Students discuss soil health with politicians

Griffith students Wayne Hall and Sarah Leitch with Prime Minister’s Advocate for Soil Health, Major General Michael Jeffrey AC CVO MC.
Prof Chengrong Chen, Major General Michael Jeffrey AC CVO MC, Wayne Hall, Sarah Leitch, Maryam Esfandbod.

Students Sarah Leitch and Wayne Hall from the Griffith School of Environment recently attended a dinner for the Department of Science and Agriculture with the Prime Minister’s Advocate for Soil Health, Major General Michael Jeffrey AC CVO MC. The dinner, hosted by the Australian Soil Science Society and Corinda State High School, discussed the issues surrounding land degradation and soil health presently facing Australia. Here Sarah and Wayne recount what they learnt from the opportunity.

Sarah Leitch

As a third year science student at Griffith University, I was offered the opportunity by Dr Chengrong Chen and Maryam Esfandbod to attend the Soil Science dinner.

My experience at the dinner allowed me the opportunity to interact, connect and engage with members of Soil Science Australia as well as other members of the community, who are passionate about and actively participate in soil and land education and management.

What I learned is that there is an urgent need for Australia’s soil, water and vegetation to be considered as “National Natural Strategic Assets”, and that we need to revegetate our land, work together, remove disjointed management systems and conjoin policies, because Australia is “one country with one future” and “if you eat you’re involved”.

I also learned that agriculture needs a clear direction on management to ensure Australia’s landscape is sustainable in the long term and there is a need for rewards and support for carers of the landscape. And that mines need to deal with improving the soil landscape and “plan for the end result”.

The reason I am passionate about soil and land science is because it is well known that soil provides a basis for all living organisms on earth and managing our soil landscapes is essential for ensuring a healthy future. I highly recommend that more students study soil and land science at Griffith University.


Wayne Hall

I went into this dinner with an open mind, not knowing what to expect from such an opportunity.

Sarah and I sat down next to a man named Dennis, a soil chemist. Dennis was a great industry contact and it was reassuring to hear that the skills we are learning at Griffith are highly relevant in the current industry. It became clear that soil science is a growing field where expertise is highly required now and in the future.

After dinner, Major General Michael Jeffery gave an outline of his role as the Prime Minister’s advocate for soil health and described his plan to gather Australia’s premier soil scientists, land managers, forestry managers and best practise agriculturists with the aim of setting up a framework to maintain and improve Australian soils well into the future.

I chose to study the field of soil science so that I could become a part of the solution instead of remaining part of the problem. Like Major General Michael Jeffrey said if “you eat you’re involved”. I hope to work in re-vegetation of riparian zones and/or be repairing old fields to their natural condition.

In the long run, at the base of everything we rely upon is soil. Whether it be food, water or shelter, soil needs to be maintained to ensure security of all these things.