Beyond the Night Sky? Climate Change Communication In a Queensland Coastal Town

Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton1, Ms Anne Leitch1

1Griffith Centre For Social And Cultural Research, Griffith University, Australia, Bogangar, Australia


Our paper presents preliminary results of a targeted project that examined climate change communication and community engagement initiatives in a Queensland coastal community. Our case study for this work is drawn from projects funded under the Queensland Coastal Hazards Adaptation Program (QCoast2100). This program acknowledges the critical role of local governments and their efforts to engage communities in climate change adaptation, specifically related to coastal hazards such as rising seas and warming ocean temperatures.

Local governments have identified that one of their main challenges in planning for climate change is having the appropriate knowledge and processes to engage their community. In response to this need, our research focusses on one local council, seeking a deep engagement with those primarily responsible for the delivery of climate change communication in communities.  Key questions relating to the rationale and assumptions of those at the shoreline of climate change policy and implementation are a necessary starting point for developing effective and efficient community engagement strategies.

A series of in depth interviews, alongside critical discourse analysis of policy and engagement efforts illuminates the potential strengths and challenges of community engagement, communication and climate change in a local context.   We conclude with suggestions about the ways in which local governments might move ‘beyond the night sky’ and a focus on the usual ‘stars’ of engagement efforts to better engage with the vast ‘dark matter’ that is the everyday experience of people and the places they live.


Anne Leitch is an Adjunct Member of the Griffith Centre for Social And Cultural Research. She recently completed her term as Communications Officer for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility based at Griffith University and has extensive experience in community engagement initiatives.

Communicating the Coast: Thoughts from Communication, Media and Journalism

Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton, Professor  Libby  Lester, Dr Claire Konkes

1Griffith Centre For Social And Cultural Research, Griffith University, Australia, Bogangar, Australia


The coast is many things, an eco-system, a holiday destination, an economic resource, a memory, a history, a policy, a plan and so on.  Common to all these, and every idea and articulation of the coast, is communication. From newspapers, radio and television to Facebook feeds and Instagram posts; via policy documents and gatherings in community halls; on a beach somewhere and at your local Nippers carnival; and throughout these Coast to Coast conferences, the coast is being communicated in ways that signal much more than a simple ‘message’.

This panel challenges conference attendees to think deeply about the diverse and complex ways in which the coast is communicated in our private lives and in public domains. Panellists will begin to chart the ways in which communication performs a critical role in expert and everyday understandings of the Australian coast and coasts everywhere.

Drawing on recent empirical data, the panellists will speak to their work on the Australian coast and other environments. The discussion will canvass both theoretical and practical possibilities, drawing on a range of recent coastal conflicts to highlight challenges to, and opportunities for the communication of Australian coasts.  As environmental communication scholars, the panellists will open a new dialogue, centred on the role of journalism, media and communication, with those in active and authoritative positions at the fore of coastal sciences, planning and policy, advocacy and care.


Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton – Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University

Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton’s research focus is the communication of coastal and marine environments. Her work on Coastcare and broadly communication in coastal and marine management has centred on the development of the best methods to meaningfully engage communities in their local environmental futures.  In 2017, her book Environmental Communication and Critical Coastal Policy: Communities, Culture and Nature reported on her forays into Australian communities and contemporary environmental issues and disputes. The role of media in climate change communication and in environmental issues more broadly is a core research theme.  Her recently co-authored book Journalism and Climate Crisis: Public Engagement, Media Alternatives (2017 with Hackett, Forde and Gunster) explores possibilities for journalism and the news media to better communicate escalating environmental threats. Recent work is exploring various aspects of the communication the Great Barrier Reef, including its communication by Australian news media.

For over a decade, Foxwell-Norton investigated Australia’s community media sector as a senior researcher on two national Australian Research Council – Linkage Projects traversing urban, regional, remote, Indigenous and ethnic communities – and their experience of local media. She has also worked as a consultant, primarily in Queensland’s Gulf Communities on community and social development programs.  Alongside these roles, she is a lead investigator on an Australian Research Council – Linkage project that is collecting the stories of the Queensland land rights movement and broader political struggle.

Professor Libby Lester – Journalism, Media and Communications, University of Tasmania

Libby Lester is Professor of Journalism, Media and Communications, and Academic Director, Research for the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania. She has authored, co-authored and co-edited six books, including Leadership and the Construction of Environmental Concerns (forthcoming, Palgrave Macmillan), Environmental Pollution and the Media: Political Discourses of Risk and Responsibility in Australia, China and Japan (Routledge 2017), Media and Environment: Conflict, Politics and the News (Polity 2010; Arabic ed 2013) and Transnational Protests and the Media (co-edited with Simon Cottle). She has been awarded three Australian Research Council discovery grants (‘Transnational Environmental Campaigns in the Australia-Asian Region’, ‘Leadership and the Construction of Environmental Concern in Australia’ and ‘Changing Landscapes: Online Media and Politics in an Age of Environmental Conflict’), and is Australian leader of the EU-Australia funded exchange and research program, ‘Europe and Australia in the World: Reporting Political, Social and Environmental Change.’

Her research has appeared in leading international journals, including Media, Culture & Society, International Communication Gazette, Journalism, Forestry, International Journal of Communication, Environmental Policy and Governance, and International Journal of Press/Politics. She has been a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. Her current research program is focussed on trade, resource extraction and supply, and environmental communications.

Dr Claire Konkes – Journalism, Media and Communications, University of Tasmania

Dr Claire Konkes lectures in Journalism, Media and Communications at the University of Tasmania and is the program’s News and Journalism stream coordinator. Her research interests include news media’s contribution to public debate and governance, especially in environmental matters, and the relationship between contemporary journalistic practice and representations of crime, controversy and conspiracy. She is an affiliated researcher with the Institute for the Study of Social Change (ISC) at the University of Tasmania and her recent projects have looked at Australian media representations of environmental public interest litigation and media representations of Australian environmental policy in relation to the Great Barrier Reef.

Before coming to UTAS, Claire worked as a newspaper reporter for The Australian and The Mercury and others, and she continues to work with the media industry at local and national level and is a contributor to The Monthly.

State and Benefit: Emerging Trends in Environmental Reporting

Dr Scott Rawlings1

1Office Of The Commissioner For Environmental Sustainability, Melbourne, Australia


State and benefit: emerging trends in environmental reporting

The Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability (Victoria) provides independent advice and reports on the state of the natural environment to inform environmental policy and practice in Victoria.

This paper provides not only a historical perspective on the progress of environmental reporting in Victoria from conventional DPSIR reporting to a more sophisticated MLE approach which embraces different ways of “knowing” and different models for accessing our information on the environment. It also places Victoria in the broader context of international environmental reporting trends and demonstrates that a key strategy of environmental reporting should be negotiating the important shift from what we do know, to what we need to know.

The Commissioner’s State and Benefit framework was tabled in the Victorian Parliament in December 2015. The Framework authorises the reform of environmental reporting in Victoria and advocates for:

  • digital technologies
  • citizen science
  • environmental-economic accounts
  • the alignment of statutory environmental reporting obligations
  • a broadening of indicators beyond the biophysical to align with the reporting requirements of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and
  • a shift towards management effectiveness reporting.

The State of the Bays 2016 was the first report produced under the Framework. Released in multiple formats in December 2016 – both conventional and digital – the reporting products enabled accessibility for a much broader audience than ever before. Action on the recommendations from this report is already underway within government.


Dr Scott Rawlings is the Head of Science and Research for the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Victoria. He has worked for the Office since 2010.

Previously, Scott had worked in numerous roles across the environment portfolio including greenhouse policy, indigenous policy, and natural resource management. Scott managed the Land & Biodiversity White Paper implementation and research and development for the former Department of Sustainability and Environment – focussing on procurement, partnerships, knowledge exchange and the research-policy interface. Scott has a PhD in environmental studies.

Re-designing communications in coastal management – an innovative new approach using Tweed Sand Bypassing as a case study

Ms Catherine Kerr1

1Nsw Department Of Industry, Ballina, Australia


Tweed Sand Bypassing is a long term coastal management solution located on the border of NSW and Queensland. The two objectives of the Project are to restore and maintain the natural coastal sand drift to the southern Gold Coast beaches; and to establish and maintain a safe, navigable entrance to the Tweed River.

The Project has been in operation for almost 15 years and during this time has implemented a wide range of communication strategies to inform and educate the various stakeholder groups about the work that the Project does. To determine how effective implemented strategies had been, a community consultation and engagement assessment was carried out. The results found that while basic communication and information exchange has worked – engagement and trust building hasn’t. This result was clearly evident through the ongoing confusion, mistrust and misinterpretation about the Project’s impact, management and main responsibilities among stakeholder communities.

An innovative communications strategy was developed with the overall vision of recognising and supporting the ongoing operation of the Project, promoting the Tweed Sand Bypassing identity and targeting a younger demographic. Several marketing techniques were used to re-brand the Project. These involved creating a visual identity, a promotional magazine, Instagram account, smart phone application, and a booth at the 2017 Quiksilver Pro. This paper presents a case study of how contemporary marketing and promotional techniques can be successfully applied to the field of coastal management to educate, change perceptions and promote the integral environmental management work of the public sector.


Catherine Kerr is a coastal management specialist who works in the fields of coastal management, climate change adaptation and science communication. She is passionate about geographic education in Australia and is a qualified high school teacher.

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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