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Biosecurity through community engagement : a case study of rural agricultural region

Royce, Paul (2011). Biosecurity through community engagement : a case study of rural agricultural region. PhD Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Royce, Paul
Title Biosecurity through community engagement : a case study of rural agricultural region
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2011-04-25
Thesis Type PhD
Supervisor Falk, Ian Henry
1608 - Sociology
0502 - Environmental Science and Management
Abstract The word biosecurity is not particularly well known amongst Australian households but in general, it refers to the protection of individual, communal, regional, state, territorial or national economies, environments and human health from the negative impacts of weeds, pests and disease. Although biosecurity is a relatively new term in an Australian context, Indigenous people recognise that the traditional custodians of the land have been caring for country for thousands of years. In contemporary times however, the intergenerational and collective sharing of local skills, expertise, knowledge and practice, that would otherwise identify and address potential threats to food, landscapes and well-being, have been replaced by modern science. While this has provided considerable benefits to food security, agricultural trade and community sustainability, the effective management of plant biosecurity, particularly in relation to commercial crops and domestic produce, has not been addressed by science in the same way. As such, there is a role for social science to examine the social, cultural, physical, political, economic and environmental composition of a community, the existing positions of power and decision making as well as the social connections that link differing sectors of the community. Of particular interest to this research, is to develop an understanding of the manner in which residents and visitors to a northern Australian agricultural community exchange information and take up new knowledge to bring about a change in attitudes, practice and behaviour.

One of the main aims of information provision, particularly by governance systems in Western societies, is to introduce current and accurate material using any number of media to better inform a broad or specific population group about a range of issues. The downfall of this practice however, is the assumption that information provision equals new knowledge or more specifically, that the greater the volume of information, the greater the uptake of new knowledge and social change. In this community, the size, diversity and transience of the region's population might suggest that people are more likely to rely on their social networks and personal relations to access trusted, reliable and meaningful sources of information over any other formal or informal method. This research therefore uses a qualitative methodological approach to examine the characteristics that connect and separate people across six sectors of the community and the ways in which shared ideas, stories, energy, experience, cultural beliefs and traditions influence the capacity and willingness of individuals and groups to participate in community activities, take up new knowledge and instigate change. Specific attention is given to the concept of social capital and the manner in which active citizenship and resource sharing are more often fragmented or isolated within specific sectors of the community, as opposed to being universally applied across a broader population. The findings and conclusions of this research therefore provide greater insights into effective community engagement practices within and across different sectors of the community, which in turn can be used to develop and implement policies, practices and further research on plant biosecurity that are inclusive, relevant and meaningful to the people who live in the region.

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