In September 2020 Cecilia (Cec) McConnell was named as the new Soil and Land Conservation Commissioner to oversee the protection and preservation of WA soils!
After studying topics at university which included salinity and geomorphology, Cec spent 17 years working in Agriculture. She started in the natural resource management (NRM) section supporting and conducting groundwater research as a technical officer and then hydrologist in places like Northam, Merredin and Geraldton.
After a stint in Perth working on the National Land and Water Resources Audit, Cec returned to the bush as an NRM manager and while raising her young children, continued her involvement in NRM as a board member at Wheatbelt NRM.
Since settling in Northam, Cec has been captivated by the birdlife and flora that surrounds her region but has a deep appreciation for – and is no stranger to – heading north to explore the remote landscapes in the Pilbara and Kimberley.
Mrs McConnell says she always had a love for the streams and bushlands around the South West which she would explore on many a family holiday.
“Hydrology wasn’t something I specifically chose, but my skills and interests led me into that space in an agricultural context,” said Mrs McConnell.
“I think the longer-term outcomes of being able to contribute to farmers knowledge of the landscape and to achieving better environmental outcomes were pretty strong drivers for me.”
With a few months in the new role under her belt and the new year just around the corner, Cec says the first order of business is to get out and talk to people, to understand where they are at and to make sure the Soil and Land Conservation Act has meaning and relevance to the community.
Ms McConnell says, “I think there is a great opportunity for me as the new Commissioner to align the intent of the Act with conservation of our soil and land resource, with the large drivers of climate change, social licence and with a maturing ag industry that recognises the importance of soil stewardship.”
Cec also hopes to see NRM grow from being an ‘add on’ to Agriculture to an essential element, totally interlinked with production systems.
“We have an amazing and complicated landscape that needs people to manage and improve it.”