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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

Towards a National Extension Framework

Name of Leader:

Jeff Coutts

Names of Participants:

Christine King; John Day; Kathryn Galea; Jane Fisher; Chris Linehan; Greg Cock; Lone Lisborg; Roger Johnson; Jim Lewis; Terry Reid; Melva Hobson; N, Sriskandarajah; Lee-anne Mintern; N Christodoula; Dan Galligan; Gabrielle Kay; Cynthia Carson; Rachele Mortin; Bill Dalton; Roland Hubett; Vickie Webb; Greg Leach; John Petheran; Jason Trompf; Penny Floyd; Chris Anderson; Lynette Pirie; Rosemary Curry; Terry Reid; Kathryn Warburton; Anne Cathcart; Peter Holden; Emily Jenke; Warwick Easdown; Ann Crawford; Shannon Williams; Roger Sneath; John Owen-Turner; and others.

Main points of discussion

There was general discussion about the need for a framework. With over 60 people attending the discussion there was an acknowledgement that it was of broad interest.

  • General issues raised before getting involved into specifics included:
  • National level initiatives can fall over – too general/too much politics;
  • There are problems with isolation from other programs;
  • Should you start from the regional, state or national end?
  • There is a need to have a vision of the end-point – to give focus.
  • Some RDCs and Federal agencies have banded together to address generic extension issues – administered by RIRDC.
  • There are problems defining extension – and it is context specific;
  • Could focus on causes of problems and barriers to cooperation;
  • Do people and institutions really want to work together?

Small groups were then asked to address more specifically the need for such a framework. Specific needs that were identified included:

  • A framework to assist a process of inquiry and dialogue was needed – recognising the constructivist nature of extension and its environment;
  • Need for a national focus on qualifications across extension officers;
  • Linkages are needed with other facilititators in other industries;
  • Need to cross pollinate more effectively;
  • Need for better coordination to increase efficiencies;
  • Need to learn form other successes and failures;
  • Need to skills share across borders and institutions;
  • A networking arrangement is needed – synergy across state departments, staff exchanges etc;
  • Should bubble up from the ‘bottom’ (staff/communities)
  • Valuing and developing extension teams with external funds – overcoming barriers that regard such staff as temporary rather than valued knowledge and provide staff development;
  • Improve management across state boundaries when employed by state governments;
  • Need to create links between different extension teams – ie industry based and NRM based;
  • Support – professional; to articulate extension techniques;
  • To give communities a clear vision of who/what is out there to support regional change; and communities;
  • Continuity of employment – succession;
  • Developing and environment/culture of support;
  • Recognition of portability of skills - Not limited by technical know-how;
  • Specific national funding needed to invest in extension;
  • Need broad based definition of extension to have a NEF;
  • Pool resources – know what everyone is doing in your region;
  • To avoid reinventing wheels;
  • People feel lost and lonely not being able to define what extension is;
  • How to get researchers to value extension more?
  • Needed at an ontological level to highlight core principles;
  • Need to avoid the ‘silo’ problem;
  • Need to belong – status;
  • Need a fluid framework to capture diversity and opportunity across state boundaries;
  • Learn about processes that work well;
  • Need a framework for developing managerial decision making;
  • Leads to professional development;
  • Maybe a list of skills that extension officers need;
  • Show where extension fits in – students and extension officers;
  • Profile what skills/abilities people need to have – example of DNRE graduate program.

Major outcomes (what have you achieved from this discussion; how can this make a difference; what else do you need to do?)

In small groups, people were asked to nominate what steps could be taken to progress an effective National Extension Framework. These were not discussed beyond the small groups. Ideas proposed are listed below:

  • Meet regularly (yearly) at national level;
  • State government programs – professional development (ie exchange programs across borders/industries;
  • We have to show the benefit of this framework to cement commitment from our funders – better training; commitment/passion; succession.
  • Follow-up on leads/networks we’ve made this week;
  • Communicate needs to senior management to help them understand constraints and better work together;
  • Share successes – e-mail lists, talking.
  • Even though we don’t know what the framework will look like, we should all start working towards it at a local level.

Using a mixture/having exposure to varied extension tools early in career – so can choose appropriate technique for situation.

  • Decide on the outcome - not just discuss tools and activities;
  • Must take a big picture to look at needs in communities;
  • Focus on simple changes – not politics (will never change) but together can provide influence;
  • Drop the idea of definitions.
  • Engage with other disciplines (health, education etc)
  • Recognition of institutional barriers;
  • ID the appropriate people to engage;
  • Engage appropriate people based on connection (meaningfulness) to the individual;
  • Processes need to be meaningful to people designed to help whilst dealing with institutional barriers;
  • APEN takes on whatever role it has decided;
  • Investment available for this to occur;
  • Set-up e-mail network to continue discussion;
  • Trying to define what ‘extension’ is – Building a common understanding.
  • Approach at regional level;
  • Rural communities should be the grounding;
  • We need a set of common descriptors of the core things which describe extension, whether you are an: agronomist; facilitator; uni-researcher.
  • Need to be defined by outcome – or need to be defined by marketable process – facilitators of change.
  • Take a marketing approach.
  • Professional body – APEN
  • Supporting writing in extension (crucial) - Mentoring relationships with experienced academics and practitioners;
  • PRP from APEN to joint RDC program on principles;
  • Extension Specialists -> understanding the ideal of extension;
  • Identify who the stakeholders are – state based; consultants; RDCs AFFA etc;
  • A group of 5 people – 1 from each state – get together and put up a PRP (from APEN Conference) to conduct a project aimed to define a national strategy to enhance professionalism in extension in Australia – must be done in next 2 days to RIRDC.
  • Creating a national level with grass roots as focus.

A number of people (24) put their name on a list to indicate that they wished to be part of the on-going discussion post-conference.

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