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Introduction: community voices: creating sustainable spaces

Paulin, S. (2006) Introduction: community voices: creating sustainable spaces. In: Paulin, S., (ed.) Community voices: creating sustainable spaces. University of Western Australia Press, Crawley, pp. 1-9.

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The title of this book reflects my desire to capture some of the very real activities that communities in Western Australia have established 'for themselves’. Community engagement is a cornerstone of sustainable development. It is based on the concept of encouraging an active citizenry, empowered to make choices and become involved in decision-making processes, policy formation and resulting implementation at the local, national and global scale. If the community is not engaged with attempts to effect the changes needed to ensure a sustainable society then there is little hope of achieving widespread acceptance of the need for such change and its promulgation on the local and global scale is considerably weakened. The refusal of the United States and Australian Governments to sign the Kyoto Agreement is a stark example of the primacy of economic and political considerations over the concerns of the wider community to implement cleaner production and create improved outcomes for their local and global environment.

The premise of this book, therefore, is to provide some theoretical background from a social science viewpoint coupled with a series of practical case studies to illustrate how community engagement and civic participation is taking place in Western Australia within the space created by the concept of sustainability. The book’s limited geographical focus does not preclude the lessons from being widely applicable both in Australia and internationally. The case studies range from stories of activists saving forests from logging, to efforts by Indigenous communities to retain aspects of their culture and claim a voice in matters which concern them. They focus on the different ways in which people come together in the community to achieve sustainability outcomes, encompassing environmental, social, cultural and economic goals. Some of these groups are purely community supported, but others have forged relationships with corporate groups or governments. Some of the groups have been very successful and have achieved productive longevity, while one was less successful with miscommunication contributing to its ultimate demise. Where groups of people come together to work as a community interest group, they experience many of the issues that also face corporate entities such as leadership and group dynamics, funding needs, marketing and the need for continuing relevance to their memberships; all or some of which may create particular challenges which need to be addressed.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
Publisher: University of Western Australia Press
Copyright: (c) Sally Paulin
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