The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC)'s Bushfire Program is unique amongst conservation organisations. The Program has been running for over ten years, focusing its campaign work mainly on government policy, legislation and commissions of inquiry. However, the Program was originally initiated to provide support to over 70 conservation representatives on bushfire management committees (from state to regional levels)
In 2003, the Community Bushfire Education Project (CBEP), which is funded by the Environment Trust (ET), was developed as an extension of the Bushfire Program. The CBEP's main focuses have included coordinating community and professional workshops, field trips and school visits.
The design and advocacy principles of the Bushfire Program have been significantly influenced by the CBEP. Principles associated with Education for Sustainability, including capacity building, partnerships and critical thinking, have been key drivers in this.
Traditionally, the NCC Bushfire Program has been a strong advocate of enforcing environmental assessment and controls through regulation. However, to date, bushfire regulations have only had limited success in changing unsustainable practices. We have learnt that a complimentary approach to regulation is voluntary action. This entails a participatory approach to bushfire management planning. We feel this change in philosophy can apply to all land management and environmental issues and may parallel a larger shift within the environment movement.
Through this paper we will show how the Bushfire Program has developed to incorporate community education as a central pillar of, rather than in addition to, its core campaign; the difficulties this presents and the strengths it provides. The NCC now sees community participation and empowerment as a key component of any natural resource management campaign.