All Landcare groups across Victoria are encouraged to respond to a State-wide survey in order to help determine future strategies for the organisation in Victoria.
The mail survey, which is being conducted by Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS), was sent to 1 400 Landcare personnel, friends of and other community-based natural resource management groups in September this year. The survey, which has been commissioned by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, will collect information on the health of Landcare groups across the State.
“It is critical to have this data otherwise policies are made in a vacuum,” said project leader Professor Allan Curtis from ILWS, who ran similar surveys in 1993, 1995, 1998 and 2004.
The survey is part of the only long term study of Landcare in Australia, with information collected for over 20 years and identifying trends over this time.
Project officer Mr Michael Mitchell said 30 per cent of groups had responded to the survey so far and CSU was trying to get more respondents so that the state wide picture is as complete as possible.
For the first time Coastcare groups have been included in the survey. As Mr Mitchell explained, though some of the questions in the survey may not be relevant to the groups receiving the survey, he encouraged all groups to answer as many of the questions as possible and to make comments.
“The comments will be included in the analysis of the survey,” Mr Mitchell said. “We’ve already received comments about the changing nature of some groups. Some, for example, no longer focus on traditional Landcare activities such as pasture improvement or weed control but are catering more for lifestyle landholders or hobby farmers.”
DSE’s Executive Director, Natural Resources Division, Janine Haddow, said this partnership with CSU showed a commitment to improving support for Landcare now and in the future.
“The survey provides a State-wide picture of Landcare membership and volunteers at this point in time which is critical in recognising the strength of this community movement. It allows for the story of achievements to be documented for the past 12 months and, more importantly, the nature of groups and the network’s health in Victoria,” Ms Haddow said.
“Longitudinal surveys like this are vital for obtaining data from grass roots Landcare groups on how they are travelling,” she said.
Mr Mitchell estimated it would take half an hour to complete the survey and suggested it would be a useful group exercise for groups who wanted to reflect on how they were going.
“This is an opportunity for groups to evaluate the role of volunteer activities and also provide comment or input into strategies for volunteer groups,” Mr Mitchell said.
The closing date for responses has been extended to Christmas this year as the researchers are keen to collect as many responses as they can. Analysis of the data is expected to be completed by the middle of 2010 with a summary of the findings to be sent to all respondents. Professor Curtis will also present the survey results at workshops around Victoria and the full report will be available to the public.
Mr Mitchell said if anyone had any questions about the survey they could call 1800 605 187.