The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) is Australia's national environmental organisation. ACF is a community of over 400,000 people who speak out, show up and act for a world where forests, rivers, people and wildlife thrive. Founded in 1965, ACF has been a powerful voice for the environment for more than 50 years. It is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organisation focused on advocacy, policy, research and community organising.
In August 2007, ACF launched a new campaign - Who On Earth Cares - with Cate Blanchett as its ambassador, aiming to provide online community spaces for people to show they care about climate change in Australia, and who want to see Australia reduce its greenhouse pollution. ACF joined a number of other Australian conservation organisations to launch the Places You Love campaign ahead of the September 2013 Federal election. The organisations are all concerned with the Council of Australian Government's' proposals to wind back Australian environmental laws.
In 1989 ACF joined forces with the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) to launch Landcare – a grassroots movement dedicated to managing environmental issues in local communities across Australia. As of 2017, the Landcare movement is made up of more than 5,400 local groups across the nation.
The Climate Reality Project Australia, formed in 2006, ran in partnership with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) until 2016. Since December 2016, it is hosted by the Melbourne Sustainability Society Institute. Founded by former US vice president Al Gore, the project has been successful in ensuring that one in 60 Australians have seen a presentation on the harmful effects of climate change and how they can work towards grassroots, worldwide solutions.
The Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change released a report, The Business Case For Early Action, which showed that significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved at an affordable cost to the Australian economy - an important step in getting business and government support. ACF led the development of the Roundtable in 2006 - which included CEOs from BP Australia, Insurance Australia Group, Origin Energy, Swiss Re, Visy Industries, Westpac and ACF. The Roundtable commissioned CSIRO and the Allen Consulting Group to determine climate impacts on Australia and model the economic effects of a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050 and supported the call to act, and act early, on the important issue of climate change. The Report highlighted the fact that many Australian industries, including two of the nation's largest export earners - agriculture and tourism - may be seriously impacted if action on climate change is delayed. Recommendations put forward by the Roundtable called for Australian Governments to work with business and the community to develop a policy framework that allows industry to respond effectively.
ACF continues its efforts to promote a cultural and conservation economy for Northern Australia and to create economic opportunities for Indigenous communities through workshops and cultural and knowledge exchanges between government, the tourism industry and Indigenous communities in the Kimberley, Cape York and Kakadu.
ACF's founders were drawn from Australia's scientific, public service, business and political decision makers. A 1963 memo from the Duke of Edinburgh inspired Francis Ratcliffe to consult with his CSIRO colleagues and work with conservationists and community leaders to establish a national conservation body. Francis Ratcliffe saw conservation as one of the three most important issues facing humanity, along with the avoidance of an atomic war and achieving racial harmony. In August 1964, at a conference in Canberra, the organisation that was to become the Australian Conservation Foundation was born. Its first president was Sir Garfield Barwick then Chief Justice of the High Court. ACF came into being as a legal entity when its certificate of incorporation was issued in August 1966.
In 1970 the campaign to protect large areas of the Mallee in Victoria was resolved in favour of conservation. In 1972 the remote and beautiful Lake Pedder in Tasmania was obliterated by a hydroelectric scheme. A group of ACF members, angered by the organisation's failure to speak without fear or favour in opposition to the flooding of Lake Pedder, worked to bring about internal change. ACF's approach to conservation campaigning became more strategic, active and independent and throughout the 1970s public awareness of conservation issues increased.
Throughout the 1970s, ACF campaigned against uranium mining. ACF was a principal party at the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry (Fox Inquiry) into mining at Ranger in Kakadu and pressed for the creation of a major national park to protect both the natural and cultural values of the area.
ACF played a lead role in securing Stages 1 and 2 of the Kakadu National Park and establishing an inquiry into the proposed Coronation Hill mine. The late 1980s saw ACF make a major effort to redress Australia's massive land degradation problems. In 1989 a historic alliance between ACF and the National Farmers Federation called for the establishment of a national Landcare program. Landcare provided a vision for the transformation to ecological sustainability that was embraced by all major political parties. The 1990s were to be declared 'The Decade of Landcare'.
The 1990s were the decade in which greenhouse pollution and climate change became critical issues. ACF helped to establish the Sustainable Energy Industries Council of Australia and the Federal government agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2005. When Canberra backtracked on this commitment in the mid-1990s, ACF spoke out in international forums including the 1995 Berlin Climate Change Conference.