There are a lot of things that make Restor special. From precise ecological data to cutting-edge technology, we provide our community with the tools they need to make their restoration projects successful. However, what really sets Restor apart is the community itself. We know the power that is held in the hearts and minds of restoration heroes all over the world. Nowhere is this potential more apparent than in Janine Duffy. Janine, the president and founder of the Koala Clancy Foundation, is the perfect example of a leader and a changemaker. With her charisma, determination, and hard work she is not only protecting koalas in Australia but helping to inspire a global restoration movement.
Janine’s passion motivates her and all of those around her. Having grown up in the Australian countryside, Janine has always been intrigued by the great outdoors. She’s been drawn to the incredible landscapes and fascinated by the animal communities that inhabit them for as long as she can recall. “I remember right from the start always wanting to be the first one up the hill or along the track,” she says “I was so curious about it. So living this life is just a dream come true.”
Koalas occupy a particularly special place in Janine’s heart and her Koala Clancy Foundation works to conserve and restore the habitats that support these emblematic marsupials. She’s spent so much time with the koalas that she actually discovered a way to tell them apart via the colored markings on their noses — an approach now being used by many scientists and universities who study the animals.
Janine’s passion touches all aspects of her life, from her personal life (she and her husband found connection over their shared love of the outdoors and continue to work closely together) to her professional life (Janine is not only the founder of the Koala Clancy Foundation but also of the Echidna Walkabout eco-tourism company) and even her free-time (she still counts “bushwalking” among her favorite activities). All of this translates into one of the fundamental reasons that Janine makes such a good leader: fun!
It’s impossible to doubt that Janine finds pleasure in her work. Her good humor always shines through and she punctuates conversation with little jokes and full-bellied laughs. She smiles as she recalls a particularly foul-weather hike as the moment that she decided she would dedicate her life to environmental works. “I was cold, I was tired, I had blisters like I’d never seen before and I vowed to myself that I would never stop doing this my whole life, because I was so happy,” she says, breaking into laughter.
Janine makes conservation/restoration work, which she is the first to admit can be physically and psychologically exhausting, feel like an incredibly good time. It’s no wonder that she’s been able to inspire over 1,800 volunteers (or volunt-heroes as Janine likes to call them) to come help her plant trees and restore koala habitat.
“Janine's passion and knowledge for restoration is truly inspiring. Her and her amazing team, all have such a deep connection to restoring earth's natural ecosystems,” says Gwyn Watson, Restor’s head of outreach who was able to join the Koala Clancy Foundation on one of their tree planting days. “The team makes you feel welcome and you walk away from the day with a great sense of contribution and achievement of the day's work.”
Janine’s tireless work ethic is also an essential piece of her leadership. She has found that actually getting your hands dirty is the perfect way to fight back against the feelings of helplessness and anxiety that so many of us feel in the face of the climate crisis. “It’s one thing to talk about it and hope that it happens, it's another thing entirely to actually do,” she says. “It’s good for humans to do this sort of thing.” She is ambitious about what she wants to achieve. In 2020, despite near-constant COVID lockdowns in Australia, the Koala Clancy foundation was able to plant 25,000 trees and Janine plans to plant another 45,000 in 2022.
What really makes Janine stand apart as a fantastic leader is her recognition that nothing would be possible without the community of people who work with her. She constantly shifts the focus back to the volunteers, scientists, staff members, and aboriginal communities that have made her work so successful. “What I love is the diversity of people who are there giving their time and their money and getting their hands dirty and getting cold because they want a future for this animal...or for this planet,” she says. “I feel a great faith in humanity after I’ve been out with our team.”
Janine also strives to involve the indigenous communities that have thrived alongside koalas for thousands of years. “We’re very lucky,” she admits. “Aboriginal people are as much a part of what we do as we can make them and we have a lot of good friends in that community. They’ve taught us a lot.” That’s where Janine really shines, in being able to bring a diverse ecosystem of people together in order to have a larger impact.
Under Janine’s guidance, the Koala Clancy Foundation started an initiative called “Wild Koala Day”. Every year on the 3rd of May, all the koala conservation organizations in Australia put on their own events and amplify each others’ messages, reaching more people and helping more koalas.
However, Janine knows the limitations that individual actions can have. “Grassroots organizations really have to be small and community-focused in order to do their job really well, but that comes at the risk of them being voiceless,” she explains. “Federal governments can overlook little guys, like us, if we let them.” But together, this movement cannot be ignored. When Australia’s government provided disappointing progress on their climate goals, Janine and the network of koala conservation organizations released a joint statement pushing back against the government’s insufficient action. Together, their voices were louder and the statement was picked up by media outlets across the country.
Restor is trying to achieve the same thing; bringing together a global community so large and so loud that it will be impossible to ignore. Janine has seen this vision from the very beginning. “If we can work together we are much more powerful, this is what Restor gives us. This is why I was so excited to hear about Restor, because this is a global version. You’re not trying to tell us how to do, you’re saying…just tell us what you’re doing so that we can make this entire industry transparent and powerful.”
There are inspiring leaders like Janine all over the world. They are raising their voices together to motivate their communities, share their knowledge, and put pressure on their governments. At Restor, we are trying to give these restoration heroes a megaphone. We want to amplify their messages for the whole world to hear. “If there was a way of amplifying our voice so that we don’t lose who we are but we can speak to the world community and to our national governments about what we need, that would be really fantastic,” Janine says. “I think Restor just might be powerful enough.”
Leaders like Janine can show us the way forward, but real change requires a community of people. We are proud to say that our platform is community-driven, that we listen to all the local leaders around the world to build a platform that actually helps them and provides it to them for free. “It turned out to be all of those things that I was hoping it would be,” says Janine. She offers an example of how we can all be leaders and inspire those around us to take action. Restor and the rest of the restoration movement are coming together to raise our voices and make ourselves heard. Janine leaves me with one last motivating message: “the time is now I have my fingers crossed and I’m really hopeful but we can’t afford to wait.”