Toona Berwick

Toona Berwick
Philanthropy, Client relations


Supporting Collective Community Action for our Great Barrier Reef

Last week Leah and I had the lucky task of travelling to Yunbenun-Magnetic Island to spend two days working with an inspiring group of community leaders from across the Great Barrier Reef coast. Each community leader came with their region’s Community Action Plan, developed using the Conservation Standards and built on the shared values, knowledge, aspirations and priorities of people and groups protecting, restoring and advocating for the Reef in their local communities.

The Community Action Plans, or Local Action Plans, were supported by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Despite having been a part of the same Reef-wide program, COVID lockdowns meant many people were meeting for the first time.  In spite of this, ice-breakers were the first things to drop off the agenda.  Participants already had so many shared values they were dedicated to putting into practice, including their commitment to place-based coordination, to elevating local leadership, collaborating and to sharing – with each other and within their communities – to meet collective challenges.  Equally, they spoke of how challenging this was in practice – of slowing down to the speed of trust, of the invisible (but critical) effort of coordination and considered consultation, of managing many and sometimes conflicting expectations, and of resourcing plan implementation – because what is a plan for if it’s not for implementing? 

The collective trust in one-another was to me, the relative new-comer to the group, an example of people valuing people and of their shared commitment to practicing their values.  As a fundraising professional, I also know open and honest sharing is never a given when you have ‘Funder’ and ‘Funded’ in a room together.  Jenn, Laura and the Foundation had successfully used the grant process to build genuine partnerships.

With the Reef Trust Partnership coming to the end of its term and communities just reaching their stride, no-one wanted to lose the hard-earned momentum.  So their collective task was to:

  • Identify and prioritise opportunities to maintain and grow legacy from their work, including ways to strengthen leadership, capacity, and networks.
  • Demonstrate and articulate the outcomes of their collective effort.
  • Design a shared thought-leadership output to showcase the work, learnings and opportunities of their community planning.

Leah and I were there to co-facilitate with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s Community Reef Protection team, and to provide guidance in the application of Collective Impact, including for financial sustainability.

We look forward to the ‘what next’ from this group!

Workshop group photo

Coral reef

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