Leonie Duncan

Leonie Duncan

Leonie Duncan is a qualified social scientist with over 15 years of experience in the natural resource management sector, primarily focused on water and waterways. Leonie has recently joined the Victorian Department of Environment Land Water and Planning to lead a team of water policy practitioners working with communities and stakeholders in rural Victoria. This followed eight years with Alluvium Consulting, where she managed multi-disciplinary teams of engineers, scientists and analysts and provided technical expertise in stakeholder engagement, social research and strategy development for state, federal, regional and local government clients. Prior to this Leonie spent a decade in the NGO sector, working across the fields sustainability in mining, international development and advocacy. Leonie has recently undertaken Masters-level study in behavioural science, with support from the Victorian Government via the Our Catchments, Our Communities study grant program. Her presentation here at Riversymposium focuses on the outcome of this study.

Understanding the Social Drivers for River Resilience: The Role of Behavioural Science in Enhancing Landholder Stewardship

Over recent decades, government agencies and community-based organisations across Australia have worked in partnership with landholders to improve river and catchment health through stewardship programs.

This has achieved tremendous results. The task, however, is far from complete. There are further landholders to get on board.   It is also critical to ensure ongoing landholder commitment to the management agreements already in place to help protect the investment long-term.

It is widely recognised by on-ground practitioners that securing the impact of stewardship programs into the future relies on sustained changes in landholder practices.

Traditional approaches to recruiting landholders into stewardship programs relied heavily on the assumption that increasing awareness of the environmental issues affecting river and catchment health, would lead to changes in attitude, and corresponding changes in practice. Insights from the field of behavioural science reveal a very different story. UK research into pro-environmental behaviours, for example, has found that at least 80 per-cent of the factors influencing behaviour did not stem from knowledge or awareness.[1]

A range of personal, social and external factors can play a role in changing behaviour. Potential influences include social norms, habits, self-efficacy, heuristics (mental shortcuts), unconscious bias and capability.

This presentation shares the outcomes of an ‘Our Catchments, Our Communities’ innovation leadership grant that explored the extent to which behavioural science principles are currently being applied by catchment management authorities in Victoria, and how this might be enhanced.

It offers insights into the applicability of leading behaviour change models and research – now being put into practice by policy makers and program delivery agencies internationally – for enhancing the adoption of landholder stewardship for the benefit of increasing river resilience.

[1] Cited in Darnton A (2008), Behaviour Change Knowledge Review. Reference Report: An overview of behaviour change models and their uses, HMT Publishing Unit, London.

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