Communication resources

Leader: Dr Peter Jacklyn, Communication Coordinator, TS–CRC

Full title: Communication resources for the tropical savannas
Project 4.3.1

Summary | Approach and methods | Importance of CRC network | Communication values | Adaptive communication | Objectives | Outcomes | Outputs | Project team |


The Communication project provides resources that enhance the effectiveness of communication:

  • between partner agency staff and others involved in the Centre’s activities (for example by providing an email newsletter, staff websites and assistance with workshops);
  • between the Centre and its key stakeholders involved in the management and use of the tropical savannas (for example by providing a stakeholder newsletter, plain-English publications, bibliographies and mapping tools) and
  • between the Centre and the broader community (for example by providing promotional and display material and media releases).

The project is run by staff employed directly by the Centre, rather than by staff affiliated with a partner agency.

The TS–CRC is most effective when it adds value to the activities of its partner agencies in achieving its mission i.e. when it operates across jurisdictions, research disciplines, and stakeholder sectors in a research role that individual partner agencies would find difficult to accomplish on their own.

It not only publicises the collaborative research findings of the Centre, but also sources and makes available information resources such as maps, mapping tools, bibliographies, websites, and integrating publications that allow researchers, land managers and land users to look beyond their particular discipline, sector or jurisdiction and work with and learn from other savanna stakeholders.

Approach and methods

The importance of the CRC network

The CRC program is designed to bridge the gap between the culture of research and the culture of research users so that Australian research can be used more effectively in ways that benefit the whole community. In the case of the TS–CRC, the gap between the culture of land-management research and the culture of the users of that research can be enormous. An urban-based researcher, for example, will tend to look at landscapes and value landscapes in very different ways to a remotely-based pastoralist. And both groups will do this in different ways to an Aboriginal land manager—to take just three of the groups involved in land management of the tropical savannas.

The TS–CRC has worked towards better cooperation between these groups by forging links across research disciplines, stakeholder sectors and jurisdictions. Experience has shown that such a task requires good relationships between individuals that can bridge these cultural divides (see Arnott et al. 2001—see Publication and PDF link below), and the TS–CRC has been effective in building a network of good relationships across the tropical savannas.

This network gives a diverse range of researchers, land managers and users ongoing face-to-face relationships, and allows them to work on common tasks such as research projects. This network spreads out beyond the people directly involved with the Centre’s activities to those researchers, land managers and land users who have working and learning relationships with those people who are directly involved.

As far as we can tell, however, this relationships network is still dominated by researchers and agency staff; many associated with biophysical research. The TS–CRC needs to extend this network to a broader range of researchers, to include more socio-economic researchers for example, and to include more land managers and users. In this way the network can better act as a catalyst for more sustainable land management practices across the tropical savannas.

CRC Communication Values

An important part of the Communication project is the values that support the growth of this relationship network.

The tropical savannas are important. A diverse range of people is attracted to the Centre’s network because of a common interest in, and value for, the tropical savannas. By having the tropical savannas as a focus in our publications and other communication resources, the Centre offers a resource to this group that is not found in other agencies.

Different knowledge systems can be equally valid. By treating different knowledge systems as equally valid and worthy of respect, each with different strengths, the Centre is able to attract a diverse range of people to its network. This is particularly important in the tropical savannas where the major land managers—pastoralists and Aboriginal people—may have different values to researchers, but still possess extensive knowledge. Importantly we should not assume that all such knowledge should be accessible, but respect that some of it should not be made available.

Promotion should not take precedence over usefulness. The tropical Savannas are characterised by a general lack of land-management information compared to other parts of the country. As much of this information is produced outside of the Centre’s core activities, the Centre’s communication has a useful role informing people about the activities of other groups in the savannas in the interests of sustainable conservation and use. This role should not be sacrificed for the sake of self-promotion of the Centre.

Public relations and awareness raising. Beyond those people who are interested in tropical savannas and sympathetic to the goals of the Centre, we need to raise awareness of the Centre and tropical savannas in the broader community. The people who make decisions about savanna management are often politicians who will be influenced by the attitudes and opinions of their electors, most of whom live in urban areas. If we can start to increase the awareness of the value of tropical savannas, and of the CRC itself, in the broader community it will help at the political level. Such awareness will also hold advantages for our own future as a centre.

In the long term it will be those at school today who make the decisions tomorrow. It would therefore be of immense value if primary and secondary students knew more about the land-management issues in the tropical savannas. The Centre can make some preliminary initiatives in this area, such as developing more areas on our website aimed at school students such as a new Q&A area.

Major awareness campaigns and major school curriculum initiatives require more resources than we possess however and cannot be top communication priorities at this stage.

Adaptive communication

The changes in attitudes and practices that lie at the heart of the Centre’s mission will often occur in remote locations between diverse types of people across the tropical north. How such changes are influenced by communication resources and strategies are not well studied or well predicted – and an adaptive approach is essential. Continual evaluation of our communication strategies and tactics is needed.


  • Continue to build on, and support the network of people involved in land-management research, land management and land use in Australia’s tropical savannas created by the CRC in its first round. It assists TS–CRC staff with communication within the Centre and with other bodies in the network.
  • Provide easy access for this network of people and others to the broad range of land-management research and information on tropical savannas; in particular, to improve access for land managers and the people who support them to this research and information. This is done though websites, through information packages for extension and education, publications, newsletters etc.
  • Publicise the findings and outputs of TS–CRC to various audiences: partner agencies and other land management agencies; land managers and rural audiences; community groups and the general public. There will be a focus on highlighting the achievements and goals of the TS–CRC and its identity.
  • Raise awareness of the tropical savannas and its land management issues in the broader community.


The network of relationships between researchers, land managers and land users that has been built up across the tropical savannas should be expanded and strengthened – allowing for change in land management practice to occur as a result of these relationships and people working and learning together.

Information resources that are easily accessible for the broader range of people sympathetic to sustainable management of the tropical savannas will support their own networks that can lead to change, and will keep them in touch with the Centre’s network if they want to join it.

Awareness raising activities should enhance the long-term prospects of having improved management of the tropical savannas by continuing the process of better informing key decision-makers and the broader community about the value of tropical savannas. Publicity that raises awareness of the Centre itself should improve the future viability of the Centre.


The communication outputs are grouped in 15 areas.

  • Annual Report
  • Regular issues (at least 14 each year) of the email newsletter Topical Savannas for TS–CRC staff
  • Support for workshops, conferences and meetings that bring staff together with land managers and people from different disciplines and regions.
  • The introduction of an extensive new website with:
  • Areas that can be used by projects independently;
  • Information on the TS–CRC;
  • Information for people involved in CRC activities (such as the internal site)
  • A bibliography of EndNotes references that allows users to download and upload Endnotes files – and will allow us to rapidly compile and update an extensive bibliography on tropical savanna research;
  • An on-line version of the Vegetation Map of Tropical Savannas that can be expanded to include various layers, and interrogated for useful data. This will complement the existing VRD map.
  • Advice to help projects set up their own web sites, newsletters, videos, etc. relevant to Centre projects. We also provide resources such as web sites, images, brochures, folders and information sheets.
  • A writing course for students that allows them to better communicate with research users.
  • Four issues of Savanna Links in 2002–3. We aim to maintain and build on our audience.
  • Research Publications:
  • distribution of Savanna Burning;
  • Darrell Lewis Book, Slower than the eye can see;
  • VRD CD Rom;
  • Fuel Guide.
  • The Online Savanna Explorer section is being expanded and will incorporate more recent CRC research. This section is aimed at an audience interested in the management of the tropical savannas.
  • Development of Innovative web-interfaces for remotely sensed imagery. This will use seed money to attract external funding for this sub-project and will seek to complement the efforts of other CRC projects.
  • A major showcase for the Centre’s research at the National Landcare Conference in 2003
  • Other displays using a new display stand, brochures and information sheets at workshops conferences which include:
  • Fire and Wildlife conference, July 2002;
  • VRD Workshop, July 2002;
  • Qld Landcare Conference, 2002.
  • Press releases and media articles that publicise the research findings and other achievements of the Centre.
  • Awareness-raising activities for savannas in general community - Tropical Topics continued distributions of publications like savanna burning, support for a feature writer, awareness-raising areas of the website.

Project team

Peter Jacklyn, TS–CRC
Kate O’Donnell, TS–CRC
Julie Crough, TS–CRC
Frances Bancroft, TS–CRC
Chris Devonport, CDU
Barbie McKaige, CSIRO SE



Stories of learning and change: Key findings
Dr Allan Arnott, Northern Territory University [pdf 38.5 kb]