Organised by Lock the Gate alliance and GetUp and chaired by Alan Jones, the recent Food Security Forum contained rhetoric and attendance from both sides of the political sphere. While this movement’s blend of environmentalists and farmers appear to be strange bedfellows, many of the issues raised by the speakers should come with little shock to community engagement practitioners with experience in the resources industry.
While the four speakers, all women located throughout the State, spoke to localised concerns, there was an overwhelming thread that appeared in all speeches: the desire for a transparent, two-way engagement process. From Ruth Armstrong, who spoke about having to “take the responsibility to push DERM to take action” around dust and noise complaints to Heidi Ross who criticised a perceived lack of transparency and demanded proper consultation, the Forum demonstrated how communities have come to expect and now demand Generation 3 engagement practices.
Indeed, having attended the Forum and returned home to review the Generational framework, I was struck how the heurisms of various speakers reflected the framework so succinctly. People now want transparent and open access to information that assesses the risks and impacts to their community. The desire for transparency goes beyond the need for access to the often substantial (1000s of pages) EIAs replete with inaccessible and alienating language and diagrams. Rather, people want to be provided with an understanding of the possible impacts on their community and environment in a way that is direct and easily consumed. Similarly, speakers demanded ‘real’ consultation – where they are listened to and their concerns acted upon.
Obviously, it is hard to assess the on-ground work of various resources companies through the narrative of protest speakers. However, it appears that the present anti-CSG/mining activity is as much concerned with not just what companies are doing, but how they are going about it.