Biosecurity champions’ communication bootcamp

June 14, 2019

The Crawford Fund delivered another Communication Master Class from 26-31 May in Brisbane, with 21 biosecurity professionals from nine Pacific countries. The participants are part of the Pacific Plant Biosecurity Partnership supported by ACIAR, a three year project being delivered by Kalang Consultancy Services.

The Fund partnered with Econnect Communication to present the training, ably managed by Jenni Metcalfe and Toss Gascoigne, arguably Australia’s most experienced science communication trainers.

“A significant element to this ‘boot camp on communicating’ has the participants develop a communication strategy and action plan so that they can hit the ground running when they return to their home countries,” said Cathy Reade, the Fund’s Director of Outreach.

Cathy developed the Master Class in 2011, having identified an obvious need for middle managers in international agricultural research centers and national agricultural research institutes. Since the first class in 2011, seven programs have been run in Thailand, India, Ethiopia, Nairobi, Fiji, Perth and now Brisbane.

“We ran a Master Class for Pacific agricultural researchers in 2015 and one for African biosecurity specialists in 2016, so it was great to bring our experience from both these programs for our Communication Master Class for Pacific Biosecurity Champions,” said Cathy.

Cathy reports that there has been consistent feedback from participants, that while they appreciate the resulting improvement to their presentation and writing skills, they find it useful to walk away with a communication strategy and action plan. They also gain valuable experience interacting with members of a stakeholder panel and being interviewed by journalists.

“I particularly want to thank the participants of the stakeholder and journalist panels developed for the champions,” said Cathy.

The stakeholder panel included Dr Denis Persley, Senior Principal Plant Pathologist with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Queensland, representing a partner organisation that the Pacific specialists may want to contact for assistance; Dr Bosibori Bett from ACIAR representing a funding agency that they may need to report to or approach; Dr Bill Magee, who has been a project leader and consultant for both the Africa and Pacific biosecurity champions, who represented a bureaucrat to whom the participants may need to advise of a serious outbreak; and Cathy from the Fund to represent an NGO with whom the participants may want to partner.

It was also wonderful to have senior journalists from whom the group could learn so much, with special thanks to Dominque Schwartz, ABC’s National Rural and Regional reporter who had previously been the ABC’s Pacific correspondent; Robyn McConchie, one of Australia’s most experienced radio journalists; Melody Labinsky, editor of Queensland Country Life and the North Queensland Register; and Laura Dymock, Channel 7 news journalist.

The biosecurity champions received certificates from ACIAR and the Crawford Fund, and it was great to have Andrew Campbell, CEO and Mellissa Wood, Global Programs Manager from ACIAR at the farewell celebration, which was attended by members of the RAID Network.

All ‘champions’ wrote a blog during the training, and Talei Fidow-Moors from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Quarantine Services Samoa sums up the week:

“The ability to clearly and strategically communicate the importance of biosecurity and its impacts on market access and plant health in Samoa to political leaders, policy makers, regulatory bodies, researchers, farmers and the general public will be a challenge. It is a challenge which I believe is worth attempting to overcome.”