The Convention’s CEPA Programme

From Australia - a Wetlands Communication Strategy for the Hunter Region

Wetlands Communication Strategy




Louise Duff, Chief Executive Officer, The Wetlands Centre Australia
Christine Prietto, Chairman, The Wetlands Centre Australia


Thanks to representatives of the following organisations for their contributions:

Environment Australia and the Australian Wetlands Information Network
Dept. of Land and Water Conservation and the State Wetlands Advisory Group
Lower Hunter and Central Coast Regional Environmental Management Strategy
Hunter Catchment Management Trust
Tocal Agricultural Centre
Hunter Region Landcare Network
Nature Watch (Timelines Hunter)
The Wetlands Environmental Education Centre
Greening Australia Hunter
Newcastle City Council
Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project


Natural Heritage Trust



Planning Framework
Target Audience
Wetlands in the Hunter
Planning Framework
Needs Assessment
Key Themes
Guiding Principles

Communication Strategies

Government Sector
Community Sector
Education Sector
Industry Sector

Appendix 1: Profile of Catchment
Appendix 2: Planning Framework
Appendix 3: Existing Resources



The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) is recognised as the first modern global conservation convention. It was created to protect wetlands worldwide and has 130 member countries. As a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention, Australia has made a commitment to promote wetland values, to encourage wise use of all wetlands and to list wetlands that meet Ramsar criteria.

The Ramsar Convention's Outreach Programme 1999-2002 (Resolution VII.9) encourages contracting parties to focus on education and community involvement in wise use of wetlands. In Australia this has given rise to the Wetlands Communication, Education and Public Awareness National Action Plan 2001-2005, which underpins this strategy.

The Hunter Ramsar Wetland Communication Strategy has been developed by The Wetlands Centre Australia (TWC) to meet objectives featured in the Ramsar Outreach Programme. Its development was part of a Natural Heritage Trust funded project to develop a community-based Regional Ramsar Information Service reflecting needs in the Hunter Region. This project and the resulting strategy is consistent with international, national and state level objectives for conservation and wise use of wetlands. It serves as a model which could be replicated in other catchment regions in Australia.

Since 1986, TWC has been a leader in wetland education and a model demonstration of community involvement in wetland management. Located at Shortland Wetlands in Newcastle, it is a non-government organisation dedicated to wetland research, education, conservation, recreation and wise use. The aims of TWC have always closely reflected those of the Ramsar Convention. Interest in Ramsar and the need for greater awareness and understanding is increasing in Australia, especially since Ramsar sites are now covered under Commonwealth legislation (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). This strategy will demonstrate TWC’s capacity to act as a Regional Focal Point for Ramsar and wetland conservation in general.


The Hunter Ramsar Communication Strategy aims to guide TWC Australia’s delivery of communication, education and public awareness about wetlands and Ramsar objectives in the Hunter Region. It aims to:

 Promote wetland values and processes to target groups.

Build community capacity to manage wetlands wisely.

Promote the Ramsar Convention and Australia’s response as a contracting party, particularly in the Hunter and NSW.

Define and guide wetland communication products that meet the needs of user groups in the Hunter Region.

Forge project-based partnerships with other government and non-government agencies that facilitate greater understanding of wetlands in the Hunter Region.


The Hunter Ramsar Communication Strategy focuses on initiatives, services and products to be delivered by TWC Australia both on-site and catchment-wide in partnership with other organisations and agencies.

One of TWC's strengths is fostering ecological responsibility by providing experiences that help citizens develop a deep sense of connection with their local landscape. This Communication Strategy seeks to build on this strength. Its implementation will consolidate our expertise, add value to our existing programmes and build capacity for community based education in the region.

The Strategy recognises the existing knowledge and expertise in wetland management held by government officers, non-government organisations, educational institutions, community groups, Landcare groups and individuals. It seeks to establish processes that encourage sharing and integration of this knowledge to improve outcomes.

Of central importance is the working partnership between the Department of Education and Training and TWC. The former operates a Field Study Centre located at the Wetlands Centre by License Agreement. Department staff deliver school and tertiary education on site, assist with interpretive displays and signage and build capacity for TWC to deliver community education.

The NGO status of TWC enhances our ability to facilitate inter-organisation partnerships and to deliver integrated campaigns across local government boundaries. TWC combines the close community interface of local government and the broader geographic focus of state agencies to great effect.

The ability to facilitate projects throughout the catchment and with all key stakeholders will depend on the funding available. Highest priority will be given to those projects that form part of TWC’s core education activities on-site, and those which engage our existing colleagues in the Hunter Region. These projects are most readily achievable within funding constraints and build on existing groundwork.

Securing partnerships and grant funds to implement projects will be an ongoing process. Budgets and resource requirements will therefore be refined as opportunities arise to implement projects.

Hunter Catchment. Source: Draft Hunter Catchment Blueprint

Target Audience

The Hunter Catchment is 22,000 km2 and is home to over 350,000 people. There is a wide mix of land management authorities and private landholders. Land uses include intensive broad-acre farming, commercial fishing, viticulture, coal mining, power generation, medium to heavy industry, national parks, forestry, urban and rural residential and tourism.

The Hunter Ramsar Communication Strategy identifies a range of priority target groups. These have been identified by integrating information from existing management documents and through responses to a needs assessment survey.

Priority groups included in the Communication Strategy are:

  • Target groups in the Hunter Catchment as defined in the Draft Hunter Catchment Blueprint; and
  • Target groups in the Local Government Areas represented in the Hunter Region Organisation of Councils.

Wetlands in the Hunter

The Hunter has a range of wetland habitats from saltmarsh and mangrove forests to floodplain and upland wetlands. In the lower Hunter most wetland areas have an ecological connection to the Hunter estuary and together represent high conservation values. Wetlands elsewhere in the catchment include areas of floodplain which can hold significant amounts of water during major rain events, farm dams and wetlands constructed to treat liquid wastes and stormwater.

Water quality and biodiversity has been improved through the work undertaken by the Hunter Catchment Management Trust and associated committees supported by state agencies with responsibility for land management. In the Lower Hunter this has led to many innovative partnerships supporting significant wetland rehabilitation projects, including Shortland Wetlands.

More recently, the Stormwater Trust has been funding urban catchment management initiatives with the aims of reducing erosion, nutrient loading, sedimentation and turbidity and protecting and enhancing the ecological and social values of urban waterways. Constructed wetlands have been used for agricultural water storage, waste processing, stormwater treatment and conservation demonstration.

Planning Framework

The planning frameworks that underpin this Regional Strategy range from the international level to the local level. More detailed information is provided in Appendix 2. Frameworks include:

  • The Ramsar Convention’s Outreach Programme 1999-2002.

  • The Wetland CEPA National Action Plan 2001-2005.

  • NSW Wetlands Action Plan 2000/2003.
  • NSW Wetlands Management Policy 1996 (update due 2002).
  • Hunter Catchment Blueprint (Draft).
  • The Hexham Swamp Rehabilitation Project Management Plan (Draft).
  • Ironbark and Throsby Creek TCM Communication Strategy.

Needs Assessment and Consultation Process

In preparing this strategy, TWC Australia conducted a series of surveys to ascertain the level of awareness, understanding and demand for information on the Ramsar Convention using four avenues:

  1. Environmental professionals were surveyed at the NSW Coastcare Conference held in Newcastle in November 2001.
  2. Environmental professionals were surveyed via email.
  3. Environmental activists were surveyed at a Wetlands Centre workshop on campaigning skills hosted by the Australian Wetlands Alliance (AWA) on World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2002.
  4. Community representatives were surveyed at a major event for Catchment Day hosted by Hunter Water at TWC in October 2001.

Environmental Professionals Survey

The environmental professionals surveyed included planners, educators, ecologists and managers from State, Federal and Local Government. Their results support the need for this communication Strategy.


  • 92% knew that the Ramsar Convention was an international treaty for wetland protection.
  • 50% could name the Kooragang Nature Reserve as the Hunter's Ramsar listed wetland.
  • 22% rated their understanding of the convention as high.
  • 38% rated their understanding as medium.
  • 40% rated their understanding as low.
  • 74% wanted more information on the convention.

Environmental community group representatives survey

As could be expected, community representatives surveyed knew significantly less about the convention than environmental professionals. Interestingly, their desire to learn more about the convention was stronger, probably because they have less access to information.

Focus Groups with key stakeholders

TWC also facilitated a series of one-on-one meetings and small focus groups to consult with lead organizations. The results of these surveys and meetings have been incorporated throughout this strategy.

The organisations consulted include:

  • Hunter Catchment Management Trust

  • Ironbark and Throsby TCM Committees Combined Education Task Group.

  • The Department of Education and Training.

  • The Hunter Region Landcare Network.

  • The Hunter Region Organisation of Councils.

  • Newcastle City Council.

  • A focus group of private landowners.

  • Community representatives from Port Stephens.

  • Tocal Agricultural Centre.

Guiding Principles

"The challenge…for local people and others is to develop effective communication in order to change those practices that act against wetland conservation and the wise use of wetland resources. To be effective, the Contracting Parties need to engage stakeholders in defining the issues and possible solutions and to use communication and education as tools appropriately linked to legal and economic instruments to bring about change." (Ramsar Outreach Programme, 1999-2002)

All guiding principles of the Wetlands CEPA National Action Plan 2001-2005 have been considered in the development of this strategy. The Action Plan is available on the Environment Australia website ( The following principles have special significance to this strategy:

  • Motivating and empowering people is implicit in all initiatives.
  • All people (managers, policy-makers, researchers etc.) have a responsibility to educate.
  • Wetland education is a shared responsibility and decision-making and actions are to be undertaken in an atmosphere of inclusiveness and through partnerships.
  • Actions will be appropriate to community needs and situations.
  • The basis of all actions must be in terms of environmental benefits.

Key Themes

During delivery of this Strategy, education efforts will build on the key themes below to increase understanding of wetland issues and engagement in wise use management.

Wetland Values and Processes

Wetlands are meeting places between aquatic and terrestrial environments, and in Australia are usually ephemeral. These complex conditions make wetlands reservoirs for biodiversity. Biodiversity has a range of economic and intrinsic values for land managers.

Wetlands play a crucial role in the water cycle:

  • They store heavy rainfall, mitigating floods.
  • They recharge groundwater aquifers.
  • Coastal wetlands play a critical role in protecting the land from storm surges.
  • They reduce erosion from wind and wave action.
  • Wetlands retain nutrients and sediments from stormwater and agricultural run-off, reducing their entry into receiving waters.
  • They also physically slow down water movement, buffering peak stormwater flows and improving ecological flows river systems and estuaries
  • Wetlands are important carbon sinks, mitigating the impacts of development on climate change.
  • They have value for recreation, tourism and education.

Wise Use of Wetlands

The Ramsar Convention gives the following definitions:

"Wise use is utilisation for the benefit of humans … compatible with the maintenance of natural properties of the ecosystem".

"Sustainable use yields the greatest continuous benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations".

The Convention’s wise use guidelines call on contracting parties to:

  • Develop programmes of wetland inventory, monitoring, research, training, education and public awareness; and
  • Take action at wetland sites, involving the development and implementation of integrated management plans covering every aspect of the wetlands.

Australia's response to the Ramsar Convention

As well as promoting wetland values, processes and wise use, this strategy seeks to promote the Ramsar convention itself and Australia's response, particularly in the Hunter Region. The international Convention on Wetlands was signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. The Convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation to protect wetlands around the world. Australia was the first country to nominate a wetland of international significance (Coburg Peninsular, in 1974).

The Hunter Ramsar Committee was formally established on 2 February 2001 to identify and seek nomination for suitable wetlands in the Hunter Region. The habitat values of our existing Ramsar site, Kooragang Nature Reserve in the Hunter Estuary depend on the conservation of a mosaic of wetlands throughout the Hunter, as birds particularly travel to feed, breed and roost.

The Committee is currently seeking nomination for Shortland Wetlands, which meets several Ramsar criteria, as an extension to Kooragang Nature Reserve Ramsar Site. It is hoped that other wetlands in the Lower Hunter can be nominated as future extensions.

Communication Strategies

Government Sector 

Target Group

Environmental policy makers, planners, land managers, regulators and educators.


These professionals are key decision-makers and change agents. Their actions can impact directly on wetlands, positively or negatively, either at the local level or catchment/river basin scale.


They have a special need to understand the role of wetlands and have access to information on best practice in managing wetland ecosystems, especially where they are responsible for managing a Ramsar site.


At local government level, the Hunter Region Organisation of Councils (HROC) has 13 member Councils and facilitates delivery of the Lower Hunter Central Coast Regional Environmental Management Strategy (LHCCREMS). Councils have environmental officers with responsibility for conservation planning, regulation, land management and community education.


The key state agencies active in wetland protection in the Hunter are the Department of Land and Water Conservation (DLWC) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). NSW Fisheries is involved in the Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project. The Environment Protection Authority invests in water quality improvement through the Stormwater Trust. Planning NSW implements SEPP 14 during the development consent process.


There is considerable integration between local and state agencies and the community. DLWC supports the Hunter Region Landcare Network. HCMT facilitates partnerships with all levels of government and industry to secure investment in community-based rehabilitation work. Local Councils host coordinators for Landcare and Coastcare and deliver programmes funded by the Stormwater Trust. See Appendix 1 for more detail.

Behaviour sought

Environmental professionals have a good understanding of Hunter Catchment wetlands and support their conservation. They share knowledge and integrate their activities, value adding to each other’s programmes.


Policy makers and planners give consideration to wetland functions, services and benefits to ensure no further losses or degradation.


Educators connect landholders and residents with their wetlands to win community support for and involvement in protection and rehabilitation.


Land Managers and regulators implement and enforce wetland protection and Ramsar's Wise Use Principles.


Facilitate an annual wetlands forum for local government personnel to promote information sharing on wetland action and training on wetlands in the Hunter, their values and ecological services, threats, wise use principles, the Ramsar convention and Australian legislation.


Develop and support an email network of environmental professionals involved in wetlands, catchment management and biodiversity. Keep members of the network informed of existing resources, legislation, grant programs, resources, conferences, training courses and other wetland issues.


Establish, support and promote a sub-network of outreach officers whose role relates to wetlands from all agencies in the Hunter. Promote this network through implementation of the Hunter Catchment Blueprint.


Promote the Wetlands Centre's Ramsar Officer as an advisory and referral service as part of the network above.


Encourage Hunter professionals to participate in the global Ramsar e-mail network and Ramsar Experts Database.


Facilitate or participate in small group workshops and presentations in appropriate clusters. For example, to all staff in larger organisations such as Newcastle City Council, to stormwater educators, to all environmental professionals in small towns; to the Hunter Vegetation Management Committee and Hunter Coast and Estuary Management Committee; to Professional Associations.


Present workshops and papers at regional, state and national conferences.


Support and resource LHCCREMS programs in the fields of biodiversity and water sensitive urban design.


Host an annual corporate function for colleagues to promote the Ramsar Convention, TWC's education and conservation activities and key partnerships.


Promote TWC's Chairman as Australia's NGO Focal Point for Ramsar.

Improve TWC's web site with respect to wetland issues, the Ramsar Convention and links to other sites.


Build and promote TWC's extensive library and literature review service.


Develop and promote TWC's web site as a regional portal to Ramsar and AWIN web resources.

Support implementation of Hunter Catchment Blueprint Communication Strategies, ensuring they progress Ramsar principles.

Potential partners

University of Newcastle, Tocal Agricultural Centre, HROC and LHCCREMS and their associated Local Councils, DLWC and Landcare, all stakeholder agencies, HCMT.

Community Sector

Target Group(1)


 Landcare groups and rural landowners, especially those responsible for managing natural or constructed wetlands.


Landcare members are involved in property management in rural areas and rehabilitation on public land in cities lower in the Hunter catchment. They play a lead role promoting best practice and stewardship.

Rural landowners can play an important role in protecting natural wetlands and enhancing the ecological values of farm dams by implementing wise use principles on their properties.


There are 75 Landcare Groups in the Hunter. The age of members varies. The most common group size is 15 - 20 members.


There are at least 20 Landcare groups in the Hunter directly involved in managing wetlands. See Appendix 1 for more detail.

Behaviour sought

Appreciation for wetlands values, especially their contribution to biodiversity and to river health. Sustainable management of wetlands in accordance with Ramsar’s principle of wise use.

Communication Strategies

Deliver presentations and skill-based workshops for Landcare Groups and networks in association with Greening Australia.


Work with Landcare and Greening Australia to coordinate field trips to properties demonstrating best practice in wetland management.


Tour a display on wetland values, wise use and "dam good ideas" based on case studies to regional libraries, agricultural shows and field days.


Host Wetlands Rambles as part of Tocal Field Days.


Distribute wetland gimmicks such as stickers, balloons etc with the wetlands = water = life slogan.


Distribute information kits on wetland management for rural landholders and farmers at agricultural shows, field days and expose.


Promote TWC's Ramsar Education Officer and associated colleagues as an advisory and referral service.


Work in partnership with a commercial supplier to promote and sell wetland plants for dam vegetation and wetland rehabilitation at agricultural shows, field days and expos.


Arrange newsletter and local media stories on wetland values, wise use case studies and the Ramsar Convention.

Promote visits to TWC via Landcare Groups, agricultural shows and field days.


Distribute information kits and fact sheets via Landcare Resource Officers.


Build and promote TWC's extensive library and literature review service.

Develop and promote TWC's web site as a regional portal to Ramsar and AWIN web resources.


Integrate all of the above in local campaigns. For example, work with Landcare Resource Officers to coordinate presentation, workshops, displays, gimmick giveaway, newsletter and mass media stories during the month of the Tocal Field Days.


Support and promote wetland education through Tocal Agricultural Centre's short courses and Landcare Certificate. Seek to incorporate information on the Ramsar Convention and Wise Use principles.



Landcare, Tocal Agricultural Centre, Greening Australia, NSW Agriculture, DLWC.


Target Group (2)


 Total Catchment Management, Natural Resource Planning Committees.


These committees are developing catchment-level plans, making decisions and implementing actions that impact directly on wetlands.


The HCMT is a key stakeholder in wetland wise use. It provides a link between government and the community. The Trust delivers natural resource and environment planning for the catchment, coordinates funding for on-ground works and, in partnership with DLWC, manages flood mitigation works in the Hunter Catchment. The HCMT coordinates 5 Total Catchment Management Committees, and the Kooragang Wetland and Hexham Swamp Rehabilitation Projects.


Other major committees that operate in the Hunter and have a special focus include the Hunter River Management Committee, Hunter Vegetation Management Committee and the Hunter Coast and Estuary Management Committee.

Behaviour sought

Appreciation for wetland values, especially their contribution to biodiversity and aquatic health. Sustainable management of wetlands in accordance with Ramsar’s principle of wise use.

Communication Strategies

Involve committee members in the wetlands email network outlined in Government Sector strategies.


Provide briefing notes and speakers on a regular basis to inform committee members on Ramsar wise use principles.


Promote the Ramsar Education Officer as an advisory service during plan development.

Potential Partners



Target Group (3)

Urban residents, especially those whose behaviour impacts directly on wetlands.


Local stewardship based on understanding and appreciation is vital.


Wetlands are part of the landscape of many local government areas. A greater understanding of wetlands especially for those residents whose homes adjoin significant wetlands, can result in improved attitudes and behaviours. There are also opportunities for direct involvement in wetland management that will result in higher level appreciation and understanding.

Behaviour sought

Residents understand and value wetlands and practice responsible behaviours to prevent pollution of stormwater and threats such as weed invasion and predation by pets. Residents become directly involved in management of wetlands

Communication Strategies

Participate in the Ironbark and Throsby Creek Combined Education Task Force to support and build on the success of existing and proposed stormwater, catchment and wetland education projects.


Develop Ramsar brochures and information kits to distribute through TWC and the task force above.


Host events at TWC promoting wetland values and responsible behaviours (see Appendix 3).


Provide displays and activities at local community events in wetland sub-catchments.


Enhance the interpretive displays and signage at TWC to better promote wetlands values, processes and wise use.

Facilitate or participate in wetland field trips. These could be linked with urban Catchment Tours and special events such as World Wetlands Day (2 February 2002) and Catchment Day in October.


Develop a training manual for volunteer guides at TWC that can be transferred to other organisations.


Host training workshops for volunteer guides at TWC. Invite other organisations to participate.


Develop a Wetlands Ambassadors program for wetland neighbours. This could be done in tandem with the Ironbark Creek and Throsby TCM education task force's proposed "Catchment Crusaders" program. Participants receive a resource kit, gimmicks (wetlands = water = life) and free membership of TWC.

Coordinate an activity program of workshops, tours and holiday activities at TWC.


Host activities as part of related programs such as the Community Biodiversity Network's Biodiversity Month and Coastcare Summerfest.


Provide youth education activities for programs such as Newcastle City Council's Westfest and the Palais.


Host free activities for the public on World Wetlands Day.


Promote membership of TWC throughout the Hunter Valley.


Write and distribute a bi-annual newsletter (the Wetlander) for members of TWC, Wetland Ambassadors and TWC's extensive mailing lists of past visitors and colleagues.


Run community arts projects at TWC.


Provide newsletter and media stories on wetland issues, events and the Ramsar Convention.


Contribute wetland nature observations to Newcastle Nature Watch.


Work with community representatives to build and promote links between the Kushiro, Japan and Hunter Estuary Ramsar sites. Develop and tour a joint Kushiro - Hunter Ramsar photographic display.


Publish a high quality book of photographs of Hunter wetlands.


Provide Ramsar briefing, resources and editorial advice to Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project (KWRP) to enhance the outcomes of their interpretive signage.


Provide Ramsar briefing notes to educators and tour guides associated with KWRP.

Potential Partners

NCC; HCMT; Ironbark and Throsby TCM education taskforce; KWRP; Coastcare; CBN; Port Stephens Sister City Committee representatives.


Target Group (4) Environmental groups


Local environmental groups play a key role in supporting the wise use of wetlands.


TWC is a hub for local environmental special interest groups that play an active role in education and advocacy. These include the Australian Plants Society, the Hunter Bird Observers, the Native Animal Trust Fund, the Society of Frogs and Reptiles and Hunter Native Fish Society.


Other environmental community groups that operate in the Hunter Catchment include National Parks Association of NSW, Northern Parks and Playground Movement, Earthcare Park and Education Centre, Tilligerry Habitat, Trees in Newcastle, Eco-edge and the Coast and Wetlands Alliance. Although wetlands are not a special focus for all of these groups, a greater understanding will increase their support.

Behaviour sought

Groups have a sound understanding of wetlands issues and advocate the wise use of wetlands at all levels.

Communication  Strategies

Include environmental activists on the Ramsar email network discussed in professional outreach.


Distribute Ramsar brochures and information packs on wetland issues to key groups for wider distribution into the community.


Give guest speaker presentations on the Ramsar Convention to key coalitions.


Provide newsletter stories on Ramsar issues to environmental organisations.


Coordinate an annual seminar on wetland issues and campaigning skills specifically targeting environmental activists.


Build and promote TWC's extensive library and literature review service.


Develop and promote TWC's web site as a regional portal to Ramsar web resources.


Invite environmental activists to give presentations on field trips and professional training seminars.

Education Sector

Target Group (1)

 Primary and Secondary School Students


Education is a valuable process for delivering information on wetlands and changing attitudes to wetlands. Children are the next generation of environmental managers/caretakers, and we must ensure that they are aware of the importance of wetlands and how to use them wisely.


Children influence the behaviour of their household and can be important ambassadors for minimising environmental impacts in the home.


TWC hosts approximately 10,000 school students each year from throughout the Hunter region.


Educational programs are developed and delivered by the Department of Education and Training's Wetlands Environmental Education Centre (WEEC), which has a License Agreement to use TWC's facilities.


While WEEC staff play the key role in developing curricula-based resources and activities for students, TWC is responsible for designing, improving and maintaining infrastructure.


Students come from kindergarten to year 12 and TAFE HSC.

Another key venue for school education in the Hunter is Tocal Agricultural Centre. The Centre caters for years 10 - 12, and also co-ordinates short courses and distance education. They have implemented a best-practice wetland rehabilitation project.

Behaviour sought

Young people know the location of wetlands in their area and understand their values.


They feel empowered to adopt a stewardship role to care for the environment, including wetlands.

Communication Strategies

Enhance TWC's displays and interpretive signage to better promote wetland values, processes and wise use.


Support the annual Planet Savers event.


Coordinate and extend the Ramsar Migratory Shorebirds Education program. This program is based on encouraging real and virtual postcard exchanges between schools at Shorebird Site Network Sites along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.  Goals include increasing the number of schools involved to represent all Shorebird Site Network Sites; extend web site to include curriculum-based worksheets.


Provide resources and briefings on the Ramsar Convention and wise use principles to staff and students at Tocal Agricultural Centre.

Target Group (2)

 Tertiary Students


Tertiary students in a range of disciplines need on-ground experience in wetland environments. This includes students in a number of disciplines, including Biological sciences, earth sciences, Environmental engineering, Environmental law, Tourism and Education.


University of Newcastle delivers a range of courses that would benefit from information on and experience in wetlands. Tocal Agricultural Centre runs a range of land management courses that articulate with University Degrees and would also benefit from Wetland information.

Behaviour sought

Tertiary students seek to increase expertise in wetland issues.

Communication Strategies

Supervise undergraduate and post graduate studies on wetland issues in the fields of environmental science, environmental education and recreation and tourism management.


Build and promote TWC's extensive library and literature review service.


Develop and promote TWC's web site as a regional portal to Ramsar web resources.

Potential Partners

University of Newcastle; Wetlands Environmental Education Centre; Tocal Agricultural Centre.


Target Group (3)

 Wetlands Education Centres


Education centres with a specific focus on wetlands are increasing in number worldwide. They are regarded as prime vehicles for assisting people to experience wetlands, understand their values and contribute to their management. Wetland Link International (WLI) is an initiative of the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust (UK) that aims to improve links between wetland centres at all levels. WLI has been identified as a key platform of Ramsar’s CEPA Program. Increased communication among Centres would allow better exchange of information and expertise and demonstrate the value of education for wetland conservation.


There are approximately 40 Centres in Australia either dedicated to wetland education or with a strong focus on wetlands. They cover many types of wetlands including in some cases Ramsar sites. Australia has had wetland centres for over 20 years and their diversity ranges along a continuum from staffed, highly developed centres to small non-staffed centres. They have made a strong contribution to wetland conservation during that time.

Behaviour sought

Wetlands Education Centres across Australia will work in partnership with each other and WLI to deliver Ramsar communication, education and public awareness.

Communication Strategies

Establish TWC as the hub for Wetlands Link International - Australia.


Build communication networks between Wetland Education Centres in Australia and foster membership and networks with Wetland Link International (WLI).


Develop and distribute a national brochure of Wetlands Education Centres in Australia.


Coordinate an annual combined event for all wetland education Centres in Australia on World Wetlands Day.


Foster staff exchanges between members of WLI, particularly within Australia.


Facilitate Sister Centre Schemes between Australian and International Centres.

 Industry Sector

Target Group (1)

The Media


Conveying positive and informative messages about wetlands to the general community can be accelerated through news and other stories in the electronic and print media.


NBN is the only television station producing local news stories in the region. Other key media outlets with regional reach are Radio ABC and the Newcastle Herald. Newcastle Newspapers produces local editions of the Post across the Region.

Behaviour sought

Recognition of the many functions, services and benefits provided by wetlands and to see this reflected in greater and more informed media coverage of wetland issues.

Communication Strategies

Provide regular backgrounders, briefings and media release on topical issues and events.


Facilitate advertising features with stakeholder agencies on World Wetlands Day.


Run advertising campaigns promoting Ramsar issues.


Target Group(2)

 Local industries that impact on wetland values.


Some industries in the catchment carry out activities that can have negative impacts on wetlands. A greater appreciation within the industry sector for the role wetlands play is important for long-term conservation of wetlands.


Local industry in the Hunter catchment includes intensive broad-acre farming, commercial fishing, viticulture, coal mining, power generation, medium to heavy industry and a working industrial port handling a range of exports

Behaviour sought

Recognition of the many functions, services and benefits provided by wetlands and a greater commitment to sustainable management of development.


Target Group (3)

Industries constructing and utilising wetlands for liquid waste and stormwater treatment.


Constructed wetlands can be designed, constructed and managed for wildlife habitat while still delivering the desired treatment service.


Wetlands are constructed for waste treatment in a range of industries including mining, sewer works and dairies.

Behaviour sought

Designers, engineers and environmental managers enhance the biodiversity values of constructed wetlands.

Communication Strategies

Ramsar Education Officer interacts with environmental committees of professional associations to build awareness of the biodiversity values of constructed wetlands and promote best practice.

Potential Partners

EPA Cleaner Production Unit



The Ramsar Convention's Outreach Progamme 1999 - 2002. The Ramsar Bureau

Communication, Education and Public Awareness to Promote Wise Use of Australia'sWetlands: National Action Plan 2001-2005. Environment Australia.

NSW Wetlands Management Policy 1996. Department of Land and Water Conservation.

NSW Wetlands Management Policy Action Plan 2000/2003. Department of Land and Water Conservation.

Draft Hunter Catchment Blueprint 2001. Hunter Catchment Management Trust with Land and Water Conservation.

DraftHexhamSwamp Rehabilitation Project Management Plan 2002. Hunter Catchment Management Trust

Throsby and Ironbark Creek TCM Committees Combined Community Education Task Group Communications Strategy. SD Environmental Management for Hunter Catchment Management Trust.

Newcastle Stormwater Management Plan, 2000. Newcastle City Council.

Appendix 1: Profile of Hunter Region

Hunter Region Organisation of Councils Members

Cessnock City Council

Dungog Shire Council

Gloucester Shire Council

Great Lakes Council

Lake Macquarie Council

Maitland City Council

Merriwa Shire Council

Murrurundi Shire Council

Newcastle City Council

Port Stephens Council

Scone Shire Council


Catchment Management Committees in the Hunter Catchment


Hunter Catchment Management Trust

Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project

Hexham Swamp Rehabilitation Project

Glennies Creek TCM Committee

Williams River TCM Committee

Ironbark Creek TCM Committee

Throsby Creek TCM Committee

Wallis/Fishery Creek TCM Committee


Natural Resource Planning Committees


Hunter River Management Committee

Hunter Vegetation Management Committee

Hunter Coast and Estuary Management Committee


Hunter Sub-regional Landcare Networks

Lower Hunter Urban Landcare Network, covering Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens local government areas.

Upper Hunter Landcare, covering Murrurundi, Scone and Muswellbrook local government areas.

Upper Goulburn Landcare, covering Merriwa, parts of Rylstone and Mudgee local government areas.

Paterson Allyn Williams Catchments Landcare, covering the Paterson Allyn and Williams Catchments (Dungog LGA, and part of Port Stephens LGA).

Maitland Region Landcare Network, covering Maitland LGA.

Singleton Shire Landcare network, covering Singleton Shire.


Landcare, Bushcare & Coastcare Groups managing wetlands in the Hunter

Belmont Wetlands Landcare


East Maitland

Earthcare Park

Eleebana Landcare

Friends of Morpeth Common

Kurri Kurri


Myall Creek

Koora Gang

Kooragang Wetland Rehabilitation Project

Trees in Newcastle

Shortland Wetlands (The Thursday Mob and Wetland Wonder Weeders)

Warrabrook Bushcare


Wyee Point Landcare

Clarence Town



Conservation Volunteers Australia


Appendix 2: Planning Framework 

The planning frameworks that underpin this Regional Strategy range from the international level to the local level and include:

The Ramsar Convention's Outreach Programme 1999-2002

The Ramsar Convention’s Outreach Programme 1999-2002 (Resolution VII.9) provides goals, tools and frameworks to encourage communication about wetland values at all levels. Some of these goals underpin this strategy. They are:

-- “To raise awareness of wetland values and functions throughout the world and at all levels”.

-- “To develop and encourage national programmes of education and public awareness on wetlands, targeted at a wide range of people, including key decision-makers, people living in and around wetlands, other wetland users, and the public at large.”

-- “To generate a greater awareness among people about the functions, services and values of wetlands so they are perceived as important assets of the natural infrastructure of each country.”

-- “To motivate people to care about wetlands so that they become involved in policy formulation and hands-on planning and management of wetlands. This is the key to encouraging those behaviours that impact positively on wetlands and lead to the sustainable use of the resource.”

-- “To build support for wetland conservation and wise use amongst policy makers, the private sector and all sectors of society - the Ramsar Convention’s constituency.”

The Ramsar Convention defines wise use as “utilisation for the benefit of humankind … compatible with the maintenance of natural properties of the ecosystem”. It states that wise use provisions for contracting parties applies to all wetlands, not just those on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

The Ramsar Outreach Programme puts a priority on “Working with Environment and Wetland Education Centres. Where they exist, these centres are ideally placed to promote the principles of wetland conservation and wise use and to foster communication among the ‘actors’.”

It also notes that such facilities “can have much to offer in terms of providing technical advice and education of the general public. These facilities also enjoy great popularity with the general community and therefore offer excellent venues for including wetlands interests in their work. Contracting Parties are encouraged to establish partnerships and work collaboratively with these centres of expertise to promote the values and importance of wetlands.

The Wetland CEPA National Action Plan: 2001-2005

The first steps in the implementation of Ramsar Outreach Programme in Australia included the development of the Wetlands Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) National Action Plan: 2001-2005 and the formation of the Australian Wetlands Information Network (AWIN). AWIN has prepared two phases of a National Action Plan to promote wetland CEPA. It recognises the existing achievements of agencies involved in wetland education and aims to foster collaboration. The National Action Plan creates a framework “to assist agencies, organisations and community groups as they develop and implement action plans to suit their community needs and situations.”

It seeks “to enhance successes, cultivate synergies, forge links and build upon current activities, development and research”. 

This Hunter Ramsar Communication Strategy delivers on two actions identified in the National Plan:

-- “to prepare guidelines for the development of CEPA activities at …regional and local levels;” and

--  to identify and provide examples of ‘good’ [CEPA] plans.”

NSW Wetlands Management Policy 1996

This whole of government policy was developed to guide ecologically sustainable use management and conservation of wetlands in NSW. With regard to education and community capacity building it calls for:

  • Education of community and government on the full range of wetland values.
  • Technical support for wetland managers including private landholders.
  • The adoption of a stewardship ethos and co-operative action between wetland owners, managers and the wider community (Principle 9).
  • Promotion of community involvement in wetland management (Principle 9.1).
  • Promotion of education on wetland values, functions and management (Principle 9.2).

NSW Wetlands Action Plan 2000/2003

This action plan was developed by the State Wetlands Action Group to guide implementation of the NSW Wetlands Management Policy. It recognises that the majority of NSW’s 4.5 million hectares of wetlands are located on private property and aims to resource and involve the community in wetland rehabilitation.

Hunter Catchment Blueprint

The Hunter Catchment Blueprint was developed by the Department of Land and Water Conservation and Hunter Catchment Management Trust. It aims to guide actions for natural resource protection and improvement by all stakeholders in the catchment. Of relevance for this Strategy are actions to:

  • Develop and implement an integrated community education and awareness program.
  • Provide extension services to landholders.
  • Implement wetland protection and rehabilitation projects.
  • Improve sharing of natural resource information between agencies, local government and the community.
  • Facilitate Ramsar nomination for 3 priority wetlands in the lower Hunter.

Hexham Swamp Rehabilitation Project Management Plan

The Hexham Swamp Rehabilitation Project Management Plan has been developed to meet ecological, economic and social objectives. Of relevance to this Strategy are objectives for community education and capacity building. The proximity of Hexham Swamp to TWC and the interest in a future Ramsar listing for Hexham are also significant.

Ironbark and Throsby Creek TCM Communication Strategy

Hunter Catchment Management Trust facilitates a Combined Community Education Task Group for Throsby and Ironbark Creek Total Catchment Management Committees. The Task Group commissioned SD Environmental Management to develop a Communication Strategy for the two catchments. It aims:

To increase appreciation of the multiple values of the Throsby and Ironbark Creek catchments and promote positive changes in attitudes and behaviour, through a variety of innovative educational and communications approaches delivered via partnerships with government and community organisations."

The Communications Strategy guides the actions of the Combined Community Education Task Group, and provides linkages for government and community partnerships.

Appendix 3: Existing Resources

Overview of Communication Stategies

Target Group

Strategies and Status

Environmental Professionals

  • Host an annual wetlands forum.
  • Develop and support a regional Ramsar email network.Underway
  • Develop and promote a network of wetland outreach officers. Underway
  • Promote a Ramsar advisory and referral service. Underway
  • Promote Global Ramsar e-mail networks and web. Needs promotion
  • Host workshops and presentations. Underway
  • Present at regional, state and national conferences.
  • Promote LHCCREMS Biodiversity Resource Kit.
  • Host annual corporate function. Held in 2002
  • Promote NGO Focal Point for Ramsar. Underway
  • Promote TWC library and literature review service. Underway
  • Promote TWC web site.Needs overhaul

Rural landowners

  • Provide presentations for Landcare Groups. Underway
  • Coordinate field trips.
  • Tour a display.Underway
  • Hold Wetlands Rambles at Tocal Field Days. Underway
  • Distribute wetland gimmicks.
  • Distribute books and information kits. Underway
  • Promote a wetlands advisory and referral service. Underway
  • Promote and sell wetland plants.
  • Circulate a newsletter and local media stories.
  • Promote visits to TWC. Underway
  • Distribute information kits and fact sheets via Landcare Resource Officers.
  • Promote TWC's library. Underway
  • Promote TWC's web site. Needs overhaul
  • Promote short courses.

Urban Households

  • Promote Ramsar brochures and information kits. Complete
  • Host events at TWC. Underway
  • Participate in local community events.
  • Improve interpretive displays and signage at TWC. Improve
  • Host wetland field trips. 1st on WWD 2002
  • Develop a training manual for volunteer guides.
  • Deliver training workshops for volunteer guides. Underway
  • Develop Wetlands Ambassadors program.
  • Promote TWC activity program. Underway
  • Promote youth education activities. Underway
  • Hold free activities on World Wetlands Day. Underway
  • Promote membership of TWC.Underway
  • Distribute Bi-annual newsletter (the Wetlander).Underway
  • Promote Community arts projects at TWC. Underway
  • Circulate newsletter and media stories. Underway
  • Promote Newcastle Nature Watch. Underway
  • Develop and promote Kushiro - Hunter photographic display. Underway
  • Develop book of photographs.
  • Improve KWRP interpretive signage.
  • Distribute briefing notes to KWRP educators.

Environmental Activists

  • Develop and support a Ramsar email network. Underway
  • Distribute Ramsar brochures and info packs. Underway
  • Host guest speaker presentations.
  • Write and distribute newsletter stories.
  • Host and annual seminar. 1st WWD 2002
  • Promote TWC's library. Underway
  • Promote TWC's web site. Needs overhaul

School students

  • Improve TWC's displays and signage. Improve
  • Support annual Planet Savers event. Underway
  • Extend Migratory Shorebirds program. Underway
  • Develop resources and briefings for Tocal.

Tertiary students

  • Supervise projects. Underway
  • Promote library service. Underway
  • Promote web site. Needs Overhaul

Wetland Education Centres


  • Establish Wetlands Link International - Australia. Underway
  • Host forum of WEC's. July 2002
  • Develop and distribute National brochure of WEC's.
  • Host annual combined event for WWD.
  • Promote staff exchanges.
  • Develop and support Sister Centre Schemes.


  • Circulate briefings, releases, adverts, supplements. Underway

Hunter Ramsar
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