06 Sep Kylee Carpenter
Kylee Carpenter, Australia
Victoria Penko is Executive Manager Governance and Relationships at the Victorian Environmental Water Holder. A former UK journalist and national newspaper and magazine editor, Victoria has spent twenty years driving strategic communications campaigns for environmental agencies. Since 2004, Victoria has specialised in engaging communities in the benefits of supporting healthy rivers and wetlands – and the plants and animals that live in them. She holds a Master in Communication (RMIT), and a Graduate Certificate in Waterway Management (Melbourne University) for which she earned the Christine Forster award for excellence.
Presentation Title: “Does anyone here speak English?” – How the benefits of environmental flows get lost in translation.
The ‘western’ world is reportedly in the throes of a backlash against intellectualism. Media pundits and academics alike have attributed both Britain’s ‘Brexit’ vote and the US election of Donald Trump, as products of a strain of anti-intellectual thought and a kick against the political elite. Is the science and management of environmental flows in danger of being similarly disregrarded? Over the last year, staff at the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) in Australia have found strong evidence that the language and complexity of the water industry is excluding communities from understanding the benefits of environmental flows, and creating potential for mistrust. A statewide market research project, and candid interviews with Australian news journalists, have confirmed startling levels of misunderstanding that stem from impenetrable water language. As the second driest continent on earth, Australia’s use of water is a key matter of public interest which will only grow in importance as climate change progresses. Modelling now predicts that streamflows could reduce by around 50 per cent in some Victorian catchments by 2065. This has serious consequences for everyone – households, industry, agriculture, recreation, cultural values, native plants and wildlife. Scrutiny of the management and value of environmental watering is only expected to increase. The VEWH aims to meet public need by improving the transparency around its decision-making and providing clearer, more accessible information about the rationale and benefits of environmental watering. To be successful, it argues, the water industry needs to break down potential verbal and intellectual barriers, simplify its management concepts and speak to people in language they understand.