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Agent, partner or activist: the role of community Landcare in creating sustainable rural landscapes

Colliver, R., Lucas, D. and Moore, S. (2008) Agent, partner or activist: the role of community Landcare in creating sustainable rural landscapes. In: Community development and ecology: Engaging ecological sustainability through community development - an international Eco Community conference, 26 - 28 March, Melbourne


Landcare began as an expression of community activism - farmers decided to work together to fix environmental problems on their properties. But Landcare also began in partnership with government agencies. Projects were negotiated between agency staff and local groups. Recent regionalisation in natural resource management (NRM) targets public spending to fit regional priorities and concentrates technical expertise and program design in regional bodies, effectively reducing Landcare’s power. Many Landcare groups are becoming agents of decisions made elsewhere, dependent on government programs for their direction.

Continued environmental decline, increasing pressure on water resources and the uncertain effects of climate change create an opportunity not just to change practices within landscapes, but to redesign the governance of landscapes. More responsibility could be devolved to the local level and policy tools designed to fit particular landscapes. However, the authors’ research reveals that few Landcare Networks seek to challenge current governance arrangements. Landcare is preoccupied with building and holding a strategic view at landscape scale. It contests funding allocation, but not policy itself or the governance arrangements within which decision are made. Reasons for this stance are explored, in terms of the interplay between scale-dependent environmental regimes and the disjunction between the discourse of Landcare, which focuses on learning by individuals within communities, and the dominant discourse of NRM, which uses biophysical science and targeted government investment to change landscapes. Prospects for Landcare taking an activist in relation to governance are discussed.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Deakin University
Conference Website:
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