Coasts and Oceans Theme Report
Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Australian State of the Environment Committee, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06751 5
Community involvement [CO Indicator 7.11]
One of the outcomes of the development of Australia's Oceans Policy was a recognition that the Policy affects more than the identified key stakeholders, for example the tourism industry and the petroleum industry, and involves a constituency of communities around Australia.
Community involvement in marine and coastal management activities is a relatively recent phenomenon. There has been a high level of public support and awareness of the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica, for example. However, public awareness and concern for the overall state of the marine and coastal environment and our ongoing impacts has not been so widespread.
Governments are encouraging more public participation in coastal and marine issues in a variety of ways: for example, through Fishcare, the Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN) and the Coastcare program.
The Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN) was established in 1993, with Commonwealth funding, to assist community involvement in caring for oceans and coasts. It is a non-government community-based organisation. The aim of the Network is to develop a more cooperative and coordinated approach to marine and coastal resources protection and management. The Network provides a range of services for organisations and individuals on a regional and a national basis. These include:
- maintaining and expanding a list of individuals and groups who have an interest in marine and coastal issues and to involve them in the Network,
- conducting workshops on marine and coastal issues,
- communicating issues through Newsletters and the Internet, and
- coordinating Ocean Care Day each year in early December
An indicator of public awareness of coastal and marine issues can be gauged by the numbers of people on the MCCN mailing list, which has effectively doubled since 1996. Some 49% of MCCN participants represent organisations and as such indicates a significant multiplier effect of the Network's ability to access key interest groups and individuals.
|Date||Aug 1996||June 1997||June 1998||June 1999||June 2000||June 2001|
|Participants||4 226||5 520||6 175||7 594||7 939||8 456|
Source: Marine and Coastal Community Network (2001).
Coastcare is a national program that encourages community involvement in the protection, management and rehabilitation of Australia's coastal and marine environments. The program assists local communities to form partnerships with local managers.
Coastcare is a major component of Coasts and Clean Seas Initiative. It is delivered cooperatively by all three spheres of government: Commonwealth, States, the Northern Territory, and local government. The Commonwealth and State and the Northern Territory governments provide matching funding for Coastcare community grants while local government provides financial and in kind support for Coastcare projects.
Since the inception of Coastcare in 1995 and up to the year 2000, the program has funded over 1700 projects around Australia with approximately $12 million of funding contributed by the Natural Heritage Trust. The focus of Coastcare is to assist on-ground work such as:
- protecting or rehabilitating dunes, estuaries and wetlands,
- monitoring beach conditions, and coastal flora and fauna,
- helping to develop and implement local management plans, and
- providing education and training activities that raise community awareness, knowledge or skills on coastal and marine conservation issues.
The number of Coastcare groups rose from about 700 in 1997 to 1950 in 2000, and the number of people involved in the program rose from about 20 000 to 60 000 in the same period.
About 58% of individuals participating in the year 2000 were members of an established Coastcare or similar type of group. Approximately 150 of the 1950 Coastcare groups operating in the year 2000 are Indigenous groups.
The effectiveness of the Coastcare program was assessed in the Mid-term Evaluation of the Coasts and Clean Seas Initiative (Natural Heritage Trust 1999). The review found that:
'over 700 groups are involved in Coastcare projects and that coastal vegetation is being regenerated, coastal access is being improved and controlled, weeds and feral pests eradicated and important marine species such as sea dragons are being monitored'.
Volunteers provide invaluable contributions to survey, monitoring and (to a smaller extent) research. For example, the Australasian Wader Studies Group is a non-government organisation formed to coordinate and focus studies on waders, or shorebirds. Their objectives include the development of and assistance with wader research plans, encouragement of scientific programs, promotion of conservation and management policies, and assistance with the publication of results. They are also active in promoting wetland conservation.
Volunteers have also helped in practical ways by, for example, removing more than 21 000 Northern Pacific Seastars from the Derwent River in May 2000. Two hundred volunteers and three scientists worked together on this project.
Fisheries research in Australia has relied on volunteers from the commercial fishing industry on many occasions. A recent example is the use of volunteer fishers in the Northern Prawn Fishery to record sea turtle captures, tag sea turtles, and trial resuscitation techniques.
The marine education community includes many volunteers who provide education to a variety of groups, including schools. The Marine Education Society of Australia (MESA) hosts a website (http://www.mesa.edu.au/ [accessed 5 September 2001]) and has been active, for example, in the marine protected areas debate in promoting the importance of these areas for education.