Table Of ContentsNext Page

Opening Remarks

Welcome to all delegates. I am delighted to see so many people attending the first national EMS Forum organised by the EMS Association.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, who have nurtured the area for centuries.

I would also like to thank all of our sponsors:

  • NSW Department of Primary Industries,
  • The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation,
  • The Australian Landcare Management Systems Group,
  • GHD,
  • EcoIntegrity,
  • the Toowoomba City Council, and
  • The Regional Institute Ltd.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the support of the Association committee members, in particular Claire Braund, who put in many long hours to get this event up and running.

Given that this is put first national Forum, it is appropriate to briefly reflect on the genesis of the Association.

Australia has hosted four national EMS in Agriculture conferences, held bi-annually since 1999. At each of these events, there was clear support for the establishment of an on-going communication and support network, to provide both EMS information and a forum for the interchange of ideas and approaches surrounding the use of EMS and similar tools. At the 2005 EMS in Agriculture conference, 94% of delegates indicated that the capture of data for the EMS Pilots and Pathways projects then underway was essential. There was the strong need to develop and nurture the ‘community of practice’ evolving through increased EMS use. In addition, such a network was seen as a mechanism to providing credulity and legitimacy to research into EMS as a field in its own right.

One of the key factors inhibiting EMS adoption and implementation appeared to be the availability of support and information about EMS – including who has used the EMS process. how and why it was done, and the outcomes achieved. Despite a number of recent papers and projects raising the need for enhanced EMS support services, the availability of skilled EMS practitioners still appears to be a limiting factor, particularly for agriculture. Further, until the formation of EMSA, there were few avenues for EMS practitioners to have a ‘home’ specific to their needs – with many working on EMS not comfortable with being an ‘add-on’ to the Quality Society of Australia, and having more specific needs than were met by AIAST, the Environment Institute and others. This is not to say we can’t learn and share from these groups, but simply that for EMS, there are often more specific information needs. The growth of a ‘community of practice’ specific to EMS will assist greatly in the development and enhancement of the tool.

The EMS Association is aiming to overcome barriers to EMS adoption and information sharing in a number of ways.

1. By collecting as much EMS information as possible in a readily accessible, web-based form, with an open system of communication for those with an interest in the field, it is hoped to leverage from information and experience already attained, and inform future work. An easy and open way to pass on EMS experiences, and discuss problem areas will assist in resolving difficulties in interpreting and using EMS processes.

2. The Association seeks to facilitate information flow between industries sectors. While most of my own Australian EMS experience has been associated with the agricultural sector, I have been privileged to be part of several international EMS networks that have greatly assisted my own knowledge and learning about EMS. These networks typically had not involved the agricultural sector at all. From attending a variety of meetings with these groups, I was able to see first hand how much the flow of information between the various industry sectors could strengthen the application of EMS.

There is a wealth of information and experience to share across all industry sectors. The potential for EMS tools, tips and techniques to be shared is great, as long as there is an enabling mechanism to do so. We believe that this mechanism will be enabled by the Association, and through meetings such as the one we are at today. EMSA aims to provide the conduits for EMS partitioners in all fields to share their expertise. This will not only occur within Australia but will tap into other networks such as the UNEP Best Practices Network, the US Multi-State Working Group on Environmental Performance and others.

3. The EMS Association will providing for recognition for EMS users, by highlighting the achievement of members gained through their EMSs, and by offering a mechanism by which EMS users, and those seeking products and services generated through an EMS process can find each other. WE anticipate that the Association website will become a ‘first port of call’ for those seeking EMS information, services, and promotion for a wide range of industry groups.

4. By hosting events, such as this Forum, which examine EMS ‘warts and all’, and drawing on the collective wisdom of EMS practitioners, the Association will be able to contribute informed comment to discussions on EMS policy development in Australia. A past drawback of EMS policy development reported form many areas is that non-EMS users have been asked to provide input into the discussions on EMS policy development without a counterbalancing ‘voice’ of experience EMS users being heard. This has resulted in confused and sometimes inaccurate information being used at the policy level. The EMS Association also has a role in being able to critically examine new policies and proposals regarding EMS, to assist in determining the best policy mix to achieve the greatest benefit for Australian natural resource management. The EMS Association hopes to develop an both advocacy and a critiquing role for EMS policy development and implementation in Australia, to assist with the adoption of EMS and other tools to protect and manage Australia’s natural resources, and to provide support, encouragement and recognition for those who are using EMS.

However, all of these things can only be achieved with the support and experience of the Association members. We need your input into events such as today, but also through the website and newsletters. We need you to let others know about the Association. We also need free and open sharing of your experiences, and the benefit of your wisdom. What have you learnt about EMS, the outcomes that can be achieved and pitfalls to avoid? The Association will arrange and host EMS events as members request. Your thoughts about what you want to learn and to share are very important to the committee in arranging such events. Please approach any of the committee throughout this Forum, or via the contact details on the website to have your say.

I look forward to two days of stimulating discussion and thought-provoking conversations - I hope you do to. Welcome again to this first National Forum, and I hope to work with you all to make the EMS Association a really useful part of your overall EMS toolkit!

Top Of PageNext Page