If we had a magic wand…

During the forum, the group was asked this question:

If we had a magic wand that we could wave to make our work together everything we hoped for, what tangible things would we see?

The following responses provide a glimpse into our goals and hopes for the future as coast carers:

  • We have more volunteers, especially younger people joining us.
  • Community participation in our on-ground activities is filled with people from all parts of the coast, of all ages and cultures, and with a gender balance.
  • We have better links with land managers and agencies, and they are providing more help with our working bees.
  • We have more funding for on-ground works – and we are accessing new funding sources.
  • Funding agencies recognise the need for longer-term funding of our projects, which is enabling both certainty and monitoring of these projects into the future.
  • We have found ways to generate money from tourism to put into our on-ground works.
  • Applying for grant funding is now simple and accessible for all groups – only the essential information is needed to complete the submissions.
  • Our efforts have resulted in improved communication between all agencies, land managers and groups.
  • Our education efforts have raised awareness of the fact that we all share many goals, which has resulted in greatly strengthening communication.
  • We have evolved our communication to a point where each player has full knowledge of what each other is doing. As a result, groups are building on each other’s work, sharing skills and resources.
  • Succession planning and management has become a reality, and all groups are working together to plan ahead and share ideas.
  • The ongoing ‘politics’ continues… despite this, our work continues to get stronger with a healthy focus on catchment boundaries (instead of political lines on a map).
  • One single regional agency (or point of contact) has been established.
  • Our successful work has been widely acknowledged and promoted throughout the community.
  • It has become the norm for companies and larger organisations to provide staff on paid time-out to assist with on-ground works (e.g. Rip Curl Planet Days).
  • Growth in the employment of our people and groups has happened!
  • We are seeing richer biodiversity through the removal of weeds.
  • More and more people now know the difference between weeds and indigenous plant species.
  • Our community of volunteers and groups is using online tools in unique and effective ways. We use these tools to coordinate, share knowledge, and recruit and attract new people.

Lessons to be remembered and carried forward

The forum provided an opportunity to share stories and, through these, to learn from each other’s experiences as coast carers.

While each story was different, a number of common lessons emerged during the telling that could be applied to just about everyone’s story.

These are the key points that we want to share, remember and carry forward in our future efforts as people who are passionate about caring for the coast:

  • Be bold enough to tackle the BIG projects, and …
  • break these big projects down into lots of little steps to help make getting things done less daunting.
  • Recognise that we can overcome our limitations – as individuals and discrete groups – by networking, combining our efforts and collaborating with each other.
  • Invite other individuals and groups to join us in projects and give them ownership of their respective roles.
  • Increase our awareness and knowledge of ‘who’ there is to invite into our projects, and
  • ‘think outside the square’.
  • Explore the potential for a central coordinator or coordination group to oversee projects.
  • Remind ourselves that the community is inherently interested in environmental issues, and
  • grasp opportunities to leverage off this interest.
  • Be persistent to see the big projects through.
  • Do more to plan for our own demise by involving the next generation/s and introducing succession planning.

Who does what where?

The forum provided an opportunity for coastal volunteers to learn more about the roles and responsibilities of the various land managers and government agencies involved in caring for the coast.

COAST ACTION/COASTCARE

Coast Action/Coastcare supports community volunteer groups involved in caring for Victoria’s coast.

This role encompasses:

  • coordinating volunteers for coastal projects
  • funding projects through the Coastcare Victoria Community Grants program
  • providing boundaries for volunteers
  • facilitating volunteer achievements, and
  • communicating and sharing ideas to provide connections between the different volunteer groups, projects and stakeholders.

The agency fulfils an important public education role on several levels:

  • linking coastal management policy to communities
  • helping to find a role for the public in coastal management
  • communicating current coastal-related issues, and
  • educating the broader community (e.g. children, schools, visitors, businesses) about caring for the coast.

Coast Action/Coastcare also contributes to community capacity building by providing various education and training programs for volunteers and the general public. These include occupational health and safety, leadership, first aid, community forums, field days, workshops and the annual Summer by the Sea summer holiday program.

Provided by Matt Fox, State Coordinator, Coast Action/Coastcare

GREAT OCEAN ROAD COAST COMMITTEE

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee manages 37 kilometres of Crown land foreshore reserves along the Great Ocean Road between Point Impossible (east of Torquay) and Cumberland River (west of Lorne).

Its responsibilities as a land manager are focused on looking after these reserves by:

  • protecting the sensitive coastal environment through weed eradication programs and other activities
  • building and maintaining an A to Z of coastal facilities, assets and infrastructure – from artwork to zebra (pedestrian) crossings
  • controlling commercial and other activities on the reserves through the issuing of leases, licences and permits, and
  • contributing to the area’s overall amenity in various ways, such as removing rubbish from beaches and foreshore areas.

The committee also operates caravan parks in Torquay and Lorne, and manages the leases for two other privately operated parks at Anglesea and Cumberland River.

The income generated by the parks funds the committee’s coastal management work with additional income, mainly from State and Federal Government grants, supporting the delivery of various capital works and improvement projects.

Much of the committee’s work is undertaken in partnership with other coastal land managers, State Government and local community volunteer groups who contribute much valuable time and effort to caring for the coast.

Provided by Richard Davies, Chief Executive Officer, Great Ocean Road Coast Committee

PARKS VICTORIA

Parks Victoria is responsible for managing a wide variety of parks in Victoria as well as the recreational management of Port Phillip Bay, Western Port and the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers

Specifically, the estate includes:

  • 45 national parks
  • 13 marine national parks
  • 11 marine sanctuaries
  • 3 wilderness parks
  • 25 state parks
  • 30 metropolitan parks
  • 60 other parks (including regional and reservoir parks)
  • more than 2,000 natural features reserves and conservation reserves
  • 10,412 formally registered Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, and
  • more than 2,500 non-Indigenous historic places.

These assets total more than four million hectares (about 17 per cent of Victoria) – total area of parks and reserves.

As land manager, Parks Victoria’s responsibilities include:

  • preservation of natural eco-systems
  • Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural heritage protection
  • access and visitor facilities
  • fire management, and
  • education and interpretation.

Funded by the State Government, the organisation comprises locally-based rangers, as well as planners, environmentalists, scientists and managers working at both state and local levels,

Provided by Frank Gleeson, Ranger in Charge – East Otways, Parks Victoria

Coast care conversations and stories

On a sunny winter’s day at the end of August, around 50 people gathered for conversations at the Fairhaven Surf Life Saving Club.

People from community groups and government agencies who are passionate about our coastal environment spent the day sharing stories and their ideas for the future.

I was privileged to help the Coast Action – Coast Care team at DSE design and facilitate the event. Matt, the state manager of the program, does a great job at nailing the purpose of the forum.

The Harvest

My friend and colleague Chris Corrigan has re-shaped my approach to the design of these events. Chris says “Don’t just design a workshop … design a harvest”. By harvest he means …

“There is no point in doing work in the world unless we plan to harvest the fruits of our labours. Harvesting includes making meaning of our work, telling the story and feeding forward our results so that they have the desired impacts in the world.” Source – Chaordic Stepping Stones from the Art of Hosting website

And more recently … “Just as important as designing the process for participatory engagement is the imperative to be clear what you are harvesting from the effort. Harvesting refers to taking what has value from the process.” Source – Recent thinking on Participatory Engagement

And so for this volunteer forum I encouraged the hosting group (Jess at DSE, Gail at GORCC) to plan for a harvest so that we could continue the conversation with the workshop group and people beyond.

Here is one example of something we created to share and carry forward …

Another way of sharing (and better understanding) the fruits of our labour was to ‘blog about it’.

Rather than create a boring pdf report that no one would ever read, we committed to writing a series of blog posts that summarised what emerged from conversations and group activities.

Here are the links to various posts written on the GORCC Blog … (and great work here by Gail Chrisfield of GORCC and Jessica Brown of DSE to bring this to life!) … these are mostly a collection of stories that were shared and explored by group members and now open for anyone to read and comment on.

And these blog posts came from a process (at the end of the video clip) we used called Jumpstart Stories – where participants share stories with each other and select the most compelling to communicate forward …

Guest blog post by Geoff Brown, Tangent Consulting

Sending a message

Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Australia’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people through conservation, activism, research and education.

Marine debris is a key Surfrider initiative due to its detrimental impacts on marine and coastal environments, particularly animal and bird life. The foundation’s focus is on empowering individuals and community groups at the local level to proactively remove and reduce the amount of marine debris through local beach cleanups and community education activities.

The initiative engages volunteers, community groups, industry and government agencies, and other environmental organisations in making a positive and sustainable impact on marine debris. Locally-based Surfrider Foundation community groups are responsible for beach clean-ups in their own areas, including along the Surf Coast.

These activities help to protect and conserve our precious marine and coastal environments for future generations, which includes safer habitat for indigenous fauna. There is also a strong emphasis on creating awareness in the community.

The initiative highlights:

  • the importance of data gathering and analysis in helping to address sources of marine debris
  • the value of social responsibility and education, and
  • the need to actively engage with the community to create positive social change.

Story provided by Kristy Theissling, General Manager, Surfrider Foundation (Australia)

Boxthorn no match for community enterprise

Boxthorn is a highly invasive weed that poses a very serious threat to indigenous vegetation. Its seeds may germinate at any time of the year and quickly establish a deep extensive root system, making it very difficult to remove without concerted and sustained efforts.

The Princetown Landcare group in Victoria’s south-west decided enough was enough and started to take direct action against Boxthorn infestations in the area. After much discussion, the group:

  • researched, including looking at best practice control methods
  • assessed and mapped infestations
  • networked, created interest and worked towards changing attitudes amongst local landholders
  • obtained funding, and
  • sprayed and burned infestations.

All this work has since been followed by further mapping and regrowth spray works currently underway.

Through these efforts, Princetown Landcare has achieved so much more than it initially expected in terms of addressing the scourge of Boxthorn. Although the group’s work is still a long way from being finished, the project is already seeing positive movement toward a more cooperative, cohesive and caring community that is united by a common issue.

The project’s many learnings include:

  • actively demonstrating just what can be achieved through persistence, and
  • the value of community education, including the ways in which it can feed back into the project.

Story provided by Judy Spafford, Princetown Landcare

Playful whale heralds in a great day for forum goers

The Community Forum for Coastal Volunteers last Sunday, 29 August 2010, turned out to be quite an experience for all concerned.

Throughout the day, Fairhaven Surf Life Saving Club was abuzz with the conversation and laughter of some 40 voices as a playful whale made the most of the glassy waves on offer, delighting and sometimes distracting participants from forum proceedings.

With some arriving after very long drives from as far away as Princetown, the first order of the day was morning tea and pit stops before Coast Action/Coastcare Facilitator Jess Brown welcomed everyone to the forum and introduced facilitator Geoff Brown.

Geoff got straight down to business working with the group to map out the connections between the various groups and agencies represented, including by inviting everyone to ‘find their tribe’. A number of tribes quickly formed, primarily along geographic and/or organisational type lines (e.g. Land Manager Tribe, Community Volunteer Group Tribe). Queens Park

It was fascinating to see which tribe people saw themselves as belonging to, with the sole Princetown representative welcomed into the Anglesea community tribe and Friends of Queens Park ending up in the land manager tribe.

This exercise highlighted the different types of connections and the benefits of building constructive networks – a perfect introduction into the three guest speaker presentations that followed:

  • Graeme Stockton outlined the achievements of his group, Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), in protecting and conserving the many values of the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve  Bells Beach
  • Gail Chrisfield described how one little hooded plover helped to introduce the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee to the possibilities afforded by social media to connect and engage with people online, and
  • Margaret Macdonald used a case study to illustrate how the community connections between Friends of Eastern Otways and other groups were having a positive impact on the coastal environment around the iconic Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. PR Plover and his missus

Then it was time for everyone else to share their own stories with others via a ‘Jumpstart Story’ process that enabled one to quickly listen and share with at least half those gathered before identifying the five or six most inspiring stories for further investigation by the whole group.

The conversations continued flowing throughout a very lively lunch, interspersed with visits to the top of the grassy knoll to view the whale who, by now, looked to have taken up residence out the front of the club.

Fed and watered, the group soon settled down after lunch into the task of future gazing, using a magic wand to look at goals and hopes for the future. The stories from the morning session proved useful in identifying the ‘X factors’ for success, including the skills, capacities and connections among the volunteer groups that are already in place and can be built on. Moggs Creek

Meanwhile the various land managers worked on simple but enlightening role statements to support them in communicating and connecting with others.

Finally, the home straight was in plain sight (as was the whale – still!) as the discussion moved to the next steps needed to making the future a reality, with the first step being to share what happened at the forum via this blog.

In all, the day provided a fantastic opportunity to connect and share with others whose passion is caring for the coast. A big heartfelt thank you to Coast Action/Coastcare Facilitator Jess Brown who put in a lot of hard work and effort to put it all together and make it happen.

Over the coming weeks, the stories emerging from the forum, the lessons we learnt, the goals and wishes for our various groups and our coast, and the next steps we need to take will be progressively added to this blog for participants to refer to and comment on, and to share with those who weren’t there, including people we don’t even know from coasts in other parts of the world.

We look forward to sharing these experiences with you and invite you to post your impressions, thoughts and ideas to this blog – and to spread the word to others.