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Monthly Meeting - Belief, Belonging, Behaviour: Foundations for an Australian River Restoration Centre

By Dr Siwan Lovett
Australia is a continent of incredible diversity, with rainforests, deserts, tropical savannahs and mountain ranges. This diversity is reflected in the many different types of rivers, streams and creeks that are the lifeblood of a dry and thirsty continent. Currently, however, we know that only about one third of Australia’s river systems remain in first-rate condition, another third show clear signs of degradation and, the remainder are already in poor condition and getting worse. Without water and the river systems that sustain its quality, our rural, urban and unique ecological communities cannot survive.

Date: 8 June 2010
Time: 5.30-7.00pm
Venue: National Archives of Australia
Cost: gold coin donation

Many agencies, groups and individuals are keen to get involved and help improve the health of our river systems, but are unsure about priorities for action, the works needed, or how to ensure funds are spent to best effect. It is within this context, that this paper discusses the establishment of an Australian River Restoration Centre (ARRC), as a way of helping communities overcome the uncertainty that characterises river restoration, and to provide people with access to information, knowledge and opportunities for interaction.

The presentation will discuss why the ARRC is founded on the belief that people are valuable natural assets who need to be provided with opportunities to share their knowledge and passion about river restoration. As a result of this believe, those who work in the ARRC are keen to provide people with access to resources, information, stories, workshops and conferences that combine to develop a sense of belonging for those people who care about Australia’s rivers. When people feel they belong to a group they are more likely to feel motivated, valued and able to keep doing what is often unrewarding work.

The concept of knowledge will also be discussed, particularly as the ARRC places a high value on experiential knowledge. The way we tend to describe our rivers is often defined in prescriptive, ‘rational’ ways, yet when it comes to making decisions, we know that people use emotion to guide their behaviour. The ARRC values and celebrates emotion as a vital part of inspiring, connecting and celebrating our river restoration efforts, as it is local communities who are relied upon to undertake river restoration projects, often voluntarily, as the scale and vastness of the country cannot be covered by government agencies alone.

The presentation will conclude with an overview of progress to date in setting up the ARRC, plans for the future, and an invitation for those present to contribute their ideas, experience and inspiration in how to make the ARRC bridge the gap between aspiration and practice in river restoration.

Biography: Dr Siwan Lovett

Director, Australian River Restoration Centre

Siwan enjoys working with people and the environment in which they live, and for the past twelve years has focused her energies on understanding rivers, landscapes and the people that live and work in them. Siwan’s work over the years she has been a part of the natural resources management community in Australia, highlights the importance of considering social and institutional factors alongside biophysical goals for landscape restoration. In 2008 Siwan won a Winston Churchill Fellowship that enabled her to study European River Restoration Centres with a view to assessing the feasibility of setting up such a Centre in Australia. Siwan has now established the Australian River Restoration Centre and is working with like-minded individuals such as Nerida Hart and Bruce Boyes to put ideas into action.

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