Green Cross Australia

Green Cross Australia is a leading not-for-profit organisation that educates and empowers Australians to adapt to their changing environments. The organisation fills the space between humanitarian and environmental challenges (where there was previously a void in the Australian adaptation landscape). It embraces the idea that existing challenges present opportunities for a better, more resilient future and connects with respected business, government, community and research partners to deliver world-class digital projects.   

Think + Act + Share = Change

The mantra ‘Think + Act + Share = Change’ is central to Green Cross Australia’s work and exemplifies the ‘building and bridging knowledge base’ theme. Green Cross initiatives empower Australians to take practical, informed action and provide them with social and digital media tools to share their actions with friends. Green Cross Australia uses innovative, digital projects, which help to grow more sustainable and resilient communities. The organisation embeds mapping technologies in its digital platforms to visualise participation in its projects and measure engagement.

Through their website and digital platforms, Green Cross Australia have engaged more than half a million Australians. They have fostered numerous networks and partnerships through digital communications, creating the ‘social fabric’ necessary for community resilience.

“Each of us has to develop this very deep well of self-reliance,” says Jeremy Mansfield, Deputy Chair of the Green Cross Australia Board. “But in order to do that, we have to be connected to the social fabric around us. That is the conundrum of how we get through a change in climate – we have to take personal responsibility and develop the capacities to adapt and be vulnerable, and understand shock and mourn, but at the same time be optimistic and positive and prepared, and there for each other.”

Recognising that governments alone will not be able to deal with the scale of climate change induced impacts down the track, Green Cross Australia have sought to build capacity, share knowledge and encourage practical action. Doing this has meant recognising that resilience and climate change mean different things to different people and different communities and adapting communications accordingly to meet the needs of local audiences.

Another key component of Green Cross Australia’s work is bridging knowledge between organisations. Beyond the digital realm, Green Cross fosters face-to-face conversations and translates the language of resilience across business, government, community and academic stakeholders. They do this by tapping into existing and established networks and forums where possible, rather than recreating the wheel.

Like many NGOs, Green Cross Australia has been affected by funding constraints. However, they continue to be motivated to share their to share their skills and expertise to build and bridge the knowledge base needed for successful climate change adaptation.

Empowering a resilient Australia

Established in 2007, Green Cross Australia is a member of Green Cross International – a global organisation founded in 1993 by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, following the Rio Earth Summit. Green Cross Australia similarly emerged in response to shifting climate change narratives and on the back of federal political change in Australia, including the signing of the Kyoto Protocol by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Much like the traditional humanitarian and emergency response organisation Red Cross, Green Cross is not a political advocacy group. Rather than lobbying governments to implement policies and programs to build the resilience of Australians, Green Cross Australia are taking charge of the change. They are thinkers, connecters and doers sitting at the nexus of a humanitarian organization and an environmental organisation with an emphasis on community adaptation to the impact of climate change (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: The unique space occupied by Green Cross Australia (from: Green Cross Australia website).

Since its inception, the organisation has connected with people who feel ‘put off’ or paralysed by politics, scare tactics and complex science through a resilience lens, rather than a climate change or sustainability paradigm. By deliberately framing their work around resilience – particularly building social inclusion and the ability of communities to bounce back from stresses – Green Cross Australia has been able to gain more traction and buy-in for their work.

According to Mansfield, “gradually, politics have shifted the resonance of the term of ‘sustainability’. Resilience is much more empowering and imaginative somehow…” Steering clear of using ‘climate change’ – a polarising term in Australia – to describe their work also removed unnecessary barriers to conversations, particularly in their early days. Examples of how Green Cross have embraced the ‘building and bridging knowledge base’ theme can be found in a number of their projects and programs, including the Business Adaptation Network, Harden Up – Protecting Queensland, Witness King Tides, Build it Back Green, Green Lane Diary, Future Sparks and the Queensland Climate Adaptation Strategy.

The Business Adaptation Network (BAN) for example is Australia’s only national climate change adaptation and resilience network focussed on business. BAN members include some of Australia’s leading organisations from the private sector such as Australia Post, Optus, Ernst & Young and Suncorp, as well as members from government and research organisations.

Being part of BAN provides member organisations with the opportunity to collaborate with a dynamic and growing network of like-minded professionals to develop real world business and community solutions and responses to climate change. It also provides members with the opportunity to participate in a range of events around Australia to keep up to date with the latest adaptation and resilience research and knowledge.

The BAN helps to foster business engagement and the leveraged private sector funding from its supporters has helped to scale activities. These activities have included:

  • Workshops that inspire thought leadership and industry collaboration 
  • Creative engagement that enables capacity building & cross-sector opportunities
  • Networking opportunities to create connections and partnerships
  • Joint engagement on climate risk and adaptation scenarios

“Business engagement with climate resilience is critical to building socio-economic resilience”, says Mansfield. “It is business that has the ability to innovate, develop strategies and opportunities on resilience, and cater to new market needs as people adapt to new conditions. Business ingenuity and resources are needed alongside government efforts and community support to address climate change and its consequences”. 

Queensland Climate Adaptation Strategy

Alongside fostering partnerships with businesses, Green Cross Australia has partnered with governments to build and bridge the climate adaptation knowledge base, such as through the development of Queensland’s Climate Adaptation Strategy (Q-CAS).

In 2015, Green Cross was engaged by the Queensland government to support the stakeholder engagement program that underpinned development of Q-CAS. It was also a member of the broader Q-CAS Partners group, which was instrumental to the collaborative development of the strategy and comprised representatives from local government, business, industry and the community. 

Q-CAS was developed on the tenet that adaptation is best achieved through collaboration, with responsibilities shared between all levels of government, industries and communities. This reflects the values of Green Cross Australia, which has been working hard since 2008 to educate and empower all Australians to adapt to their changing environments.