Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1996
ISBN 0 6422 4427 8
5 - Involving the community
The involvement of all Australians is vital to the conservation of biological diversity. Initiatives already being taken at the community level can be catalysed by a variety of integrated measures that increase awareness and involvement. These need to be supported by further opportunities in formal education institutions to develop an understanding of the importance of the conservation of biological diversity.
Increase public awareness of and involvement in the conservation of biological diversity.
The media, educational institutions, government agencies, and various societies and groups have all been effective in increasing public awareness of the importance of biological diversity conservation. Nevertheless, it is necessary to ensure the continued availability of accurate and persuasive information about the benefits, costs and means of biological diversity conservation. The meaning of biological diversity and the consequences of its decline should be communicated in locally relevant terms.
Extending that awareness to the development of a sense of community involvement and action is an essential progression. Everybody has a role to play in the conservation of biological diversity, by providing expertise and assistance at a variety of levels in a range of voluntary activities. It may be managing a backyard or local park, taking part in a conservation-related work program, participating in a statutory planning process, contributing to research, survey and monitoring programs, or otherwise contributing at a local, regional, national or international level.
5.1.1 Public information and education
Increase the availability and accessibility of information about biological diversity, the need and methods for its conservation, and the current and potential benefits deriving from it by:
- incorporating 'state of biological diversity' reports in the 'state of the environment' reports prepared by the States and Territories and the Commonwealth;
- developing and promoting public information and education programs, in consultation with community groups (especially those involved in the management of biological diversity), by preparing:
- accessible personal action guides aimed at specific rural and urban environments and explaining the ways in which individuals and groups can help to conserve biological diversity,
- information to allow consumers to make informed choices about products, services and activities that may affect the conservation and management of biological diversity, including information on taxation and other institutional incentives that encourage action conducive to the conservation of biological diversity,
- tailored information on biological diversity for government agencies, land managers, landowners and specific industries that rely on some component of biological diversity;
- encouraging the media networks to continue producing and broadcasting programs related to biological diversity and its conservation;
- developing and encouraging the use of an accessible clearing-house mechanism to disseminate relevant information prepared by government, research and educational institutions, industry, non-government organisations and individuals.
5.1.2 Public involvement and participation
Facilitate greater public involvement and participation in measures to conserve biological diversity by:
- ensuring that public participation is a meaningful component in planning and environmental impact assessment procedures that involve biological diversity conservation;
- increasing community involvement in research and management activities relating to protected areas and vegetation remnants and in biological diversity programs, particularly those involving survey, revegetation and rehabilitation.
Expand biological diversity studies in educational curricula.
Achieving greater understanding of biological diversity and commitment to conservation action is central to the success of any conservation strategy.
The education system has an essential role to play in this regard. There are at present a number of effective environmental education programs operating in Australia, particularly at the primary school level. Nevertheless, greater emphasis on the conservation of biological diversity is required; programs should be offered throughout the education system, from pre-schools to TAFE colleges and tertiary institutions.
Teaching and learning should focus on the development of skills that will enhance understanding and acceptance of the need for biological diversity conservation as well as commitment to achieving it. Information should be presented not simply as science, but in a social, economic and political context, so that students are better able to understand the complex circumstances within which decisions about biological diversity conservation must be made.
5.2.1 Curriculum assessment
Review curricula in the light of current knowledge of biological diversity and modify the curricula where necessary to incorporate new material, emphasising inter-relationships between disciplines and their relevance to biological diversity.
5.2.2 Professional development
Support and encourage further professional development activities to equip teachers with the skills and understanding needed to include the scientific, economic and social aspects of biological diversity conservation in their education programs.
5.2.3 Continuing education
In conjunction with tertiary institutions, industry organisations and relevant professional groups, develop course components and continuing education programs designed to increase environmental awareness and involvement.
Encourage 'hands on' educational programs that involve the wider community as part of the educational process in biological diversity conservation.