Engaging stakeholders in coastal governance: lessons learned from Australian marine migratory species

Dr Rachel Miller1, Emeritus Professor Helene Marsh1, Dr Claudia Benham1, Associate Professor Mark  Hamann1

1James Cook University, Townsville, Australia


Meaningful stakeholder engagement is important to collaborative decision-making and to effective governance, particularly when managing cross-scale environmental issues, such as those affecting Australia’s coast. Coastal governance in Australia is encompassed by multiple levels of government (e.g. local, state, and Commonwealth governments), and involves several different stakeholders, including community groups, researchers, and government stakeholders. However, coastal governance in Australia is still highly centralised and non-government stakeholders may not be appropriately engaged in decision-making. We used semi-structured interviews and a focus group to highlight the barriers to, and opportunities for, stakeholder involvement in managing an issue that spans multiple jurisdictions, using marine migratory species in eastern Australia as a case study. Respondents identified several barriers to, and opportunities for, improved stakeholder involvement in the governance of threats to marine migratory species, corresponding to four main themes: decision-making processes, information sharing, institutional structures, and participation processes. Our findings are not unique to engaging stakeholders in the governance of threats to marine migratory species and indicate that governance in Australia would benefit from the introduction of new information pathways, reformed institutional structures (including environmental legislation), and improved participatory pathways for non-government stakeholders. Such changes could help increase stakeholder engagement in coastal governance, leading to more effective and equitable conservation along Australia’s coasts.


Dr. Rachel Miller recently completed a PhD at James Cook University focused on stakeholder engagement in the governance of threats to marine migratory species. Prior to her PhD, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Cape Eleuthera Insitute in The Bahamas and conducted sea turtle nesting work in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Costa Rica. She is originally from the USA.