Involving community and agency partners in the Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has a critical role in forming and developing partnerships with the community and all levels of government. A broad communication and engagement approach was run between late 2011 and early 2013 in building a regional catchment strategy (RCS) that was to be based on the adaptive management of the Catchment's natural resources through the use of resilience thinking. For the first time, this embraced the use of social media and on-line engagement tools to bring together the information needed to develop this RCS. In tandem with more traditional face-to-face forms of consultation, the Goulburn Broken CMA believed that this approach would lead to the development of a more meaningful strategy with strong Catchment ownership.

To a degree this was achieved through the engagement approaches described below. The community were able to identify six discrete landscapes (later to be called Social-Ecological Systems; SES) that they could relate to. They named these and provide a vision for their future. This informed an important Chapter within the RCS that has since led to the development of a Local Plan for each SES landscape. Whilst the communities were able to passionately describe what makes these areas important and what were the drivers impacting their future, they struggled to define with any clarity the important thresholds and tipping points. Those that were able to be described were often 'social' thresholds, such as schools closing, factories closing or football teams disbanding.

Catchment partners, however have been thinking about the resilience approach to natural resource management for over a decade, stemming back to pioneering work on ecosystem services (CSIRO 2001, 2003). Holistic thinking and management, which the resilience approach promotes, has become increasingly valued within the Catchment over this time. With the embedding of a resilience approach as a strategic objective over the next six years, the RCS represents a commitment to ensure the resilience approach becomes central to decision making, emphasizing 'the links between social, economic and biophysical domains and the links across scales'.

Embedding a resilience approach in developing and implementing the RCS is also a significant step in helping individuals, communities and organisations achieve their own goals in the face of ongoing change.


The engagement objective for developing this RCS was to provide the entire Catchment community (over 204,000 people) with the opportunity to access information and the opportunity to participate. This included:

An Inter-agency Project Management Team (which held monthly meetings). Responsibilities included advice on community engagement, analysis of issue papers and interview findings, provision of expert opinion on assets, social-ecological systems (SES), objectives and management measures, as well as review of the draft strategy.

Interviews and workshops held with individuals, community representative groups and technical experts to inform development of RCS strategic priorities.

Postcards provided to community members to describe their vision for the Catchment (either in words or drawings).

Facebook was used to publicize events and to stimulate discussion about the Catchment.

An interactive wiki called "WeConnect" was used to make publicly available the background information used to develop the strategy, to provide an opportunity for community input via the RCS 'blog', and to enable collective drafting of the RCS.

Other forms of engagement included: catchment forums, face to face meetings with local government, indigenous representatives and other key stakeholders, presentations to a range of interested community service groups e.g., Landcare and Rotary/Lions, monthly written updates circulated to Catchment agencies and community groups.

Regional commitment to the RCS and the journey the Goulburn Broken CMA took people on in understanding a resilience approach and implementing this through the establishment of the SES' is demonstrated by 30 signatures from regional organizations, agencies and local governments commending the consultative process undertaken by the Goulburn Broken CMA in developing the RCS.

Project Goals

A key objective of this project was to engage local communities in the development of a regional catchment strategy.


Community and Engagement Strategy Overview
Project Image

Location: Goulburn Broken Catchment Australia

System Type: Agriculture,Grassland/Savanna

Contact: Chris Norman

Organization: Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority

Project Dates: 2011-2013

Keywords: community engagement; planning; forums; catchment strategy