Tropical Savannas CRC > Education & Training > PhD projects 2001-2007 > Vocational Education and Training and Regional Planning

TS-CRC Student project - VET as a tool for regional planning and management in savanna communities

Charles Darwin University

John Guenther

Summary | Aim | Objectives and outputs | Social capital |


Northern Australia’s tropical savannas represent a large proportion of rural and remote Australia with approximately 200 urban centres and localities (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002a) and numerous other small, isolated communities scattered throughout the region.

There is a significant body of research on community capacity, sustainability and development, but—possibly because of a narrow definition of VET—there is only a relatively small body of research available on the links between VET and these issues (e.g. CRLRA 2001a, 2001b, 2001c). The potential for VET to benefit the various social, ecological, industrial and cultural interests of this region have been largely—with a few exceptions (Arnott 1997, 2000; Arnott & Benson 2001)—unexplored.

While the value of adult and community education (ACE) is often reported in terms of individual and community benefit, including development of social capital (Birch et al 2003, Falk et al 2000),

The value of vocational education and training is most often measured in terms of employment outcomes or individual perceptions of quality (NCVER 2002a, 2002b; Cully et al 2000).

However, the value of VET includes a range of social, environmental, health, educational and individual outcomes that can be measured by indicators of wellbeing. These outcomes could be just as significant—particularly for rural and remote communities (ABS 2001c; CRLRA 2001b; OECD 1973, 1982, 2001). It could also be argued that because of the emphasis on enterprises and industry, VET is a tool that is under-utilised for the broader goals of communities and regions.

The flexibility of VET delivery means that training packages can be adapted for use in a broad range of contexts without the requirements of large amounts of physical infrastructure or resources.

VET as a tool for enhancing social wellbeing can therefore be seen in the context of social capital (Falk & Kilpatrick 2000).


This project aims to determine how vocational education and training (VET) can be used most effectively as a tool for regional and remote savanna communities and stakeholders to enhance regional planning. Regional planning includes sustainable management of natural resources in conjunction with the economic, social and cultural needs of a region.

Objectives and outputs

  1. Review the capacity of the 200 urban centres / localities (ABS 2002a) in the savanna region to act as a vehicle for VET delivery to meet the goals and objectives of the TS–CRC. The capacity of the region would be measured in terms of the social, economic and human resources available.
  2. Identify education and training gaps (in terms of programs, locations and resources) across savanna communities and among savanna stakeholders that provide strategic opportunities for improved natural resource management practices consistent with economic, social and cultural needs of the region.
  3. Determine models of effective education and training delivery for savanna stakeholders that build community capacity and at the same time have a direct impact on the management of the region’s resources, particularly as they relate to pastoral, Indigenous, conservation, tourism and mining interests.
  4. Evaluate the potential of partnerships in facilitating effective delivery strategies.
  5. Develop and trial strategic learning packages consistent with the learning needs and arrangements of stakeholders and the Conservation and Land Management Training Package.
  6. Assess the effectiveness of learning packages in terms of TS–CRC strategic directions. The project would establish benchmarks to determine the success of learning outcomes in meeting targets for key results areas.

Additionally it is anticipated that a number of other outputs in the form of papers and reports will be developed through the course of the project. In particular it is expected that a paper relating to the capacity of northern Australian communities will be developed. Other possible outputs include reports and papers, presented through conferences that effectively disseminate information and highlight models of effective capacity building, identified through the research.

Social capital

The development of social capital in a community is widely considered to be a key to its sustainability and long-term socio-economic success (Falk & Guenther 2000, Falk & Harrison 1998, Woolcock 1998). Many of the case studies in a 10-site review of VET in regional Australia (CRLRA 2001a) identified that the active presence of VET in a community resulted in improvements in social identification and cohesion and increased capacity to contribute to community groups—all indicators of social capital.

VET partnerships are developing across Australia to address the needs of interest groups, communities and individuals (Kearns et al 1996; Kilpatrick, Fulton & Bell 2001, Kilpatrick, Johns, Mulford, Falk & Prescott 2001).

Recent research into more than 100 VET partnerships around Australia revealed that rural VET partnerships are particularly useful for meeting the needs of regional communities (Kilpatrick & Guenther 2003). It found that the partners themselves largely determined the outcomes of these partnerships.

The value of strategic VET alliances and partnerships for effecting change and building the knowledge, skills and capacities of rural and remote communities cannot be underestimated.


Relationship between vocational qualifications and community well-being in remote communities of the Northern Territory
John Guenther [pdf 268.9 kb]

Relationships between vocational education and training (VET) and well-being in the Palmerston/rural area
A review of statistics [pdf 120.2 kb]

Savanna capacity profile
A review of indicators and well-being in Australian savanna communities [pdf 1.1 Mb]

VET Research Summary
Vocational education and training (VET)as a tool for planning and management in savanna communities [pdf 70.4 kb]