The WA Wetlands Conference "Cultural Wisdom & Scientific Innovation for our Wetlands" took place at The Wetlands Centre Cockburn on the 2nd and 3rd of February 2022. Now in its 18th Year, the annual WA Wetlands Conference is one of Australia’s largest and most influential conferences in wetland science, management, and research held each year to commemorate World Wetlands Day in Perth, Western Australia.
The Conference took place at the newly renovated and revamped facility, amidst the lush bushland surrounding the resplendent Bibra Lake, the heart of the Beeliar Regional Park. The Conference provided an international forum to discuss success stories, point out new challenges and perspectives for further collaboration and partnerships, and define ways to promote capacity building with the focus on cooperation and its significance for wetland development.
Thus, the Conference highlighted the role of various stakeholders in improving the partnering connections between the business, political and educational sectors for the benefit of wetland development in a changing global environment.
Wetlands are integral to the natural environment – strongholds that support a wide range of wildlife and provide habitat, refuge, breeding ground and food sources. They are vital in terms of their scientific, cultural, economic, and aesthetic values.
– Hon. Reece Whitby MLA
Minister for Environment; Climate Action
The main sponsors for the Conference were as below:
The Conference program included a number of key and side events. Here are the features and highlights:
- Day 1 Welcome to Country by Elder Marie J Taylor, Elder in Residence, at The Wetlands Centre Cockburn. Marie welcomed the delegates to the 'most ancient of aboriginal land in the world', what she believes to be 'the garden of Eden', in Nyungar language. She shared a story of her childhood in Coolbellup and how her organisation, Yelakitj Moort, formed along with her brother Neville Collard came to be.
- Day 1 Opening Speech by Hon Reece Whitby MLA, Minister for Environment & Climate Action. The minister talked about the importance of wetlands for their scientific, cultural, economic, and aesthetic values and noted the contributions of organisations such as the Centre and Wetlands Conservation Society. He reiterated the commitment of the State Government to the conservation of WA’s biodiversity.
- Day 2 Welcome to Country by Dr Libby Jackson-Barrett, Edith Cowan University.
- Day 2 Opening Speech by Mr David Anthony Edward Scaife MLA & Acting Speaker–Parliament of Western Australia. The MLA talked about the power of partnerships and how community groups, politicians, artists, performers, and the government worked with each other to demonstrate their support for the Beeliar Wetlands, put an end to road construction through the wetlands, and designate Beeliar Wetlands as a Class A reserve.
4 Thematic Sessions on each day
- Day 1; Session 1: Leadership: To increase the knowledge, awareness, understanding, participation, engagement, and commitment to the conservation of wetlands.
- Day 1; Session 2: Reconciliation: To initiate, support, and sustain a proactive partnership with traditional custodians for the conservation of wetlands.
- Day 2; Session 1: Sustainability: To develop and deliver standards, processes, projects, and/or programs that are environmentally, socially and economically justified.
- Day 2; Session 2: Partnerships: To initiate and sustain the widest possible proactive participation, support and engagement for the conservation of wetlands.
4 Keynote Speeches
- Day 1 Leadership Keynote Speech “A Jewel in The Crown of a Global Biodiversity Hotspot” by Emeritus Prof. Hans Lambers, School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia. Prof. Hans talked about how South-western Australia is a global biodiversity hotspot and we must mitigate climate change and out-of-date principles that ignore the sensitive hydrology of our region.
- Day 1 Reconciliation Keynote Speech “The Cultural Importance of the Wetlands and Waterways of the Djalgarro Beeliar Catchment” by Dr Cristina Ramalho, School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia, Glenda Kickett, University of Western Australia, Gail Barrow, Dr Emma Ligtermoet, School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia. Dr. Christina presented the archival project of the Djalgarro Beeliar catchment, led by Nyungar representatives, including the co-presenters who shared interpretations, discussions and mapping of the knowledge and stories gathered through this project.
- Day 2 Sustainability Keynote Speech “Re-Enlivening Wetlands: Infusing Through the Sciences, Arts and Activism” by Dr Libby Jackson-Barrett, Prof. Mindy Blaise, and Prof. Pierre Horwitz. Centre for People Place and Planet, Edith Cowan University. The three co-presenters proffered a new perspective on wetlands by conceptualizing their personification, through various contexts, and included audience interactions to bolster this philosophy.
- Day 2 Partnerships Keynote Speech “Partnerships – Supporting People to Work Together for Positive Ecological Impact” by Dr Ingrid Sieler, Perth Region NRM Inc. Dr Sieler delved into the criticality, successes and potential of partnerships in environmental endeavours and the approach that Perth NRM is taking a lead with. This was demonstrated through a highly interactive audience exercise.
12 Expert Presentations, split into 3 sessions per half day
- Day 1 Leadership Expert Presentation “Habitat Rehabilitation and Saltmarsh Mosquito Management in Adenia Saltmarsh Tec” by Dr Rose Weerasinghe, South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare.
- Day 1 Leadership Expert Presentation “No Roe’d Through the Wetlands - Long Term Community Leadership Leading to a Successful Conservation Outcome” by Dr Felicity Bairstow.
- Day 1 Leadership Expert Presentation “Deep Spectacle, Surface Collapse: Imagining Design and Conservation in the Proposed Yule Brook Regional Park” by Daniel Jan Martin, School of Design University of Western Australia.
- Day 1 Reconciliation Expert Presentation “Connecting to our Rivers: Protocols and Processes for Respectful Catchment” by Research Associate Prof. Tod Jones, School of Design and Built Environment, Curtin University & Vanessa Corunna, Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University.
- Day 1 Reconciliation Expert Presentation “Nyungar Know-How” by Elder Marie J Taylor, Elder in Residence, The Wetlands Centre Cockburn.
- Day 1 Reconciliation Expert Presentation “New Ways of Listening in the Wetland – Podcasts, Perspectives and Practitioners” by Gina Pickering, Board Member, The Wetlands Centre Cockburn.
- Day 2 Sustainability Expert Presentation “New Methods for Creating Drought Refuges for Imperilled Freshwater Species in Southwestern Australia” by Dr Belinda Robson, Murdoch University.
- Day 2 Sustainability Expert Presentation “Environmental DNA in Freshwater Ecology: Characteristics and Prospects of an Emerging Biomonitoring Tool” by Dr Nicole White, Research Fellow & Lab Manager, Trace and Environmental DNA Lab, Dr Mattia Saccò, Postdoctoral fellow, Subterranean Research and Groundwater Ecology (SuRGE) Group, TrEnD Laboratory, Dr Josephine Hyde, Ecosystem Science Program, Biodiversity and Conservation Science, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.
- Day 2 Sustainability Expert Presentation “Wetland Buffers - A Controversial Subject” by Dr Michael Coote, Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions.
- Day 2 Partnerships Expert Presentation “Saving Our Snake-Necked Turtle Program” by Dr Jane Chambers & Anthony Santoro, Murdoch University.
- Day 2 Partnerships Expert Presentation “The Frog Files - The Why and How to Revegetation Guide” by Johnny Prefumo.
- Day 2 Partnerships Expert Presentation “The Hidden World of Noogenboro - Herdsman Lake Discovery Centre Takes Flight” by Mandy Bamford, WA Gould League / Herdsman Lake Discovery Centre.
8 Case Studies
- Day 1 Leadership Case Study “Reimagining Perth's Lost Wetlands” by Tracy de Vetter & Dr Jane Chambers, NatureLink Perth, Murdoch University.
- Day 1 Leadership Case Study “When International Importance Isn’t Important Enough: A Case Study in the Power of Community in Protecting a Ramsar Wetland” by Dr Steve Fisher, Peel-Harvey Catchment Council Inc.
- Day 1 Reconciliation Case Study “Places of Belonging: A Wetlands Story” by Associate Prof. Robyn Heckenberg, Centre for Aboriginal Studies, Curtin University.
- Day 2 Sustainability Case Study “Studying and Managing Wetlands from the Sky” by Ru Somaweera, Stantec.
- Day 2 Sustainability Case Study “Long-Term Wetland Vegetation Monitoring in the South-West” by Robyn Loomes, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.
- Day 2 Sustainability Case Study “Narrative Sustainability and Transformation: Storying Lake Monger’s Contested Ecological Past and Uncertain Ecological Futurity” by Drew Thornton, Curtin University.
- Day 2 Partnerships Case Study “School and Community Partnerships: Building Relationships to Enhance Wetland Education” by Barbara Sing & Amanda Zele, John Tonkin College.
- Day 2 Partnerships Case Study “Connecting with Schools: A Win-Win and Win for Wetlands!” by Dr Catherine Baudains, The Wetlands Centre Cockburn.
4 Plenary Sessions
All the speakers from the half-day sessions were called onstage for an open Q&A with the audience. Each Plenary Session was a lively discussion with huge takeaways.
- Day 1 Leadership Plenary Session MC Tom Perigo, Chairman, at The Wetlands Centre Cockburn.
- Day 1 Reconciliation Plenary Session MC Fiona Hook, Board Member, The Wetlands Centre Cockburn.
- Day 2 Sustainability Plenary Session MC Dr Jonathan Wales, Board Member, The Wetlands Centre Cockburn.
- Day 2 Partnerships Plenary Session MC Joanne Mannering, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).
The Conference also had the following side events:
- 4 Display Presentations
- Day 1 & 2 Urban Bushland Council
- Day 1 & 2 Swanlandia Inc
- Day 1 & 2 Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
- Day 2 WA Landcare Network
- A petition for Saving the Cockatoos
- Raffle for Donations with great Giveaways
- An opportunity for networking and enhancing awareness
The total number of Conference participants were over 220 people (approx. 5% of them were Aboriginal participants). Among them, there were representatives of 70 organizations (including 5 educational establishments) from 16 cities, including:
- Ministers and MLA's
- Local government representatives
- Intergovernmental organisations
- Regional authorities
- Wetland professionals
- Academics, educators, and students
- Businesses (including Biologic Environmental Survey, Rio Tinto, Salt and Bush Eco Tours, Stantec, Wetland Research & Management, Archae-aus, Workpower, PaYUNg Contracting, Imtech P/L, Broderick and Associates, WA Gould League / Bamford Consulting Ecologists, Emerge Associates, Ecoscope-epc, Nexxial Ecology PL, and Bioscience.)
- Universities and educational institutions
- Associations and Friends Groups
- Not for profits
A new state-of-the-art and highly functional website was developed for the Conference as part of the Centre's community and engagement program. The website featured an interactive Conference program, an intuitive registration system, a new submission portal, and a detailed feedback questionnaire.
On both days, refreshments, morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea was catered to by Little Hawk Freo, Beaconsfield.
The Conference was conducted with a focus on environmental sensitivity, green initiatives, and greater sustainability to reduce the environmental impact of this event. Here are a few initiatives and guidelines that were followed:
- E-program: The Conference program was available via email or through the new website. Only limited copies of the program were printed on recycled paper and made available for viewing around the centre.
- Upcycle and Recycle: The name badges were re-used from previous conferences and the names were printed on recycled paper. The name badges were collected at the end of each day of the Conference.
- Carpooling: Where possible, we encouraged the use of public transport and carpooling to the venue. We thank those who opted-in to carpool during the registration.
A note on COVID-19: The Conference, to the best of our ability, endeavoured to follow all government rules and regulations for COVID-safety. All precautions to be taken were agreed on with participants. Face masks and checking into the Safe-WA app made mandatory. Hand sanitiser was available at key points throughout the venue and washrooms and toilets were equipped with hand wash. All surfaces were wiped regularly on an hourly basis. No cases have been reported from the event thus far.
The Conference participants were asked to fill in a feedback questionnaire. The reviews were highly positive. The feedback to the organizers was that the Conference was highly topical and informative, and it met the participants' expectations.