Encouraging Participation in NRM and Biodiversity in the Far West.
Western NSW, covering 40 percent of the state and sparsely populated, has its associated benefits and challenges. Benefits may include a stronger sense of community, space to live, enhanced wellbeing and a more relaxed pace of life. There are challenges, and these can include lack of support and access to networks. As organisations change, and people come and go, sometimes it is difficult to know what support agencies are available and specifically what they do. Western NSW is predominantly utlised for agricultural purposes, differing by area, and vastly spread out. It helps to know what opportunities support networks may provide.
One strength of remote areas is its sense of community. Being able to survive and move forward is very important for this region and is something that is strengthened by community. No matter where you come from, there is a sense of inclusiveness as there is always something to learn and share. Community of practice promotes joint activities and discussion around similar interests while also providing networking opportunities where various levels of skills and support may be offered. Promoting workshops, information sessions, inviting close networks and filtering information to group members, such as local Landcare groups, is one such solution to encouraging participation.
Effective community of practice was demonstrated recently upon attendance to a small-town Master Gardener Workshop. The workshop encouraged members of the Aboriginal community to participate. One major driver and supporter were members of the Menindee Aboriginal Land Council (MALC). Successful outcomes of the attendance were Western Landcare NSW (WLNSW) membership, immediate action in vertebrate pest management and support and interest in riparian restoration/protection on a locally managed station. Prior to this engagement, there was no formal collaboration for over twenty years. WLNSW was also able to establish a connection between a First Nation Youth Community Greening Officer and desire for more involvement in schools, laying foundation for collaboration on future projects.
The age-old phenomenon of Community of Practice both regionally and locally has significant impacts, possibly more so in sparsely populated regions of our country such as Western NSW which has a higher priority for community and shared practice.
Supporting community interests and goals provides opportunity to contribute areas of expertise or knowledge otherwise found outside of the community. On ground interaction provides pathways to share tools and resources towards addressing similar problems. Importance, however, lies in the practice of regular and sustained interactions laying foundation for discussion, support, trust, and relationship building.