“The scientists are telling us that we have less than a 10-year window for change,” says Arielle Gamble, co-founder and director of Groundswell – an ambitious initiative that aims to tackle the chronic underfunding of climate advocacy in Australia.

“We are not bringing together billionaires. When ordinary people chip in small amounts of funds, talent or time we can be so powerful,” she tells Broadsheet. “The antidote to despair is action.”

Groundswell is an initiative by Anna Rose, a climate campaigner of 20 years; Claire Ainsworth-Herschell, former Next Generation Development Manager at the Art Gallery of NSW; and Gamble, an artist and community builder who brings creative bones to the movement.

Rose and Ainsworth-Herschell have been working together since 2017. They formed an initiative that brought philanthropists, business leaders, social commentators and cultural influencers to the research station at Heron Island, in the southern Great Barrier Reef.

“We saw the power in bringing a group of people together who previously had not been hugely engaged in climate,” says Ainsworth-Herschell. “We set up Groundswell as a way to harness that spirit of the Heron Island trip year-round.”

Groundswell operates like this: members donate either $20 per week, $250 per quarter, $1000 per year, or you can make a one-off donation starting from $20. Funds go directly to climate action grants. Donations are fully tax deductible.

Four times a year the members vote on and delivers grants to people and organisations tackling the climate crisis. The first grant was awarded to Emergency Leaders for Climate Action – a group of former fire and emergency chiefs who highlight the link between climate change and increasingly extreme weather events.

The group sees themselves as a fundraising department for the climate movement, helping to source funds, time and talent for small-to-medium-sized organisations that don’t have the capacity to do it themselves.

“Only 0.5 per cent of philanthropy in Australia goes to the environment,” says Rose. “And even less than that goes to climate.”

Of utmost importance to the Groundswell group is listening to First Nations’ voices. One of the ways the group achieves this is by partnering with First Nations individuals such as artist Tony Albert, activist Karrina Nolan and Lille Madden from Seed Mob. Madden and Nolan are current Groundswell advisors.

“There’s no climate justice without First Nations justice,” says Madden. “Groundswell is a grassroots organisation run by a group of people who are open-minded. And for me, as a First Nations advisor, I speak from my perspective and I feel that my voice is really heard.”

Groundswell has attracted support from high profile individuals including actors Yael Stone and Isabel Lucas; artist Joshua Yeldham; photographer Jo Yeldham; chef Kylie Kwong; fashion designers Bianca Spender, Kit Willow and Heidi Middleton; and restaurateurs Anton Forte and Allie Webb. Since launching, Groundswell has raised $650,000, funding over 13 grant recipients.

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