Community perspectives and the politics of water in rural Australia: Rural-regional sustainability education in the Murray Darling Basin

Amy McPherson, Philip Roberts, Natalie Downes


Sustainability is a central challenge facing the future viability of Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) communities in rural Australia.  Faced with environmental uncertainty and its associated community impacts, sustainability has at once been positioned as the path to a prosperous future and a flash point of community conflict. Key to these tensions has been different perspectives on sustainability adopted by various community members and the difficulty of working towards a shared understanding of the term. Drawing upon the first phase of a two-year project exploring education and sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia, the paper examines different community understandings of sustainability. The differences observed reflect debates about community in rural areas, as well as sustainability in the research literature. We then consider the role of education in collaborative community dialogue about rural-regional sustainability in contexts where sustainability education plays out against broader conflicts over the natural resource of water and its pivotal role in Australia’s economic wealth and social wellbeing.


sustainability, community, rural, policy, place based

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