November 2009

EWB conference wrap up

30.11.2009 - Posted by
The EWB conference last week was fantastic by all accounts, with speakers including Don Henry, Michael Cathcart (author of The Water Dreamers), Eric Campbell, General Peter Cosgrove, Indigenous and Australian youth leaders from around the country and representatives from EWB’s partner organisations in many countries including India, Cambodia and Indonesia. It was a schedule rich in its diversity of both people and subjects involved in development work in Australia and internationally.

Climate change featured prominently on the agenda of day 3 of the conference for which the topic was “the future”. I was very impressed with the presentation by Anna Rose, the Co-Director of Australian Youth Climate Coalition, who spoke about the political challenges of solving climate change and the dedicated work of AYCC in mobilising youth to address this challenge. Patrick Hearps from Beyond Zero Emissions’ presented on technologies currently available to reduce the impacts of climate change and BZE’s detailed work on how these might apply to Australia.

In 2007/8 I volunteered on EWB’s Tenganan Water Supply Project in Bali, and it was very exciting to have Putu and Pak Mangku from Tenganan join the EWB conference this year to speak about the project, and their community’s challenges, successes and visions for the future. A workshop on the Tenganan Project was held for conference participants on Day 2, facilitated by EWB south-east Asia programs manager Kim Axworthy. The interactive workshop required participants to form groups and create a project plan for a selected task (e.g. pumping water to a village, education on water distribution) assuming they were the next in-country field volunteer. Their resources to complete this task were community members Putu and Pak Mangku, past field volunteers (Ian Cunningham and me), and members from the Perth-based volunteer project design team (Katie De Jong, Jerome Bowen, Kim Brackman and Gary Field-Mitchell). It was an excellent workshop and participants gained an appreciation for the complexity of working in-country and that addressing any task requires working very closely with the community with a focus 95% social and 5% technical.

Large wood in Gippsland Lakes tributaries

27.11.2009 - Posted by Misko Ivezich
Recently Shannon Cash from Diving Headquarters and I undertook some underwater monitoring of large wood structures installed by East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority in the tributaries of the Gippsland Lakes. The structures appeared to be really successful at providing habitat for fish and other instream biota, some were teaming with fish life! Although visibility was low due to a high flow event the week prior we still managed to get some good shots of the structures.

Bream in the Tambo River

Long-finned eel in the Mitchell River

Juvenile school in the Nicholson River

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Conference – first session, 26 Nov 2009

27.11.2009 - Posted by Michael Bain
Eric Campbell (ABC journalist) discussed his observations on development based on many years of reporting on international events for the ABC, which has taken him to many countries including third world and conflict areas. His conclusion is that large scale development efforts have almost always achieved little and may have even brought some harm. He cited experiences and insights in Afghanistan and the Congo where development funds are channelled via the entrenched criminal groups that are in power. Small scale development initiatives, e.g. installing a water well for a village, can have a significant impact on local communities but, unless multiplied across the country, have little overall impact on national development. Aid funds that are not tied to good governance on the part of the authorities in the recipient country can simply entrench a policy of irresponsibility on the part of those powers.

Eric’s address was seen as cynical by much of the audience, but I considered that it was quite pragmatic. Those who want to be involved in third world development need to be aware of the way the game is played in many of those countries. With all the best intentions, the enthusiasm and idealism frequently ends with disillusionment when little lasting outcome is achieved. Knowing the hazards helps in identifying the opportunities that will have a genuine chance of achieving positive change in circumstances for people who really need it.

For information on the conference, click here.

Graduating with a Grad Cert in River Health Management

18.11.2009 - Posted by Misko Ivezich
I was recently lucky enough to complete a Graduate Certificate in River Health Management at Melbourne University. This was the third time the course had been run and to my knowledge it is the only one of its type run in Australia. The course is designed for natural resources managers and amongst this year’s graduates there were a wide range of professions and skill types including catchment planners, an environmental flows officer, on-ground works coordinators, a strategic engagement manager, a policy officer, ecologists and environmental engineers and scientists, just to name a few!

The course is a combination of distance learning and periods of face-to-face teaching at the week long intensives. There are four one week intensives, which are held at different locations around Victoria. The teaching staff of Dr John Tilleard, Associate Professor Brian Finalyson, Associate Professor Ian Rutherfurd and Dr Justin Costello are some the nation’s top academics in the river health field, and provided some thought provoking lectures and input into discussions. Of the guest speakers I found Dr Paul Sinclair and Dr Arlene Buchan from the Australian Conservation Foundation highly inspirational.

Coming from an engineering and science background I started the course thinking all the solutions could be found through equations and text books, I left with a very different attitude. You don’t finish the course knowing all the answers; natural resource management is an evolving and dynamic field, but you do leave with a better understanding of how to tackle the challenges ahead with a greater appreciation of the work others do in different sectors of the industry.

I highly recommended to anyone who is interested, no matter your level of experience. Amongst this year’s graduates were people who had been in the industry only a matter of months to those with up to 20 years experience.

CSL fellowship graduation

18.11.2009 - Posted by Amanda Wealands

The Centre for Sustainability Leadership (CSL) Fellowship Graduation Gala evening was held last night, where I and our new graduate recruit Chloe Hanson-Boyd, graduated from the 8 month course. CSL is a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to empower emerging sustainability leaders. To borrow from the CSL quip; “We’ve tried to get people in positions of power to care, now we’re going to get people who care into positions of influence”.

Every Tuesday night for the past 8 months, Chloe and I have joined a diverse group of leaders from Melbourne to understand and enact behavioural and social change through projects on the fellowship. We have learnt and grown from the many fantastic mentors and speakers who have inspired us each and every week to envisage and create a more sustainable world. Despite formally graduating from the fellowship, last night’s graduation event marks the beginning of a much longer journey for Chloe and I to pursue our keen interest and passion for environmental sustainability, with the continued support of the alumni network.

The annual report details the plethora of projects and incredible leaders with which we’ve had the delight to have been able to share the experiences of the fellowship with. For more information on CSL, click here.

Collaborative Approaches to Natural Resource Management

11.11.2009 - Posted by Amanda Wealands
Have you heard about this seminar?

A symposium to be hosted by the Centre for Public Policy at the University of Melbourne 9am – 5pm, Wednesday 25th November 2009

Environmental issues, from climate change to water catchment management to the devastation wreaked by bushfires, tsunamis and hurricanes, are crucial issues for governments around the world. There is a growing need to find novel ways to deal more effectively with these issues using collaborative approaches. This symposium brings together local and international experts on this topic to describe contemporary research on collaborative approaches to natural resource management, and to discuss ways forward in meeting the governing challenges related to these

The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Public Policy is pleased to host this exciting symposium, featuring the following international experts, addressing the following topics:
* Prof. Edella Schlager (Arizona University) C ollaborative Watershed Management: Institutions, Conflicts, and Scale
* Dr Graham Marshall (University of New England) Political Economy of Collaboration in the Commons
* Prof. Andreas Ernst (University of Kassel) Getting Closer to the Future: Decision Support by Social Simulation Scenarios
This one day event will be of interest to anyone concerned with environmental issues, and specifically to those working in policy development and service delivery, and to public policy researchers.

This event will be held at the Melbourne Business School, 200 Leicester Street, Carlton.

Registration for this event is $150 (inc GST) which included morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.

Draft program: