The Convention’s Outreach Programme


Australia's National CEPA Action Plan

australia.gif (2553 bytes)From the country that designated the first Ramsar site (Cobourg Peninsula, in 1974), we have the first Ramsar CEPA National Action Plan. Australia officially launched its National Action Plan 2001 - 2005 on World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2001. With the pemission of Environment Australia, we are reproducing the text of their Action Plan here. You can download the original version from their Web site as a Word document or as a PDF file.  Both of these versions are MUCH prettier than the basic text version reproduced here!

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Communication, Education and Public Awareness to Promote Wise Use of Australia's Wetlands

National Action Plan 2001-2005
The first step


The significant role played by the following organisations in developing this first step towards a national coordinated approach to wetland communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) in Australia is acknowledged:


For further information about wetland CEPA activities in Australia contact
the National Focal Point for Wetland CEPA (Government), Wetlands Section, Environment Australia

Table of contents

Message from the Minister

Why do we need an action plan?

Who developed the Plan? Who is it for?

Where are we now?

Guiding principles

What do we need to achieve? What actions are needed?

A national focus....
A network.....
Guidelines and tools.....

Some terms and references

Appendix 1 Members of the wetland CEPA Task Force

Appendix 2 The Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth of Australia

Appendix 3 The Convention's Outreach Programme - 1999-2002

Message from the Minister

Appreciating and understanding our wetlands and their value is fundamental to our well being as well as to that of the many other species that depend on them. Wetlands are rich in biodiversity and are a home to a multitude of wildlife. They store, regulate and improve water quality. They protect shorelines, mitigate against flooding and control erosion and perform vital functions such as water purification, nutrient retention, and groundwater recharge. They are a source of tourism, recreation and transport activities. In short, they are part of our heritage, and enhance the quality of our lives and spirit.

We need to make sure that wetlands values are understood by everyone to ensure their continued protection. Effective communication, education and public awareness are essential, if we are to leave to future generations a solid legacy of viable, functioning wetland systems. Without the necessary knowledge to help us achieve this, we will not be able to protect our wetland heritage and we cannot encourage others to do so.

We need to capitalise on the growing appreciation of the functions that wetlands play and the value that they add to our well being. We need to encourage greater partnerships between the community, industry, conservation groups and governments in the conservation and protection of wetlands and their resources. We need to make the Ramsar Convention’s principle of ‘wise use’ the way we naturally view and utilise our wetlands.

Australia has a good track record in wetland education through the work that has been done by active and innovative non-government organisations and through programs such as the Waterwatch and National Wetlands Programs funded under the Government’s Natural Heritage Trust Program. These efforts will now be strengthened and enhanced through this Wetland Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) National Action Plan.

The Plan will bring together all levels of government, statutory authorities, community groups, industry and conservation groups to develop and implement wetland education across Australia. I congratulate the efforts of the CEPA Task Force that has devoted its efforts to assembling Australia’s National Action Plan which will provide a quality blueprint for wetland education in this country.

Robert Hill, 30 January 2001

Why do we need an action plan?

The Wetland Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) National Action Plan is to promote wetland education and communication by forging strong partnerships and facilitating information exchange, between and among groups involved.

The role of this CEPA Plan is to provide a framework for the effective and collaborative delivery of wetland CEPA activities across Australia. The Plan will enable mechanisms for sharing knowledge, suggest schemes for building capacity, present goals, provide links between and among people doing similar work and build links between national and international networks.

Its principal aim is to coordinate a collaborative approach to wetland education across Australia. All people who are involved in wetland management and research have a role to play in communication and education for the conservation of wetlands in Australia. To this end, the Plan outlines actions to promote coordinated communication and education between all levels of government, statutory authorities, community groups, non-government and business organisations involved in wetland and wetland-related management throughout Australia.

The CEPA Plan will advance aspects of the Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth Government of Australia (1997), which has as its goal to conserve, repair and manage wetlands wisely (see Appendix 1). A number of States and Territories have also adopted wetland policies consistent with this goal.

The Wetlands Policy recognises that successful implementation of the Policy is reliant upon the development of a cooperative partnership between all spheres of government, community groups, landholders, the business sector and other Australian people. Communication networks and education are fundamental to achieve this goal.

Communication and education will provide the basis for continued responsiveness to major wetland and wetland-related issues, monitoring and evaluation of actions, and coordination and efficiency of effort. In this regard, the CEPA Plan is a starting point.

The CEPA Plan will ensure that the actions of all groups (government and non-government) involved in wetland CEPA are consistent with Australia's commitment to the Ramsar Convention's Outreach Programme 1999-2002 which aims ‘to increase the knowledge and understanding of wetland values and benefits and so develop action towards the conservation and sustainable management of wetland resources’ (see Appendix 2 for details of the Convention’s Outreach Programme).

It is intended that this framework of action will facilitate the implementation of the Ramsar Convention’s Outreach Programme 1999-2002 at national, state and local levels in Australia over the next five years. It will encourage coordinated actions, generate strength in unity, avoid duplication of effort and maximise benefits of actions.

By providing direction for Wetland CEPA activities, the CEPA Plan contributes to the efforts made by government and non-government organisations to support the broad aims of the Ramsar Convention to halt worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve, through wise use and management, those that remain.


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This CEPA Plan has been developed by a Task Force comprising government and non-government agencies and organisations with an interest in wetlands (see Appendix 1). Members of the wetland CEPA Task Force include representatives from: government (Environment Australia); a statutory authority (Murray-Darling Basin Commission) and a representative from The Wetlands Centre, Wetland Care Australia, Wetlands International and World Wildlife Fund for Nature) and the Australian Wetlands Alliance (AWA). The AWA is a peak wetlands body and represents over forty local, regional, national and international environmental groups with an interest in wetlands.

It is recognised that this wetland CEPA Task Force does not purport to represent all stakeholders and further developments of the CEPA Plan will ensure representative membership.

This CEPA Plan does not intend to be prescriptive or comprehensive. The CEPA Plan is to be accessible and useful to organisations and agencies who are involved, or who may be involved in CEPA activities. Therefore, the audience for this CEPA Plan is CEPA deliverers.

It provides a framework to assist agencies, organisations and community groups as they develop and implement action plans to suit their community needs and situations.

The wetland CEPA Task Force has focussed on providing a platform for users of this Plan to develop communication and education processes in a variety of formats for networks of agencies and organisations involved in wetland management. This includes supporting CEPA activities for the public, providing frameworks and guidelines, and linking organisations and individuals in ways that foster sharing of information, exchange of ideas, collaboration and capacity building.


The development of this CEPA Plan recognises the enormous effort that State agencies, non-government organisations and community groups have already invested in wetland communication, education and public awareness activities in Australia. The CEPA Plan acknowledges historic and existing administrative arrangements, programs, initiatives and efforts that support wetland CEPA. The CEPA Plan will build on these experiences, without impeding their continued development, to build a national focus for wetland education and management.

All Australian State and Territory governments have been involved in and have made a commitment to the conservation, repair and preservation of wetland through policy directions and wise use management principles of wetlands. State governments have supported innovative wetland education initiatives such as Frogwatch and Saltwatch, and provide ongoing wetland education services through publications, teaching materials and on-site interpretation.

The Commonwealth’s National Wetlands Program and Natural Heritage Trust, coordinated in partnership with State governments, have played an important role in providing a national response to wetland issues and encouragement for on-ground wetland activities. Waterwatch is a national education initiative that specifically focuses the community on catchment issues and the important role if wetlands in aquatic ecosystems.

Non-government organisations have also contributed significantly to the education of the broader community about wetlands through publications, web sites and teaching resources. The Australian Gould League has a long history of developing excellent teaching materials about wetlands for primary and lower secondary and a number of important wetland centres, for example the Wetlands Centre at Shortlands, provide an important education service both regionally and wider. Furthermore, hundreds of local community groups including field naturalist and landcare groups have supported wetland education and conservation through on-ground activities and management.

The CEPA Plan will harness this wealth of experience and expertise, facilitate an exchange of information and ideas and provide a framework for all Australians to communicate about wetlands conservation and wise use.


In pursuing the objectives of this CEPA Plan the following principles have been adopted.

 The CEPA Plan will recognise education in its broadest sense. This could include: involving people in wetland research; conducting debates on topical wetland issues; experiential activities; theatre productions and other artistic activities.

 Motivating and empowering people is implicit in all CEPA initiatives.

 All people (managers, policy-makers, researchers etc.) have a responsibility to educate.

 It is acknowledged that wetland education is a shared responsibility and decision-making and actions are to be undertaken in an atmosphere of inclusiveness and through partnerships.

 Decision-making about specific actions must involve major input from the group, sector or organisation where the impact of that decision-making is most felt.

 Actions will be appropriate to community needs and situations.

 The dissemination of research and the involvement of wetland managers in wetland research are important to the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of wetlands.

 Indigenous people’s knowledge and practices in relation to wetlands is supported and respected

 The existing structures of agencies, organisations, educational institutions and community groups and their expertise will form the basis for building an effective network.

 Systems of communication, negotiation and coordinated decision-making, which can be sustained for the long-term, are crucial to the promotion of practical, efficient and effective actions.

 Social justice, equity and democratic processes and principles are fundamental to the development of, and the process of developing, actions.

 The Plan will evolve in response to monitoring, evaluation and emerging issues.

 The basis of all actions must be in terms of environmental benefits.


The development and implementation of the CEPA Plan aims to support cooperative networks, systems and actions that help CEPA deliverers. The CEPA Plan will achieve this through the following objectives:

To provide a national focus

Developing a coordinated national focus will establish a mandate for wetland education in Australia and build a framework for delivery that supports all people involved in wetland education activities.

To develop networks

Through sharing knowledge and experience and developing relationships, which foster effective communication, education and public awareness, the network will build the capacity of the Australian community to conserve, repair and use wetlands wisely.

To develop guidelines and tools

Through the provision of appropriate guidelines and tools, CEPA deliverers across Australia will deliver activities and develop initiatives that motivate and empower the community to engage in wetland conservation and wise use.

A national focus.....

What do we need to achieve? What are the actions needed?
A National Wetland CEPA Plan 1. Prepare and publish a Wetland CEPA National Action Plan as a starting point for the further development and implementation of wetland education across Australia
2. Prepare and publish a short, user-friendly version of the wetland CEPA Plan to promote further involvement
3 Identify key organisations and interest groups to be involved in the further development of wetland education across Australia and facilitate their involvement
4. Implement actions in the CEPA Plan as a priority
National government and non-government focal points 1. Identify national government and non-government focal points
2. Notify Ramsar Bureau of names of focal points
An effective, representative wetland CEPA Task Force implementing the Wetland CEPA National Action Plan 1. Environment Australia to convene and administer the wetland CEPA Task Force for 5 years
2. Develop terms of reference for the wetland CEPA Task Force, a review process to evaluate and criteria to ensure representative membership
3. Identify priority actions of the CEPA Plan for 2001-2002 and implement these
Comprehensive understanding of current wetland CEPA activities across Australia 1. Explore means of reviewing current wetland CEPA activities including: centres; programs; and resources
2. Build on the results of the ‘Survey of Capabilities, Opportunities and Needs for CEPA Relating to Wetlands in Australia’ by extending the survey across a larger audience by posting on the web site and through direct mail to specific individuals and groups
3. Analyse the initial survey results and subsequent survey results? evaluating and reworking the initial survey form
4. Providing feedback to the survey participants
5. Ensure that information collected contributes to the further development of the CEPA Plan
An inventory of wetland CEPA resources and institutional arrangements 1. Publish a list of Wetland Centres and the programs they offer
2. Publish a list contact details of agencies and organisations who currently deliver wetland CEPA programs
3. Publish a list of CEPA kits, videos, books, pamphlets, CD-ROMS, excursion venues that are relevant to wetland CEPA for primary and secondary schools and the public. (This could be modelled on the "Catalogue of Education Resources for Waterwatch" - see National Waterwatch website: http:/
4. Ensure that the inventory is accessible to all CEPA deliverers
Understanding wetland CEPA gaps and opportunities 1. Identify gaps in and opportunities for wetland CEPA including other environment CEPA
A review process in place that allows for the Plan to evolve in response to the CEPA wetland needs of Australia 1. Explore mechanisms and processes for reviewing the Plan and the Plan’s initiatives
2. Monitor and respond to the wetland CEPA needs as identified by survey and other mechanisms
3. Review the Plan in 2002 & 2005
Monitor CEPA Plan developments and develop a process to refine the CEPA Plan 1. Develop monitoring processes for each action in terms of: action development; action output; levels of involvement; and the Guiding Principles

A network....

What do we need to achieve? What are the actions needed?
A national network of agencies, organisations, and groups who are communicating about their wetlands-related activities to all relevant people 1. Identify and consult with existing and potential Wetland CEPA deliverers to further develop Wetland CEPA in Australia
2. Explore most appropriate means to engage potential partners to join the network on a sustainable basis
3. Identify existing and potential communication linkages between and among these deliverers
4. Investigate mechanisms for supporting ongoing communication between the Wetland CEPA deliverers
5. Facilitate wetland research community to engage in CEPA activities
Key delivery partners engaged in collaborative CEPA activities and initiative 1. Support ongoing collaborative initiatives through organisational and administrative arrangements
Effective two-way communication between the information-gatherers and wetland decision-makers to ensure that research and information is directed and relevant 1. Investigate mechanisms for establishing two-way communication
Ensure that the interests of Indigenous people are represented in wetland CEPA 1. Investigate appropriate processes for involving Indigenous people in the communication network in a meaningful way
2. Assist in making the broader community aware of the key role Indigenous people can play in wetland management and the role they can play in wetland CEPA
3. Investigate means of supporting CEPA deliverers to represent interests of Indigenous people in the development of their initiatives and activities (e.g. a series of discussion papers)
Ensure ‘traditional ecological knowledge’ is afforded the same status as other forms of knowledge 1. Educate about the importance and significance of ‘traditional ecological knowledge’

Guidelines and tools....

What do we need to achieve? What are the actions needed?
Effective communication mechanisms to ensure information flow about wetlands and education that are inclusive and for the benefit of all key CEPA deliverers Web sites

1. Explore and evaluate the options for best possible delivery of information through the world wide web

2. Identify the best arrangement for the management of a national web site that can operate as a clearing-house, promotional tool and communication centre on behalf of the wetland community across Australia

1. Explore and evaluate the options for best possible delivery of information through publications

2. Identify the best arrangement for the publishing of a national publication on behalf of the wetland community across Australia. This should involve reviewing existing arrangements i.e. Wetlands Australia, Wetlands Link Bulletin etc
3. Publish brochures and fact sheets that deal with national issues about wetlands eg Ramsar
Workshops, meetings and conferences

1. Explore and evaluate the options for best possible delivery of information through hosting workshops, meetings and conferences

2. Facilitate a national wetlands conference on a regular basis
A profile for wetland education in Australia that provides strong messages, is imbued with meaning, stimulates an ‘image’, is embraced by the network and engages the community. 1. Develop a slogan promoting r wetlands conservation and wise use
2. Develop and promote a set of national messages about wetlands
3. Produce materials to promote the slogan and other national messages
4. Coordinate Australia’s involvement in the World Wetlands Day Campaign on an annual basis involving the whole network
CEPA deliverers are using ‘best’ practice models and techniques 1. Develop a criteria for determining effective and appropriate CEPA activities and initiatives at national, regional and local levels
2. Wherever possible build on and support existing ‘good’ CEPA practice
3. Identify examples or models of effective and appropriate CEPA activities and initiatives in Australia and internationally
4. Prepare guidelines for the development of CEPA activities at national, regional and local levels
5. Prepare guidelines for local community groups to develop their own action plans
6. Provide access to professional development relevant to the planning and delivery of CEPA activities
7. Provide tools to enable people to evaluate their CEPA activities (How can deliverers of wetland CEPA activities assess the effectiveness of their programs)
CEPA initiatives and strategies that motivate and empower people to become involved in wetland conservation 1. Prepare guidelines for the development of CEPA activities at national, regional and local levels that identify strategies for motivation and empowerment
Relevant, current research findings, management practices and other information, in a form accessible to other people, within the network 1. Identify sources of information
2. Investigate means of providing links to current and relevant research and information findings
3. Investigate means of transferring knowledge from researchers to wetland managers, communicators and the community
4. Develop and make accessible case studies of ‘best’ practice in wetlands management
5. Provide access to professional development relevant to the values, importance and management of wetlands
Agencies, organisations and groups with the capacity to prepare their own action plans, in line with the CEPA Plan 1. Identify and provide examples of ‘good’ plans
2. Prepare guidelines for developing action plans
Ensure wetlands education is delivered in the primary, secondary and tertiary education systems where appropriate 1. Establish effective linkages with the formal education sector
2. Develop appropriate curriculum material and opportunities to support classroom teachers and lecturers

Some terms and references

CEPA Communication, Education and Public Awareness. CEPA describes education and communication in its broadest sense. This could include involving people in wetland research and management, conducting debates on topical wetland issues, experiential activities, theatre productions and other artistic activities.
Environmental Education for a Sustainable Future – National Action Plan The Environmental Education for a Sustainable Future – National Action Plan was released by the Minister for Environment in July 2000 to address the current needs of environmental education in Australia. The Plan is available from Environment Australia.
Ramsar Ramsar refers to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. The Convention on Wetlands was established in the town of Ramsar in Iran in 1971 when eighteen countries became signatories. As of December 2000 there were 123 Contracting Parties to the Convention.
Ramsar Convention Outreach Programme The Programme was adopted by the 7th Conference of Parties in May 1999. The Ramsar Convention Outreach Programme determines actions to promote communication, education and public awareness to support implementation of the Convention of Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971). The Outreach Programme is at Appendix 3.
Task Force For a description of Wetland CEPA Task Force members, see Appendix 1.
Wetland CEPA National Action Plan (Referred to as the CEPA Plan and the National Action Plan)
Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth Government of Australia Through this policy, the Commonwealth aims to provide leadership in the conservation and wise use of wetlands in Australia. The Policy is available from Environment Australia. For further details see Appendix 2.
Wise use of wetlands The wise use of wetlands is a key concept of the Convention and is defined as the ‘sustainable utilisation for the benefit of humankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem’ (see Appendix 2).

Appendix 1 Members of the wetland CEPA Task Force

Angela Brady Australian Wetlands Alliance PO Box 292 WALLSEND NSW 2287
Tel: 02 4951 6466 Fax: 02 4950 1875
Kathy Eyles Environment Australia
Wetlands Section
Tel: 02 6274 2508
Fax: 02 6274 2735
Kate Gowland Environment Australia

Sustainable Water Section

Tel: 02 6274 2797
Fax: 02 6274 2735
Anne Jensen Wetland Care Australia PO Box 437
Tel: 08 0582 3677
Fax: 08 8582 5104
Paul Mitchell World Wide Fund for Nature PO Box 1268 DARWIN NT 0801
Tel: 08 8941 7554
Fax: 08 8941 6494
Lawrie Kirk Murray-Darling Basin Commission GPO Box 409 CANBERRA ACT 2601
Tel: 02 6279 0100
Fax: 02 6248 8053
Christine Prietto The Wetlands Centre PO Box 292 WALLSEND NSW 2287
Tel: 02 4955 8673
Fax: 02 4950 0497
Doug Watkins Wetlands International GPO Box787 CANBERRA ACT 2601
Tel: 02 6274 2
Fax: 02 6274 2735

Appendix 2 The Wetlands Policy of the Commonwealth of Australia



Promote public awareness and understanding of the wetland resource in Australia and actively encourage participation of the community, including Indigenous Australians, other private landholders, the business sector and non-government organisations in achieving the goal of this Policy.

3.1 Working towards greater community awareness and understanding of wetland values

    • Develop and implement a targeted national community awareness and education program about wetlands, their values and management models.
    • Encourage the establishment of educational and interpretive facilities at wetlands around Australia.
    • Support and develop initiatives that educate wetland managers about the principles of integrated environmental and natural resource management and thereby promote the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development.
    • In cooperation with Indigenous people, develop educational materials, which will assist their management of impacts on wetlands that have been introduced by other cultures.
    • Support activities, such as those of the Waterwatch Australia Program, which promote the concepts of integrated catchment management and creation of empathy between rural and urban dwelling Australians in water and land management.

3.2 Empowering the community to take responsibility for using wetlands wisely

    • Ensure the relevant Commonwealth programs offer opportunities, through appropriate mechanisms, for the participation of the community and local and indigenous groups in wetland conservation, rehabilitation and management projects.
    • Facilitate the exchange of management-related information and data between on-ground wetland managers in the private sector and government agencies and departments. Encourage the use of this information and data in the development and implementation of integrated regional plans.
    • Encourage the adoption of management practices that use and demonstrate the traditional wetland management knowledge of Indigenous Australians and consider measures to encourage the equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilisation of such knowledge.
    • Assist and support, as resources allow, private landholders and other community members to gain access to training in wetlands conservation and management within a broader context of environmental and natural resource management.
    • Invite the active participation of appropriate stakeholder representatives on the advisory, assessment and other committees of relevant Commonwealth programs.

3.3 Supporting mechanisms to encourage wetland conservation and wise use

    • Document and promote a range of economic, voluntary, educational and other measures to encourage wetland conservation activities by the private sector.
    • Undertake a broader review of economic policy instruments for biodiversity conservation outside protected areas to ensure that, where feasible and where consistent with national taxation and fiscal policy, there are incentives and, conversely, no disincentives for wetland conservation activities by private landowners.
    • Document the economic importance of the Australian commercial and recreational fishing industries and their reliance on wetland habitats and establish a range of measures for the protection, rehabilitation and restoration of these areas.

The Ramsar Convention’s Wise Use Guidelines

Article 3.1 of the Ramsar Convention states that the Contracting Parties 'shall formulate and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of the wetlands included in the List, and as far as possible the wise use of wetlands in their territory'.

The Third Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties in Regina, Canada from 27 May to 5 June 1987, adopted the following definition of wise use of wetlands:

The wise use of wetlands is their sustainable utilisation for the benefit of humankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem.

From this definition the Conference of Contracting Parties developed guidelines (Recommendation C.4.10) and additional guidance (Resolution C.5.6) to assist member states with the implementation of the wise use concept. These are reproduced as Appendix E of this Policy.

The wise use provisions apply to all wetlands and their support systems within the territory of a Contracting Party, both those wetlands designated for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, and all other wetlands. The concept of wise use seeks both the formulation and implementation of general wetland policies, and wise use of specific wetlands. These activities are integral parts of ecologically sustainable development.

Appendix 3
The Convention's Outreach Programme -- 1999-2002
Actions to promote communication, education and public awareness to support implementation of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Return to the CEPA Programme index page

For further information about the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, please contact the Ramsar Convention Bureau, Rue Mauverney 28, CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland (tel +41 22 999 0170, fax +41 22 999 0169, e-mail Posted 16 April 2001, updated 24 September, Sandra Hails, Ramsar.

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