Cross-Cutting Theme:
Stakeholder engagement and communications

To ensure the outcomes of the Flow-MER program meet the decision-making needs of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the broader stakeholder community, we will share knowledge in a variety of ways to inspire, inform and support positive environmental water outcomes. By integrating science with practice, a range of communication products and knowledge sharing opportunities will be provided that are meaningful, relevant and targeted to stakeholder needs.

Image: Fish expert Ivor Stuart at the Kerang Bowling Club talking about native fish recovery in Gunbower Forest, Vic.
Photo credit: Adrian Martins

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Why will stakeholder engagement and communications assist in environmental water outcomes?

Flow-MER stakeholder engagement and communication activities are all about sharing information and knowledge about the science and practice of managing water for the environment. We want our stakeholders to have confidence in, and to use, the information generated through Flow-MER. Our team is committed to inspiring, enabling and building the collaboration capabilities of Flow-MER team members, CEWH staff and key stakeholders, to deliver and communicate meaningful, culturally appropriate and inclusive information on environmental water outcomes.

Activities will be informed by expert scientific advice, and based on relationships between the Flow-MER Project team, the CEWH, State government agencies, and community and Indigenous groups. This targeted approach will build stakeholder relationships that will support the Flow-MER Program and ensure outcomes are thoughtfully and professionally shared for greatest impact.

We believe that effective communication and engagement is about the connection between people that allows for the exchange of thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and which leads to mutual understanding.

We believe that effective communication and engagement is about the connection between people that allows for the exchange of thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and which leads to mutual understanding.

Our approach

Stakeholder engagement and communication is a core component of the Flow-MER Project. We will support and enable the Flow-MER team to engage with key stakeholders (as shown below) to both inform and communicate the outcomes of monitoring, evaluation and research. We will also work with the Selected Area teams to add value to their activities at the Basin-scale.

The stakeholders we work with include:

Commonwealth Environment Watering Office (CEWH)

We will work with the CEWH to deliver Flow-MER outcomes in ways that complement their environmental water management activities and meet the needs of key stakeholders.

Environmental water managers

The work of Flow-MER is focused on supporting the institutions and people involved in managing water for the environment.   We will engage this group through established CEWH and partner networks, and retain close connections with those involved in the former EWKR and LTIM Projects.

Water agencies, non-government organisations, and land & water managers

We will work with existing CEWH communication networks to reach some of these people and institutions.  Activities such as policy briefings and events will be key opportunities for the Flow-MER Project team to engage with this group.

Indigenous groups

We seek genuine engagement with Indigenous people throughout our project. The emphasis will be to engage relevant Indigenous people from the start in an ongoing, culturally appropriate manner.  We hope to be able to share their knowledge and understanding of water along with Flow-MER findings.

Science communities

This target audience will mainly be reached through existing scientific channels such as professional associations, journals and conferences. The personal networks of the scientists involved in the Flow-MER team will be another valuable way to extend the reach of our work.

Basin communities and general public

This target audience will be able to access the Flow-MER website, social media and online resources which will have stories, environmental water information and links to our work. This group of people will also be able to sign up to the Flow-MER newsletter for updates.

Our objectives

Our work is guided by seven objective which are outlined below – we will:

  1. engage with stakeholders thoughtfully, value their knowledge, develop trusting relationships, respect cultural and local contexts, and seek shared outcomes.
  2. collaborate with the CEWH and their Commonwealth environmental water delivery partners to ensure that the outcomes from monitoring, evaluation and research are informative and meet their needs.
  3. explain how Flow-MER supports the delivery of water for the environment so that it can benefit the Murray-Darling Basin’s rivers and communities.
  4. inform a broad stakeholder audience about the Flow-MER Project to increase community confidence in the science informing environmental watering policy and decisions.
  5. work with Selected Areas to increase awareness and understanding of the multiple benefits water for the environment provides to ecological and human communities.
  6. integrate Indigenous culture throughout all activities by ensuring language, place names and cultural references are fundamental parts of our strategy and delivery. Ensure all intellectual property is protected, and agreements established where knowledge transfer occurs.
  7. develop a website, as well as digital and print resources to share the science undertaken through the Flow-MER Project, and provide access to scientific information using stories, workshops, videos and images for our various target audiences.

To achieve our objectives we will be working closely with all members of the Flow-MER team, CEWH and stakeholders, to ensure that we maximise opportunities to share knowledge widely and further improve the ecological outcomes of managing water for the environment.

Image:  Workshops will be used to share findings, encourage questions, and seek out ways to make Flow-MER science meaningful and relevant.  Photo credit: Mary Bonet

Current activities

Develop engagement and communications infrastructure

Develop a website, social media presence (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram) and explanatory brochures/postcards/fact sheets explaining the Basin-scale MER Project and why it is important. Over time, the content of these will move from raising awareness, to sharing findings, implications of findings for management, and recommendations for ongoing environmental water investment. Story-telling will be a key engagement and communications approach, along with photographs, infographics and maps that people can explore.

The underlying principle for all FLow-MER Project communications is that one story is used multiple times, and on many platforms, to extend reach and cater to a wide range of audiences. To enable this to happen, stories will be made available in a range of formats so that they can be easily shared and used on different website platforms and media. We will also develop relationships with key partner communications personnel so that they can tailor content so that it is meaningful for their networks.

Image:  Screenshort of Flow-MER website home page.  Source: Pat Gudhka

Communications support for the Basin-scale MER Project team

Provide support and advice to the Flow-MER team as they develop and deliver their engagement and communication strategies, organise activities and interact with stakeholders. We will be in close contact with the teams so that we know about the work they are undertaking and can build engagement and communications activities throughout, rather than at the end of projects. We will be focusing on ways to achieve both local and Basin-scale communication and engagement outcomes, while at the same time retaining the authenticity of local community connections and culture.

Image: Meetings both face to face and online will be important for the Flow-MER team to stay connected.  Photo credit: Siwan Lovett

Build strong and meaningful partnerships with Indigenous groups in delivering Environmental Water

Our Indigenous engagement and communication strategies at Selected Area and Basin-scale needs to build on current strengths, relationships and networks, as well as supporting and developing engagement capability in areas requiring assistance. We want the Flow-MER Project to strive to deliver messages of environmental water benefits with community and cultural outcomes. Some areas have had Indigenous people excluded for many years, this is an opportunity for Traditional Owners to reconnect with their Country and be involved in Caring for Country and Water.
We would like to learn about and build upon where successful Indigenous engagement is being demonstrated. In every case culturally sensitive and appropriate engagement approaches will be used. We will seek co-investors to develop products and approaches specifically for sharing Indigenous insights and knowledge.

Image:  Tyronne and Wally Bell, along with Adam Shipp on Ngunawal Country.  Photo credit: Richard Snashall

Synthesise knowledge for Basin-scale understanding

One of our key roles will be to synthesise knowledge from the Selected Areas and Themes to provide Basin-scale understanding about the outcomes of e-watering research, monitoring and evaluation. Each year we will work with the Flow-MER team to develop communications outputs that contain key messages drawn from our research and monitoring and evaluation activities. This knowledge will be used to underpin website stories, policy briefings and input to the Annual Forum.

We will also look at ways to present synthesised knowledge through digital storytelling, exploring content using new technology. Additional funds will be sought to explore innovative approaches to communication.

Image:  Digital storytelling will be one way Flow-MER to share findings.  Source: Pat Gudhka

Forums / Gatherings / Conferences

Each year the Flow-MER Project team will use the Annual MER Forum and other conference and meeting opportunities to share findings from across the portfolio of activities. We will target environmental water managers, and anyone interested in the work we are doing. We will use a mix of presentations, on-country interpretive walks, and social events. In addition to these events, we will target relevant conferences and workshops for Flow-MER Project team members to attend. For example, in 2020 the Australian Stream Management Conference, and in 2021 the Society for Freshwater Science Conference. Both conferences can be supported by tailored communications products.

Image:  Field trips where you can walk and talk are a great way to share knowledge.  Photo credit: Mary Bonet

Image: Experiencing our waterways first-hand is the most effective way for people to connect with, and appreciate the importance of projects like Flow-MER.  Photo credit: Richard Snashall

Our team

Dr. Siwan Lovett

Inspiring, skilled and effective, Siwan is a familiar face in the Australian river restoration community, with her work in communications, public speaking, leadership and on-ground riparian rehabilitation well-known and respected. She enjoys facilitating and empowering others to value themselves and their knowledge so that rivers and waterways can be managed confidently, in partnership with nature.

Andy Lowes

Andy is passionate about improving river health through improved flow regimes. With over a decade of experience working with water for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin, his focus is on the collaboration and communication required between First Nations, communities, scientists, industries and government agencies, to improve our waterways.

Pat Gudhka

Pat carries a strong understanding of the digital landscape, enabling him to plan and produce web and social media content that engages the intended target audiences.

Bradley Moggridge

Bradley is from the Kamilaroi Nation (N-W NSW) and grew up in western Sydney and now lives in Canberra. He has qualifications in hydrogeology and environmental science, and is currently completing his PhD at UC. Brad has an ambition of leading in his area of expertise and also promoting Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and finding commonalities between Traditional Science and Western Science so this can influence policy and the way we manage the Australian landscape.

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