Supervising Scientist Division

6 Communication and liaison

Supervising Scientist Annual Report 2004–2005

Supervising Scientist, Darwin, 2005
ISBN 0 642 24395 6
ISSN 0 158-4030

6.1 Introduction

An effective programme of communication and liaison is a key element of the work of the Supervising Scientist Division. Of particular importance is the need to inform the Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal people living in the Alligator Rivers Region about the supervisory activities of the Office of the Supervising Scientist and the results of the research and monitoring programmes undertaken or managed by eriss. The Division also seeks to communicate effectively with research partners and stakeholders within government, industry, science and the general community. As part of the Department of the Environment and Heritage and as a research institute, the Division contributes substantially to the development of national and international policy and programmes on environmental radiation and nuclear issues.

6.2 Research Support and Communication

During 2004–05 the Division’s Communication staff continued to provide support across the research and monitoring programmes as well as building on internal communications.

The programme has also supported a range of ongoing and event-based communication activities. These activities emphasise and develop our interaction with the local Aboriginal community, scientific and research organisations, non-governmental environmental groups and the general public. There was an increased focus on raising the profile of SSD within the general community.

6.2.1 Indigenous employment and consultation

The Supervising Scientist research and monitoring programme within the Alligator Rivers Region was again supported by the employment of Traditional Owners and local Aboriginal people. As well as providing support for the monitoring team, the employment of indigenous people provided an opportunity for eriss staff to work alongside landowners on their country sharing knowledge and gaining a greater insight into traditional cultural values. Employment also provided an opportunity for Aboriginal people to gain first hand knowledge and valuable technical skills and understanding of the division’s research and monitoring programs (Figure 6.1).

During the year local Aboriginal people were employed on a range of projects throughout the region such as water quality monitoring associated with Ranger, fish observations in creeks and billabongs, collection of mussels, macroinvertebrate sampling, Nabarlek and South Alligator Valley rehabilitation research and the Boggy Plain cultural burning project. This year Aboriginal staff provided regular on-site assistance for the creekside monitoring program and participated in general field station activities.

Figure 6.1 Two-way exchange of knowledge during the pop-netting program

Figure 6.1 Two-way exchange of knowledge during the pop-netting program

The Supervising Scientist Division also maintained regular informal contact with indigenous communities including the Mirarr people, the Traditional Owners of the land on which Ranger and Jabiluka lie. Regular contact allowed for the opportunity to increase the understanding of the role and function of the Supervising Scientist and to provide local communities with information on the monitoring and research programs. Informal contact included regular visits to communities in the region and interested indigenous people observing monitoring and research activities undertaken by eriss.

Communications staff were responsible for consulting with Traditional Owners, Aboriginal organisations, the Northern Land Council and Parks Australia North on the Division’s activities in the area (Figure 6.2). The consultative process ensures that all stakeholders are provided with information on the research and monitoring activities being undertaken.

Figure 6.2 Communicating the water chemistry monitoring programme to Mudginberri residents

Figure 6.2 Communicating the water chemistry monitoring programme to Mudginberri residents

The process for engaging the indigenous community, in particular the Mirarr people in the preliminary activities associated with closure criteria for the Ranger mine was initiated during the year. It is anticipated that this project will continue through consultation and employment of indigenous people.

6.2.2 Internal communications

Internal communication activities are continuing to develop. The SSD internal newsletter, Newsbrief, is distributed to staff on a weekly basis. Newsbrief contains articles on research, field trips and communication activities that are sourced from staff. Newsbrief is important in informing staff of activities undertaken by those in Darwin and Jabiru. It is also used as a basis to produce articles for external communications. Contributions to the Department newsletter INSIDEH have also been made that showcase some of the core work SSD undertakes. Staff have been delivering seminars internally (both at Darwin and Jabiru) on research to be presented at conferences.

6.2.3 Other communication activities

Coordination of other communication and general public relations activities continued throughout the year. This includes participation in community events and festivals, and attendance at relevant community committee meetings.The programme also facilitates cross-cultural training for staff within the Supervising Scientist Division.

Event-oriented communication activities included involvement in the Gunbalanya Open Day in Arnhem Land, co-ordination of a general public World Wetlands Day event and signing of the Boggy Plain Memorandum of Understanding.

Figure 6.3 Signing the Boggy Plain Memorandum of Understanding

Figure 6.3 Signing the Boggy Plain Memorandum of Understanding

Early in 2005, agreed protocols were formalised between the Director of National Parks and SSD. These protocols have been developed to facilitate communications between the Supervising Scientist, the Director of National Parks, the Kakadu Board of Management and relevant Aboriginal people in relation to research proposed and conducted in Kakadu National Park by eriss. The protocols are intended to be consistent with a range of legislative and other frameworks relevant to the conduct of research in Kakadu National Park, including the Kakadu National Park Plan of Management and the recommendations arising from the Final Report of the ICSU (International Council of Science Unions) Scientific Panel on the Scientific Issues Relating to Jabiluka, near Kakadu National Park, Australia, for the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO.

New links have been built and existing ones strengthened with research partners and other groups and networks to promote the work of eriss and Supervising Scientist within the scientific community.

Future development of Research Support and Communication within the Division will focus on identifying ways to enhance our reporting of information to Traditional Owners and the indigenous communities within the Alligator Rivers Region.

The Tropical Rivers Inventory and Assessment Project is supported through assisting in developing and implementing communication and extension activities .

6.3 National and international environmental protection issues

6.3.1 Environmental radiation protection

For almost eighty years the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has been making recommendations on the protection of people from the effects of ionising radiation. These recommendations have always been adopted by regulatory authorities in Australia. However, the ICRP has not considered it necessary to develop similar specific recommendations on the protection of the animals and plants from such possible effects. Until very recently, the position of the ICRP has been that the standards of environmental control needed to protect human beings to the degree considered desirable will ensure that other species are not put at risk.

Following many years of discussion and debate, including an international symposium held in Darwin in 2002, the position of the ICRP has now changed. In December 2003, the Commission decided to develop a framework for the assessment of radiation effects in non-human species. To assist in implementing this decision, the ICRP established a new Committee (Committee 5) for the protection of non-human organisms. The Supervising Scientist, Dr Arthur Johnston, has been appointed to this committee and its first meeting will be in September 2005.

It is recognised by the ICRP that nations already have highly developed regulatory systems in place for the protection of the environment. For this reason it will not make specific recommendations on a regulatory regime for the protection of the environment from ionising radiation. Rather, it will develop a framework which can then be used by states to integrate within their own existing legislative and regulatory systems.

6.3.2 Basslink

In September 2003, Dr Chris Humphrey and Dr Ken Evans of eriss were appointed to represent the Australian Government on the Gordon River Scientific Reference Committee, to consider a range of scientific and technical issues associated with the implementation of the Gordon River Basslink Monitoring Program and other Gordon River Basslink scientific reports.

The Basslink proposal involves connecting Tasmania’s electricity grid with the mainland grid. It was assessed and approved under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974, and one of the conditions of approval required that this committee be established.

Dr Humphrey and Dr Evans attended a meeting in Hobart in December 2004. Their role is to assess the annual monitoring reports and the Basslink baseline report.

6.4 Science communication

Results of research and investigations undertaken by the Supervising Scientist Division are made available to key stakeholders and the scientific and wider community through publication in a range of in-house journals and reports. This information is also available on the Supervising Scientist’s web site at www.deh.gov.au/ssd, including chemical, biological and radiological monitoring data.

In addition, staff of the Division have contributed articles to a range of external journals and presented papers at various conferences and workshops.

The Supervising Scientist’s in-house journals and reports include: the Supervising Scientist and Internal Report series for detailed reporting on scientific projects; and the Supervising Scientist Note series, which is used to showcase specific projects amongst a wider audience.

In communicating the science undertaken at SSD, popular media has been used. There were local radio interviews of SSD scientists around World Wetlands Day and a newspaper article in the Northern Territory News. The use of popular media for positive press covering the science SSD undertakes will be targeted in the immediate future.

Other media, such as posters and educational or promotional materials, are also produced on a needs basis to suit specific requirements or events.

A full list of papers and reports published during 2004–05 is at Appendix 3. Papers given at international and national conferences are included in Appendix 4.

In addition, staff have been involved in the presentation of numerous seminars and lectures, at our facility and in partnership with other scientific organisations such as Charles Darwin University. This is an important part of our contribution to the local scientific community.

Over the year eriss has taken on the supervision of a number of students doing post-graduate research projects. This includes students from Charles Darwin University and other universities around Australia. In addition, a number of the Division’s staff hold positions within external scientific, technical and other professional organisations, including on various editorial boards and panels.

6.5 International conferences

Staff of the Supervising Scientist participated in a range of international conferences, seminars and workshops during 2004–05. Attendance at the majority of these events was funded, either partly or fully, from external sources. Participation in international events allows staff to share their knowledge and expertise with peers and is seen as important in allowing the Supervising Scientist Division to maintain its profile as a part of the broader scientific and technical community.

Table 6.1 lists the international conferences, seminars and workshops attended by Supervising Scientist Division staff during 2004–05.

Table 6.1 Overseas events 2004–05
Event Location Date
Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP)
mid-term workshop
Wageningen, The
Netherlands
July 2004
7th Intecol International Wetlands Conference Utrecht, The
Netherlands
July 2004
Conference on the scientific basis for environmental
protection against radioactivity
Aix-en-Provence,
France
September 2004
ALOS/Kyoto and Carbon Initiative project – Theme
Leaders meeting
Tokyo, Japan October 2004
ALOS/Kyoto and Carbon Initiative project – general
Project and Theme leaders Meeting
Tokyo, Japan February–March
2005