Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Education of Australian Landholders in the use of Integrated EMS

Fiona Watts

Teacher Conservation Land Management TAFE Western Institute, Email


The education sector is the place where continuous improvement and lifelong learning collide. The federal government in its recent budget has shown an interest in and commitment to both education and the environment. This paper explores how already established and beneficial partnerships between educational providers, industry bodies, government agencies and land managers can be utilised as an opportune way to utilise this focus.

Within the Agricultural sector over the past 4 years a tide of landholders have undertaken training in Property Planning and a continuation of this training in key areas of interest. To bring this education and already established baseline information into an Integrated Environmental Management System is the next logical step. It provides a multitude of benefits and assists landholders to manage their data flow and meet their growing range of obligations such as legal, financial and social. It builds the resilience of landholders during a period of great change in the global economy and environment.

There has been a lot of research into EMS and its potential uses. Using the established Vocational Education Sector (VET) as the conduit for reaching the outcomes of education, land manager resilience, environmental management and growth of the Australian economy is the rational step.

Key Words

Education, Integrated Environmental Management, Lifelong learning


Linking the use of an Integrated Environmental Management System with Landholders already doing good environmental work is an important step for both EMS and for Australian agriculture. The meeting of these two cultures would provide benefits for all. This paper explores one avenue available for assisting in the broader adoption of EMS through Australian agriculture.


Australian Agriculture is punctuated by great minds and people doing interesting things on the lands they manage. There was 67700 students registered as studying agriculture, environmental and related studies in 2008 (NCVER). Many of these people bring the acquired information back to their land base and start to implement it. With this ongoing research and education we have seen practices such as direct drilling, no kill cropping, rotational grazing, remnant vegetation protection, natural sequence farming and wetland development become more common place. Each of these practices, in its own way is increasing the environmental benefit to the lands being managed. These actions must not be under rated, however; each of these things occurring separately without the use of an integrated management system will not reach their full effectiveness. Additionally, the overall impact of that business will not be considered holistically with thought to external influences and markets.

EMS is particularly pertinent in Australian Agriculture because over 70% of the continent is privately owned with over 56% of the Australian land base being managed for Grazing (ABS 2008). With this level of influence it is critical that we engage land managers to become users of EMS systems. At this stage adoption within Australian Agriculture has been relatively low. The Australian Bureau of Statistics cites 150817 agricultural business’ within Australia, 99% of them family owned and operated. As far as research can show there is less than 1% of these businesses using a certified EMS system. That said, this figure is very difficult to determine accurately because apart from the register of EMSs certified to the ISO14001 standard all other evidence is anecdotal.

Information and education packages regarding environmental management are disseminated through a myriad of bodies. These include Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s), Government Instrumentalities such as Farm Biz, Research and Development Corporations and CRC’s, extension programs as part of many agencies including DPI, and locally formed and operated landholder groups. Each of these conducts a valuable body of work however, apart from JAZ-ANS where a register is kept of fully certified businesses to ISO14001 there is no central mechanism for recorded progress towards this level. Using the National Training Framework which TAFE utilises could provide a workable solution. This then puts mechanisms in place to record level of completion, level of competence and level of attainment for individuals who then manage or own the agricultural businesses mentioned previously. It can also assist with the engagement of landholders by using already established networks and databases.

Generally landholders agree with the concepts of EMS. They like the principle but adoption is still low. Why? The stumbling block is the implementation of the system and the ongoing motivation to maintain the system. ‘There is clearly no shortage of bodies ready to impart skills and knowledge to the industry. There is, however, broad acknowledgement that the key to their effectiveness is their integration, and that this is how the VET system will achieve its greatest impact’ (Agrifood Industry skills council 2008). TAFE can offer the broader framework for the education and implementation of EMS. It is known as a ‘learning pathway’. The wonderful synergy of this situation is that TAFE in the 21st century is about creating a pathway for lifelong learning and the principle underlying EMS is the concept of ‘continuous improvement’. With a framework in place to initially engage with landholders and continue the engagement process a relationship can be developed over a number of years giving the landholder a greater chance of success and continuing motivation. A range of topics that can be covered under TAFE EMS are shown in Table 1.

Unit Name

  • Establish & Maintain the Environmental Management System
  • Implement & Manage Environmental Management Policies, Plans, Procedures & Programs
  • Manage Environmental Management Systems
  • Develop Organisation Policy
  • Manage Environmental Performance
  • Manage Personal Work Priorities & Professional Development
  • Improve Community Knowledge & Skills in Environmental Management Practices
  • Conduct an Internal Audit of an Environmental Management System

Table 1Sample TAFE Units

An example of the effectiveness of the VET sector to create outcomes is the Farm Planning program being run by TAFE Western Institute. Western Institute covers 60% of NSW with its traditional delivery modes but is now, even more, embracing partnerships and on line delivery which allows it to canvas a far wider area. TAFE has partnered with a number of organisations in the roll out of this one program. It has included the local Catchment Management Authorities, Landcare, The Lake Cowal Conservation centre, Conservation Agriculture and No-Till Farming Association (CANFA) and has contracted various consultants where appropriate. It is these types of programs that represent the vision for TAFE. ‘Institutes will take on a renewed role in leading service solutions for individual learners and enterprises.’ (TAFE in the 21st Century). This program has showed the ability of a number of agencies to work together to provide solid on ground progress within the farming sector.

VET is a critical strategy within our industry’s broader approach to workforce development. It is fundamental to attracting new workers, and providing higher skills to our existing workforce’. This includes EMS development.’ ‘we need to bring together the organisations and initiatives that operate in this space and establish a systematic solutions driven approach to skilling the workforce’.(Agri-food industry skills council). Using established networks from the Farm Planning program as a starting place to roll out an EMS training program would be a very achievable goal. When we consider the 67700 people enrolled in the VET sector discussed previously it becomes evident that the VET sector is already engaging with a significant number of individuals. TAFE being the largest provider in the VET sector would be the logical choice to partner with to assist with the ongoing engagement of these individuals.

Figure 1 shows outcomes from the Agri-Food Industry Skills Councils’ 2008 report outlining current skills shortages. It shows many elements that are critical to the development of a successful EMS system. The elements of Risk Management, Legal Requirements and Natural Resource Management are but three skills that are seen as current and urgent skills required. Carbon sequestration and supply chain management are both seen as emerging requirements and would be considered in the more advanced EMS systems.

Figure 1 Agri-Food Industry Skills Council Assessment of Skills Shortages

With climate change and the environment set to be the major economic issues for 2009 and beyond, commanding attention on the world stage and in the current media, pressure will increasingly be brought to bear on enterprises to have world class environmental stewardship. An EMS will give people a strong footing to progress on. The timing is right to gain momentum in the roll out of EMS within the Australian Agricultural Sector.


The VET sector is working on engaging with industry to provide solid outcomes for individuals and industries. Capitalising on this renewed focus, aided by the spotlight provided by the government and the media makes a compelling argument for working together for the benefit of all. Using the established VET sector as the conduit for reaching the outcomes of education, land manager resilience, environmental management and growth of the Australian economy is the rational step.


Agri-food Industry Skills Council – ‘environmental scan of the agrifood industries 2008’

Australian Bureau of Statistics – Report 7106.0 Australian Farming in Brief

NCVER – National Centre for Vocational Education Research

TAFE NSW: Doing Business in the 21st Century

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page