Community conservation in the upstream catchment of the Hunter Estuary Ramsar Site

Ms Louise Duff1

1Conservation Volunteers Australia, Torrensville, Australia


Newcastle Wetland Connections was a 4-year project to improve biodiversity and water quality in the upstream catchment of the Hunter Estuary Wetlands Ramsar site. The project restored 14 riparian and wetland sites across 93 hectares, addressing weeds, erosion, sedimentation, pollution and habitat loss.

WetlandCare Australia and Conservation Volunteers Australia worked in partnership with land managers, Indigenous people, community groups & education institutions to ensure the project was embedded in the local community and outcomes could be sustained.

While on-ground work was the focus of the project, the team ran a Community Engagement program to build the understanding, skills and commitment needed to sustain outcomes over the long-term. Building the capacity of Indigenous Australians to manage natural resources was addressed through traineeships, employment, workshops and cultural events.

The project hosted 47 community events over the four-year period, engaging 1,966 participants. Many people made an ongoing commitment to the project, with 835 people returning to more than one activity. Fifteen Indigenous Australians were employed or sub-contracted, and 181 Indigenous people participated in cultural and training events.

Target groups engaged included land management agencies, the University, primary schools, tertiary students, neighbours, community volunteers, the Landcare network and Aboriginal Land Councils.

This presentation will cover the governance structure that was used to involve stakeholders and land managers from start to finish. It will present the program of community and Indigenous activities held, the evaluation method and results. Conservation Volunteers Australia is seeking to replicate the project model at other locations through its Revive Our Wetlands program.


Louise Duff has been working to engage communities in nature conservation since 1988. She is passionate about wetland and shorebird conservation under the framework of the Ramsar Convention. Louise is the Program Manager, Wetlands Catchments Coasts with Conservation Volunteers Australia, as well as Secretary of the Australian Wetland Network and Chair of the World Wetland Network. She is a plant nerd increasingly addicted to bird watching.