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‘Committing to Place' at the Local Scale: the potential of youth education programs for promoting community participation in regional natural resource management

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Emerging approaches to environmental governance require a greater level of community participation than did previous approaches in which these responsibilities largely rested with government agencies. There is consequently a need for increased engagement with NRM among a broad community sector. This paper examines initiatives by two prominent government agencies, the Murray–Darling Basin Commission (MDBC) and the National Museum of Australia (NMA), to engage school children from regional communities using education programs that focus on place and environmental health. We focus on the MDBC's International Riverhealth Conference held in Mildura in 2003 and the associated Murray–Darling Basin TalkBack Classroom sponsored by the NMA and the Parliamentary Education Office (PEO). We explore how key themes of local scale, place-based identities, youth voice and critical engagement are developed in these programs and consider how they relate to the environmental agency of children. We then reflect on the potential for the kinds of environmental agency promoted through these programs to help build the capacity of local communities to progress larger goals of environmental restoration and sustainability in the Murray–Darling Basin. The evaluation research reported here forms part of the Committing to Place research project, an Australian Research Council Linkage grant involving the University of Tasmania, the National Museum of Australia and the Murray–Darling Basin Commission.
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Keywords: Murray–Darling Basin; community; engagement; environmental education; natural resource management; participation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Museum of Australia, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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