ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Transformation for Resilient Landscapes and Communities, Murray Case Study (2009-2012)

Strategic Research Area

Social Research for Regional Natural Resource Management


National Centre for Groundwater Research & Training, NSW Natural Resources Commission, Murray Catchment Management Authority, Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation

Investigators/ Researchers

Dr Rod Griffith, ILWS; Dr Michael Mitchell, ILWS; Paul Ryan, Interface NRM; Dr Greg Walkerden, Macquarie University; Dr Brian Walker, CSIRO; Prof Valerie Brown, ANU; Sandy Robinson


The Transformation for Resilient Landscapes and Communities project aimed to explore the idea of transformational change as an option for rural, resource-dependent communities. For the Murray Case Study part of the broader project, the researchers collaborated with Murray Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and Wakool Shire Council. These two partner organisations were seeking to engage the Wakool Shire rural community in strategic planning out of an untenable situation. The project commenced at the end of an extended and severe drought, involving minimal or no irrigation allocations to the area for most years between 2002 and 2009, and a permanent reduction in water entitlements appeared imminent. Adaptive responses seemed inappropriate at that time, and the two partner organisations were interested in exploring ways to proactively manage the community's transition through a transformational change.

In pursuing this agenda, the researchers sought to bring the best of resilience thinking ideas and techniques with those that foster collective learning. However, the project with Wakool Shire Council failed to evolve as expected, and the prospects of transformational change did not eventuate. In spite of this setback, the researchers' experiences provided key learnings to underpin the practical benefit of building synergies between the transformational potential of the collective learning approach and the analytical strengths provided by resilience thinking.


Mitchell, M., Griffith, R., Ryan, P., Walkerden, G., Walker, B., Brown, V., & Robinson, S. (accepted). Applying resilience thinking to natural resource management through a "planning-by-doing" framework. Society and Natural Resources.

Mitchell, M. (in press). From organisational learning to social learning: A tale of two organisations in the Murray-Darling Basin. Rural Society.

Griffith, R., Mitchell, M., Walkerden, G., Brown, V. & Walker, B. (2010) Building a collaborative framework for transformative action in the Wakool Shire  (ILWS Report No. 61). Albury-Wodonga: ILWS, CSU.


The research team's experiences in the Murray Case Study culminated in the development of a flexible planning by-doing-framework through which participatory collective action tools can be used to apply resilience thinking as part of strategic planning to improve natural resource management (NRM).
Murray CMA took the framework on board, and used it to radically restructure its approach to strategic planning. Murray CMA's adoption of these ideas created a profound transformation of the organisation's culture, and greatly improved its credibility among its key stakeholders.

The Transformation for Resilient Landscapes and Communities project has since established a second case study with NRM organisations in Far North Queensland and is working with other regional NRM organisations from across Australia who have established a community of practice. A five year flagship project (2011-2016) was established to pursue this work by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation ($600,000).

Dr Rod Griffith
Charles Sturt University – Adjunct

September 2013