In Memoriam: The Hon Major General Michael Jeffery

Vale Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery

It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Soils For Life founder and patron Major General the Honourable Michael Jeffery passed away peacefully at home this morning, Friday 18 December.

Born in Wiluna in Western Australia, General Jeffery’s distinguished military career included operational service in Malaya, Borneo, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He served as Governor of Western Australia from 1993 to 2000 and as Australia’s Governor General between 2003 and 2008.

However, it was his work as Australia’s National Soils Advocate that made him so well known and loved within our community. In that role, General Jeffery was pivotal in alerting Australians to the generally poor quality of our soils and working to encourage everyone to focus on their regeneration.

General Jeffery founded Soils For Life in 2013. His vision – to encourage all Australians to focus on soil health and the urgent need to regenerate our rural landscapes – still underpins the work of Soils For Life.

His ability to connect with Australians across the country around his passion for agriculture and the healthy landscape it depends on was undiminished until the very end.

Funeral arrangements are to be advised. Further enquiries should be sent to the Office of the Major General.

Read more about General Jeffery and his work as National Soils Advocate here.

Parliamentary Friends of Soil- World Soils Day

Politicians, farmers, scientists, and industry celebrate World Soil Day

People with a passion for soil health converged in Canberra this week for the first meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Soil.

The Parliamentary Friends Group, co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister the Hon Michael McCormack MP and the Hon Linda Burney MP, met just days ahead of World Soil Day (5 December) to acknowledge the importance of healthy soil as a natural resource, and its contribution to Australia’s long-term economic, environmental and social wellbeing.

The Hon Linda Burney MP, co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Soil group speaking to the first meeting ahead of World Soil Day.

“The Soil CRC is thrilled to be supporting the establishment of the Parliamentary Friends of Soil,” said Dr Michael Crawford, CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils.

“It’s vital we have non-partisan support for the three peak bodies for soil – the Soil CRC, Soil Science Australia and Soils For Life – to bring issues associated with soil health to the attention of politicians and policy makers.

“This is a great opportunity for the Australian soil community to come together, and highlight that it all starts with the soil” he said.

At the breakfast, parliamentarians got the chance to engage with farmers, scientists, industry groups and policy makers on issues relating to health and maintenance of Australia’s soils.

“The support we get from groups like this, and individuals such as the National Soils Advocate, the Hon Penelope Wensley AC, leads to greater collaboration between industry and science,” said Professor Luke Mosley, President of Soil Science Australia.

“These types of relationships clear the pathway to adoption of new soil management technologies which will help us address challenges such as a hotter drier climate,” he said.

National Soil Advocate the Hon Penelope Wensley addressed the group, speaking with optimism about the common commitment in the room.

“Having this friendship group is certainly something to celebrate this World Soils Day,” said Dr Liz Clarke, CEO of the farmer organisation Soils For Life.

“This thin, living layer around our planet supports all life on land and stores carbon and water. This is an important opportunity to work together as a soil health community to address the critical status of soils.

“It’s vital we are all protecting and regenerating soils. After all, the earth’s soil is a fundamental life-support system,” she said.

The Parliamentary Friends of Soil is made up of ten MPs

  • Michael McCormack (co-Chair) – Riverina NSW
  • Linda Burney (co-Chair) – Barton NSW
  • Meryl Swanson MP – Paterson NSW
  • James McGrath – Senate Qld
  • Hollie Hughes – Senate NSW
  • Ken O’Dowd – Flynn Qld
  • Susan McDonald – Senate Qld
  • Tony Pasin – Barker SA
  • Kevin Hogan – Page NSW
  • Rick Wilson – O’Connor WA.

The group was formed as a result of collaborations between the Soil CRC, Soil Science Australia and Soils for Life with support from the National Soils Advocate.

For more information about the Parliamentary Friends of Soil group contact Soils For Life.

Welcome to the new National Soils Advocate!

Welcome to the new National Soils Advocate!

Soils For Life is happy to welcome the Honourable Penelope Wensley AC to the role of National Soils Advocate. She will continue the work started by our founder and patron Major General Michael Jeffery after he stepped aside from this work due to illness.

Ms Wensley is a former Governor of Queensland and has been the patron of Soil Science Australia since 2010. She has achieved national and international recognition for her contribution to environmental policy development and for promoting environmental knowledge and awareness, including as State Governor for Queensland and Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment.

Her assumption of this role comes as the government is striving to develop a National Soils Strategy to conserve and improve Australia’s soils.

“I’m very much looking forward to taking up the challenge of the role to raise awareness of the critical role of soils, to promote sustainable land management and make a tangible difference to Australian agricultural landscape conditions,” Ms Wensley said at her recent appointment.

“As an independent voice for soil health I will be engaging with stakeholders, listening to a variety of views across Australia and contributing to the National Soils Strategy, which aims to set out the government’s priorities for conserving and improving Australia’s soils.”

Soils For Life looks forward to working with Ms Wensley as she does this.