ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Our place-Riverina and Murray (2013-2014)

ILWS Strategic Research Area

Environmental Justice and Governance for Social Change


NSW Office of the Environment and Heritage, $90,000

Investigators/ Researchers 

Dr John Rafferty, Dr Helen Masterman-Smith, Dr Shelby Laird & Dr Jillian Dunphy


This project aimed to help communities protect their natural environment and to live more sustainably. It is  one of a suite of regional initiatives by NSW OEH which seek to work with regional partners to engage with their communities around environmental issues that matter to them locally.

The three communities targeted in the Riverina were Deniliquin, Albury and Holbrook. ILWS researchers consulted with the communities via conversations and relationship building, forums, surveys and community workshops. Local environmental profiles have been compiled from the information gathered.

Key findings were:

  • There is much more community knowledge, passion and activity around sustainability than commonly realised
  • Practical barriers limit understanding and engagement, rather than attitudinal barriers
  • It is difficult to address sustainability barriers without a common sense of purpose and understanding among community members
  • For participants, sustainability is about everything and everyone, rather than a siloed issue


Funding has been provided for six small community-based projects.

  • Simply Greater Future Fair and Holbrook Community Markets
  • Deniliquin Community Gardens Project
  • Albury neighbourhood e-group project
  • Restorative Indigenous Garden, Koori Kindermanna Preschool/Woomera Aboriginal Corporation, Albury
  • Backyard Habitat Club project, Albury
  • Climate Impacts and Adaptation Citizen Science project, Albury


The project has delivered practical new resources to assist communities to protect their natural environment and live sustainably. It has provide new knowledge about how residents are approaching these issues at the local level and has identified barriers to community engagement on these issues and opportunities for new initiatives. The project received further funding from NSW OEH in 2015 to include Corowa.

Masterman-Smith, H., Rafferty, J., Dunphy, J., & Laird, S. G. (2016). The emerging field of rural environmental justice studies in Australia: Reflections from an environmental community engagement program. Journal of Rural Studies.  doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.04.005

Masterman-Smith, H., Rafferty, J., Sheahan, M. & Ward, W. (2015). Beyond the usual suspects: justice, community and NRM. Presented at Australian Social Science Academy workshop on justice, fairness and equity in natural resource management (12-13 October). Canberra: Australian National University.

Dr John Rafferty,
Charles Sturt University – Albury

Dr Helen Masterman-Smith,
Charles Sturt University - Albury

June 2016