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Call for ‘mass biosecurity’ movement


This article was first published in the June/July 2022 edition of Australian Tree Crop.

More than 400 of the country’s leading innovative minds and influential players recently converged on the Gold Coast for the 2nd Australian Biosecurity Symposium, to network, brainstorm and unite under a common purpose to accelerate biosecurity reform.

The Symposium offered an opportunity to share research outcomes, explore outside-of-the-box thinking and exchange knowledge and ideas across the biosecurity collective – agriculture (animals and plants), pest animals, weeds, wildlife, aquatics, humans and the environment.

This year’s theme was ‘A decade of biosecurity: turning a moment into a movement’. The event featured five plenary sessions and over 100 themed concurrent sessions over two days.

The symposium commenced with well-known environmental educator and television presenter Costa Georgiadis, who reminded delegates of their role as communication amplifiers and encouraged them to use their reach to share biosecurity moments.

In the opening address Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia said, “We all know that biosecurity outbreaks are continuing to rise in volume and complexity.

“Over the next decade, Australia needs a biosecurity movement to meet the challenges facing the national biosecurity system and influence the direction of the future biosecurity system.”

Dr Debbie Eagles (CSIRO) speaking in relation to the future-focused theme highlighted how research and innovation is fundamental in transforming the national biosecurity system. She said a transformed national biosecurity system needs to be underpinned by digital and genetic surveillance systems supported by ‘citizen science’, big data analytics and fully integrated pre-border and post-border systems.

“Speed of detection is imperative to effective, efficient control,” she said. “The biosecurity sector is facing significant threats, but through science and technological innovation, and engagement of the broader community, we are capable of transformational change.”

The Decade of Biosecurity was launched at the Australian Biosecurity Symposium.

Launching a ‘Decade of Biosecurity’
Day 1 launched the 2020s as the ‘Decade of Biosecurity’, a collaborative initiative seeking to engage all Australians in a stronger biosecurity system. The initiative began as an outcome of the 2019 Australian Biosecurity Symposium to future-proof Australia’s biosecurity system.

The program aims to mobilise a 25 million strong mass movement, secure sustainable investment in biosecurity, foster innovation and create a formal partnership between government, industry and the community.

It is about ensuring every individual Australian, business and organisation recognises and understands their role and the important contribution they can play in creating a stronger and more resilient biosecurity system.

Day 2 focused on connecting the dots between broader national activities that enhance and strengthen the Australian biosecurity system and ‘mainstreaming’ biosecurity to the general public.

Dr Norman Swan, one of Australia’s best known health journalists and host of Radio National’s Health Report and Coronacast, shared his experiences and knowledge in mainstreaming important messages to a broad audience in his keynote address. Dr Swan’s address provided key takeaways on bringing about positive and sustained engagement from the broader population on the importance of biosecurity practices.

“A lack of cooperation provides a fertile environment for biosecurity risks to spread. We need to have a plan, it needs to be flexible, sustainable and we cannot leave people high and dry. Biosecurity is not a nice to have or a five-year plan, we need to get communities mobilised.”

The Biosecurity Collective’s four CEOs, Kathleen Plowman from AHA, Andrew Cox from ISC, Andreas Glanznig from CISS and Sarah Corcoran from PHA, concluded the symposium.

“It’s been an amazing symposium that has highlighted the enormous amount of change that has happened over the past three years since the last symposium,” Mr Glanznig said. “I was really pleased to see how we are gaining momentum in innovation and transformation of the biosecurity system, the progress in environmental DNA detection, and the work around e-commerce surveillance.”

Ms Corcoran said the top outcomes for her were the linked themes on connecting the dots and mainstreaming biosecurity. “We’ve heard about programs already in place delivering on this,” she said.

AHA’s Ms Plowman said, “In order to achieve our reach, we need to amplify the biosecurity message. This means more engagement, more participation, and more space for diverse views.

“We need guerrilla campaigning – it’s communities and people who are going to lead us out of this. We need to have a platform at the top, so the people at the top can hear us. We need parliamentary friends of biosecurity.”

Andrew Cox said invasive species are the biggest driver of environmental loss and extinctions, the destroyer of whole industries and livelihoods.

The Biosecurity Collective’s four CEOs, Andreas Glanznig, Andrew Cox, Kathleen Plowman and Sarah Corcoran.

“Biosecurity is our problem. It’s our chance to make things right to save what we believe in, and what we value,” he said. “As part of the Decade of Biosecurity, we can only reach our goal of 25 million biosecurity champions by all bringing a spirit of generosity and courage. And by living and breathing biosecurity.”

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