For proof that sustainable development is possible, one needs to look no further than the coveted Banksia National Sustainability Awards, according to Banksia Foundation CEO Graz van Egmond.
“The Banksia awards are a leading light for sustainable development in Australia, uncovering and recognising progress and alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Ms van Egmond says.
“For people and organisations striving for beyond business as usual, the Banksia awards create recognition nationwide. For everyone else, stories from the awards’ finalists and winners inspire us to do better.”
Ms van Egmond urges trail blazers and innovators leading the charge in environmental and social sustainability to submit an entry for the 35th Banksia National Sustainability Awards before the deadline on 18 December 2023.
“Entrants in the Banksia awards get an opportunity to build a public profile for their work, share their story, attract investors and funders and have their efforts recognised and rewarded,” Ms van Egmond says.
Cairns, Queensland, based Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC), the winner of two awards at the 34th Banksia National Sustainability Awards in March 2023, benefitted from the recognition.
RRRC’s Sheriden Morris says the award wins are valuable in terms of demonstrating RRRC’s effectiveness to funders and providing a morale boost to all those involved with the organisation.
“Locally we are reasonably well-known, but this was the first time that our work has had a national platform. That’s important because the things we have learned doing this work could be useful to others nationally. What’s been great to see is the delight this recognition has brought to everyone involved on the ground,” Ms Morris says.
The RRRC won an Agriculture and Regional Development Award for its work with local stakeholders across the Russell-Mulgrave catchment (just south of Cairns) to achieve sustainable change in farming practices, and a Biodiversity Award for the organisation’s marquee project developing and delivering innovative programs to control the Crown-of-thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef.
Ms Morris says both projects had delivered enormous, measurable environmental benefits, as well as social and economic benefits. In the Russell-Mulgrave catchment, RRRC partnered with James Cook University to develop a real-time sensor network across an entire catchment to monitor the quality of water at many points across the catchment simultaneously. RRRC also worked with CSIRO to develop an app that allowed farmers to see the amount of nitrogen running off their farms in near-real-time. “We put the actual data in the farmers' hands”. Suddenly farmers were able to identify their nitrogen losses – essentially money down the drain - giving them the confidence that they were taking action to address a real issue that related directly to them.
Ms Morris says that the success of this project means farmers and other stakeholders in the catchment are now regularly reaching out to RRRC to find out what more they can do. “That’s a huge turnaround. We’re at the point now that nearly all the landholders are operating at on farm best-of-practice level, so to improve water quality further, we have to look at other innovative methods at a whole-of-catchment scale. Watch this space!”
The Biodiversity Award drew from Integrated Pest Management methodology commonly used in agriculture, to develop an innovative approach to tackling the coral-eating Crown of Thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef, researching and applying that research simultaneously at scale. “That brought the control program to the point where it is now recognised as one of the most powerful tools available to protect live coral on the reef, while also helping build resilience to climate impacts.”
Banksia CEO Ms van Egmond says the awards showcase innovative, replicable, and scalable solutions that demonstrate how individuals, communities, businesses, and governments can make a tangible difference in our ecosystems.
“These solutions have the potential to inspire others and catalyse positive change,” Ms van Egmond says. “Beyond inspiration, we celebrate the resounding impact of individuals, organisations, and businesses in confronting the monumental challenges of our era, to produce real solutions. It's about collective power, and it's the heartbeat of the Banksia Awards.”
This year, a new award category, the Climate Impact Technology Award, has been added and the Biodiversity Award has been renamed the Nature Positive Award to reflect developments in natural capital.
“The Nature Positive Award recognises initiatives that are actively contributing to the restoration and preservation of our natural world. In a time of increasing environmental challenges, this category recognises our commitment to nature's well-being,” Ms van Egmond says.
The Banksia Climate Impact Technology Award is a platform for start-ups to showcase their ground-breaking climate solutions.
“We're committed to empowering climate entrepreneurs who are driving real change. If your start-up has a game-changing technology that mitigates climate change, this is your chance to gain recognition and support on a national stage,” Ms van Egmond says.
The winners of the 35th Banksia National Sustainability Awards will be announced in April 2024.
The Banksia Foundation is one of Australia's most respected sustainability organisations. For over three decades, the foundation has been dedicated to recognising, promoting, and celebrating sustainability achievements across all sectors of society. Through prestigious awards programs, knowledge-sharing initiatives, and advocacy efforts, the Banksia Foundation plays a pivotal role in driving positive change and inspiring sustainable practices in Australia.
For media inquiries, please contact: Graz van Egmond on +61 419 101 148.