Targeted educational material

Throughout the GBR planning program, targeted educational material was prepared and widely distributed. For example the map of the 70 bioregions across the GBR was a key foundational document upon which a lot of subsequent public engagement was based. The preparation of Technical Information Sheets (see below) helped to explain concepts like ‘biodiversity’ in layman’s terms as many people did not understand what it was nor its importance. Similarly trying to explain the importance of ‘connectivity’ in the marine environment was greatly enhanced by a poster entitled ‘Crossing the Blue Highway’ (see Photos below). It used a combination of digital art, photos and words to explain the importance of connectivity between the land and the sea, and within habitats of the GBR - this reinforced the need for the ‘representative’ approach to the zoning. Different stakeholder groups have differing interests so the communication messages were appropriately tailored by experts who understood the sectors e.g. what was presented to fishers was different to how a very similar message was presented to researchers or to politicians.

Having experts within the planning team who understood the issues facing the key sectors proved invaluable:

  • For ‘tailoring’ key messages (e.g. an ex-fisheries manager really understood the concerns of all types of fishers; an ex-tourism employee knew what was important for tourist operators; Indigenous persons in the team helped engagement with Indigenous groups).
  • Having a good understanding of each industry was also reassuring for those who felt their livelihoods might be affected.
  1. Many stakeholders initially were misinformed about the key issues and what could, or should, be done.
  2. People needed to understand there was a problem before accepting that a solution was required and that new zoning was necessary.
  3. It is essential to tailor key messages for different target audiences – a blend of technical and layman’s information was produced and made widely available.
  4. Having experts on the planning team who could tailor information relevant to the various stakeholder sectors was critical.
  5. The rezoning was not about managing fisheries, but rather about protecting all biodiversity.
  6. The use of graphics to explain complex issues like ‘connectivity between habitats’, or the legal definition of ‘a hook’, proved invaluable to educate a range of audiences.
  7. Some elements of how GBRMPA undertook public participation/education were more successful than others (e.g. minimising public meetings whenever possible), so learn from other’s experience.