Australia's outback and its custodians will be celebrated on a local and global stage thanks to a United Nations General Assembly ruling.
The UNGA unanimously declared 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists at a meeting in New York on March 15.
For immediate past president of the International Rangelands Committee, Dana Kelly, the exciting decision was the culmination of ten years of work.
Dr Kelly said IYRP would help raise awareness about the values of sustainable pastoralism and rangelands globally.
She said it would also help strengthen the science policy interface of the rangelands.
"I think it will increase activities to help develop rangeland potential to contribute to strong livelihoods and communities for people who live in the outback," she said.
"It will also be really important when it comes to being able to protect biodiversity, as pastoralism exists alongside conservation efforts in many areas."
Scientists estimate the rangelands cover 54 per cent of the world's earth surface.
Globally, rangelands support the livelihoods and food security of millions of pastoralists, with livestock converting vegetation that cannot be consumed by humans into high-quality protein.
Dr Kelly said in Australia the rangelands coverage figure was closer to 75pc, or "what people here often refer to as the outback".
"For me the outback gives us a sense of place and provides internationally recognised tourism destinations, with six world heritage sites within the rangelands region in Australia," she said.
"Across all of the industries here in Australia, approximately $90 billion each year comes from the rangelands."
The Mongalian government led the way in developing the proposal, with 67 other governments formally joining with Mongolia to co-sponsor the resolution.
According to the UNGA, the IYRP resolution is important for its role in addressing global biodiversity, climate change and socioeconomic issues.
The UNGA has recognised "pastoralism is a dynamic and transformative livelihood linked to the diverse ecosystems, cultures, identities, traditional knowledge and historical experience of coexisting with nature".
It affirms that "healthy rangelands are vital for contributing to economic growth, resilient livelihoods and the sustainable development of pastoralism."
I think it will increase activities to help develop rangeland potential to contribute to strong livelihoods and communities for people who live in the outback.- Dr Dana Kelly
Dr Kelly said one of the amazing things to come out of the process was they had now developed the largest coalition of rangelands and pastoral organisations in the world.
She said 302 organisations from 103 countries around the world had voiced their support for the initiative.
Dr Kelly has always been passionate about agriculture, growing up on, and later managing, her family's cattle property in the Scenic Rim.
"As a child I spent quite a bit of time visiting my aunt who lived at Stonehenge," she said.
"And she absolutely loved the wide open landscape and we'd sit and watch the sunsets looking out across the Mitchell grass plains and the Thomson River.
"She imbued in me a real love of those landscapes."
Dr Kelly's interest in the rangelands led her to complete postdoctoral studies at Charleville, where she examined the relationship between communities and governments.
She is currently working as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Applied Climate Science at the University of Southern Queensland.
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