Community Perspectives and the Politics of Water in Rural Australia

Rural-regional Sustainability Education in the Murray Darling Basin




sustainability, community, rural, policy, place based


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.

Author Biographies

Amy McPherson, Faculty of Education and Arts, Australian Catholic University

Dr Amy McPherson is a lecturer in Education Studies at the Australian Catholic University, North Sydney campus. Her research interests focus on progressing critical thought which interrogates the socio-political landscapes of education. Recent research projects include: a study of the relationship between spatiality, embodiment, technology and classrooms; equity and widening participation in education; constructions of ‘wellbeing’ and ‘ability’ in schooling and education for sustainability.

Philip Roberts, Faculty of Education, Science, Technology and Mathematics University of Canberra

Dr Philip Roberts is an Assistant Professor in Curriculum Inquiry/Rural Education at the University of Canberra. His major ongoing research focuses on place, the sustainability of rural communities, and the interests of the least powerful in our society. Philip’s work is situated within rural sociology, the sociology of knowledge, educational sociology and social justice and is informed by the spatial turn in social theory and sustainability.

Natalie Downes, Faculty of Education, Science, Technology and Mathematics University of Canberra

Natalie Downes is a research assistant at the University of Canberra. Her research interests include rural distance education, rural-regional sustainability and curriculum inquiry. This work has a particular focus upon the cultural politics of schooling for rural students. In 2014, Natalie completed her honours thesis on the experiences of parent supervisors of distance education primary school students and graduated with first class honours. She will soon start her PhD focusing on rural distance education.



18-08-2017 — Updated on 01-07-2017


How to Cite

McPherson, A., Roberts, P., & Downes, N. (2017). Community Perspectives and the Politics of Water in Rural Australia: Rural-regional Sustainability Education in the Murray Darling Basin. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 27(2), 93–107. (Original work published August 18, 2017)

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