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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

Using What You Know to Better Inform Government Policy and Policy Makers

Name of Leader:

Greg Claydon

Names of Participants:

Selina Handley, Emily Jenke, Darren Moor, Galena Barrett, Greg Leach, Chris Linehan, Jessica Kenway, Daniel Armstrong, John Day, Katie Bowman, Karen Fox, Roger Tyshing, Nigel Gallas

Main points of discussion

Comments on the Issue:-

  • Policy makers/holders assume/think they know what extension is but often there is no dialogue.
  • Governments are usually more interested in speaking with peak bodies – is there a role for APEN?
  • Is there a role for APEN/ extension professionals to show policy makers what we do?
  • There may be little grass roots feedback through extension – little or no participatory policy development processes.
  • There is a lack of understanding of the impact of empowering people.
  • Policy can “cocoon” extension officers so there is little or no freedom or flexibility to work across Departments (or discipline areas) in the field.
  • There is a lack of facilitation or opportunities for broader extension/policy relationships.
  • There is limited understanding by extension professionals about how policy is developed.
  • Policies and influences can be at multiple levels – federal, state, regional, local and the interactions can be complex.
  • Different policies are more or less problematic for extension – “one size doesn’t fit all”
  • Is it worthwhile being creative and thinking about how government policy can be influenced anyway?
  • Ministerial correspondence processes can waste lots of resources (the extension officer who has helped the community group prepare the submission can also be the same person who drafts the government’s response to it!!)
  • Can the community/government structure be flipped over?
  • Influencing government policy can be a threat and “career limiting” to an extension officer – how can this be addressed pragmatically?
  • Is there acceptance/recognition that the Minister is an agency extension officer’s primary client? If so, how do we work with the minister and take him/her out to the field level?
  • We are not good advocates to management about what extension is (and isn’t).

Some Examples of Positive Influences on Government Policy

  • The “New Extension Framework in the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines”.
  • Work with community groups that has also impacted on government policy directly and indirectly.
  • Programs that have empowered the community have increased their capacity to influence policy development.
  • The QDNR&M Regional Extension Team that informs and advises senior agency management on extension and related matters.
  • Local “show and tell” activities with ministers and their advisors.
  • Recognise in all programs and projects that extension is always influencing the political process because participants are voters! (Community engagement is a very covert political process!!)

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

Develop processes so that APEN can have a visible link to appropriate government policy development (eg this could be through FASTS or directly at a federal level).

Share experiences and learnings through APEN from what might be considered some pilot participatory policy development processes eg

  • Regional vegetation management planning in south west Queensland (Greg Claydon and SW RET).
  • Impact of policy at householder levels and effectiveness of community group feedback in Vietnam (Galina Barrett).
  • VDNRE project on engaging the community in policy development (Selina Handley).
  • Use of community reference panel approaches in Tasmania (Roger Tyshing).

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