On the 29th July 2014 Glen Turner, a compliance officer with the Office of Environment and Heritage, was shot four times and died on the side of an isolated public road 40 kms from the rural town of Moree. This film is about Glen and what he believed in as a professional environmentalist. Like his co-workers he was backed up by the research and science undertaken by universities and government departments. Glen worked on the frontline of habitat, species and wild life protection and by looking at his work we see how vital it is to continue in the face of legislative changes now being proposed that will see a major winding back of environment protection. When the QLD government repealed the environment laws the rate of land clearing soared from around 78,000 hectares in 2010 to 296,000 hectares in 2014. The same will happen in NSW if the current draft legislation is enabled. It would render ineffective Australia’s undertaking at the Paris Climate conference. With land clearing accounting for 6% of our annual Carbon emissions, Australia would not be able to meet its obligations. We tell the story with the involvement of Glen’s wife Alison, and his sister Fran, who bravely support each other and their families and are determined that people learn about Glen and what he believed in. Struggling with their own sadness they nevertheless attend each day of the murder trial to show the judge, the jury and the general public that Glen was an inspiring man and his legacy will live on. The murder trial is an unusual case: at the centre of the murder trial is a mystery, not “Who did it?” but “Why did he do it”? Ian Turnbull, one of the wealthiest farmers in NSW, had previously been prosecuted for repeated large-scale illegal land clearing, and believed the Office of Environment and Heritage were victimising him and his family business. The film explores proposed new legislation in NSW affecting the way the land is managed and developed. It has implications for all land use in Australian. The trial evidence in the case is intricately connected to the current issues and problems surrounding the administration and effectiveness of the (native vegetation) legislation that governs environmental protection. By seeing the issue in relation to the murder, we can tell a story that will demand the attention of a wider audience. Our analysis is well researched, balanced and critical. We have the consent and participation of Glen’s extended family and key witnesses. The film’s emotional heart comes from Alison and Fran and their struggle to come to terms with the murder of Glen Turner. The film will be dedicated to memory of Glen Turner a professional and ardent environmentalist.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
This is an educative film, however we want it to attract the broadest possible audience as it deals with issues of importance to all Australians, rural and urban based, even if they’re not particularly aware of the environmental issues at its core.Cultivating Murder meets the aims of foundations that are concerned about environmental issues: conservation broadly, species and habitat loss specifically, impacts of land clearing for development and the importance of preservation of Australia’s fragile ecosystems.The film presents stories and characters that are positive and proactive in the important work of conservation.The film will be of interest to foundations that wish to support the new and growing movement of farmers, some of whom have been connected to the land for generations, whose awareness is shifting towards responsible guardianship of the land they farm. It shows instances where farmers are reassessing their priorities to bring conservation into their business plans and how they are utilizing careful land care management and planning.It also shows the consequences of large-scale farming practices that are based on short-term goals and lack of long-term planning and impact assessment. The film will satisfy the aims of foundations that see a need for dialogue between rural communities, researchers and scientists, and the wider community: foundations that want to see a broadening of the conversation to engage with the rural practitioners to break down isolation, and show the interrelatedness of all rural land use.We are beginning to see the application of Environmental Science to remediation of the damaged land, proposing new approaches to farming. The film will be of value to foundations that are interested in new developments and methods in Environmental Science and Agricultural Science. The film presents a perspective from people whose lives and livelihoods are directly affected by land clearing, as well as advocates for affected threatened species (e.g. Koalas). It explores the growing rift between large-scale development’s need to meet the demand of a globalized market and the urgent need to conserve vulnerable environments.This story best illustrates the need to broaden the debate and increase education to avoid similar tragedies as the death of Glen Turner from occurring in the future.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
The outcome we seek is to reach a broad audience, many of whose members may not normally engage with conservation issues. The aim in making Cultivating Murder is to explore and explain the complexity of the issues surrounding land care and guardianship in Australia.This year is a critical point in the discussion: with new legislation being drafted in New South Wales that will radically change the framework, responsibilities, regulation and implementation of environment law and with major changes being proposed in other states. We are on the threshold of changes that will have long lasting and permanent negative impacts on the Australian natural environment.We want this film to have a strong impact and be a major part of the break-through campaign to reach a wide audience to be able to influence the way the legislation is will be drafted. We believe the debate will be a protracted and hard fought, and that there will be a great need for a perspective that takes as its first point of reference the scientific data that has been collected over the past twenty-five years.The story of Glen Turner’s murder draws attention to the fact that ill-considered and badly written legislation leaves open the possibility for confusion and distrust that can have tragic consequences. One quantifiable measure of the achievement of the film will be the amount of publicity it can generate, the take-up of the film through distribution networks, the number of attendances at screenings across the country, the number of downloads, and DVD sales.We expect the film to attract international exposure through film festivals and free-to-air and Pay TV broadcasters, as the debate over carbon emissions intensifies, as the link between land clearing and carbon emissions will be made clear in the film.Another quantifiable outcome will be the success of the film as an educational resource for schools and universities. There has already been one scholarship in Environment Studies, named in honor of Glen Turner, established at the University of Newcastle. Turner’s family has indicated that it wants his story known and the film to be a lasting testament to the need for ongoing concern and clear outlines for environmental protection.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
Screenings:We are making a feature documentary of 90 minutes length and aim to distribute the feature through a fully resourced program of cinema-on-demand screenings. The film will feature prominently on the website (e.g. Fanforce or Tugg) and we will manage the back-end operations, using the networks we are in process of contacting and a wide number of other environmental and other interested groups yet to be approached. Screenings will take place across the country, targeting country areas first, before bringing the film to city cinemas. Target audiences are community groups and especially regional land care and environmental groups. Budget allocations have been made to accommodate an outreach producer to commence work before the distribution stage.Online:We are planning a strong online presence for Cultivating Murder, which will be the focus of a broad-ranging ongoing informed debate about what is and what is not working with the Native Vegetation legislation.We will participate in the initial debate around the proposed amendments to the legislation and this will feed into a forum for participants from across Australia. The online environment is ideal for this subject, as many of the participants are in far-flung, isolated locations connected principally by the Internet. The educational and outreach strategy is informed by the awareness that there is need for urban dwellers to understand the pressures faced by the rural sector informing their views. As the film is about an issue of great relevance to country dwellers, not just farmers, there will be a wide range of views and experiences to exchange in the online forums.Education:The film will be available to secondary schools and universities through DVD distribution and direct download services. To facilitate the screenings in the educational environment, we will produce an education kit in consultation with education experts.
Facebook Page for Cultivating Murder: https://www.facebook.com/Cultivating-Murder-132717290473158/