative has four core priorities:
The challenge is to put in place effective local and national communications programs that transform environmental awareness into informed action. I believe that initiatives such as Anne Fibian represent a clear step in the right direction.
Complementing the Murray-Darling 2001 initiative, the National Rivercare Initiative, with $85 million to be provided over five years will focus on ensuring the sustainable management, rehabilitation and conservation of Australia's waterways outside the Murray-Darling Basin.
The National Rivercare Initiative recognises that many River systems across Australia are under similar pressure as those affecting the Murray-Darling Basin. Rivercare will build on existing programs and provide additional resources for key river restoration and conservation works.
I commend the National Museum of Australia and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission for their work in raising community awareness of the important environmental issues relating to the Murray-Darling Basin, and take great pleasure in officially launching Ann Fibian.