Healthy Country Planning

A key part of our work is collaborating with local communities to help conserve the environment and give benefits to people at the same time. One of our most successful examples of this type of work is Healthy Country Planning. It is an adaptation of our Conservation Action Planning methodology to make it more relevant and appropriate for working with indigenous communities such as by including Indigenous social and cultural values, and the use of language, tools and facilitation processes tailored to their needs.

Much our work in the Australian Outback involves supporting Indigenous people plan for the management of their country and in some cases, to apply for their land to become an Indigenous Protected Area. Healthy Country Planning has proven to be a highly successful tool for this purpose.

How does it work?

Healthy Country Planning leads groups through a series of five steps:

  1. Deciding what the plan is about – the first step in creating a Healthy Country Plan is clarifying the purpose of the plan and what it will focus on, including the vision, scope, the key things groups care about (assets), problems and their causes (threats) and what is causing the problems (situation analysis)
  2. Making the plan – this step takes teams through developing goals and objectives, strategies and measures to know if we are getting anywhere. This includes developing monitoring plans and results chains (theory of change) on how the strategies will achieve their objectives.
  3. Doing and monitoring the work – in this step teams take their strategic actions and measures and develop specific annual budgets and workplans for delivering the work.
  4. Deciding if the plan is working – this step first asks teams to take the time to evaluate whether their plan is working and achieving what they wanted, and whether they need make any changes.
  5. Telling ourselves and others – the final step is about communicating progress, including documenting and sharing what teams have learnt so that other groups can benefit from their successes and challenges.

Generally, the process for creating a Healthy Country Plan is undertaken through a series of workshops where interested groups, including an area’s traditional owners, gather to learn about how they can create a plan to look after the land and keep it healthy. The workshops are practical sessions, helping participants to work through each of the steps above facilitated by an expert coach. The tools and outcomes of the workshops are then taken back to their communities, to help to guide the process of writing a Healthy Country Plan.

Our focus has been to provide training and support to groups in applying the Healthy Country Planning approach, as well as directly building the capacity and skills of individuals within the community as coaches so that they can continue to support the implementation and adaptation of plans over time.

To date, we have trained 26 Indigenous groups in the Healthy Country Planning methodology across northern Australia alone. We’ve also trained 32 Healthy Country Planning coaches.

We’re really proud that Healthy Country Planning has been embraced by Indigenous groups and conservationists, as well as the Australian Government. It has become an important tool to help conservation across central and northern Australia, and is becoming more and more popular across the country.

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