I could start with an apology for the length of time between blog updates – not a good practice with websites I am told – however, we have all been distracted by the pandemic and world events and time just flows on! And hopefully there is a lot of patience and understanding out in the community.
In our small sphere of the world, there has been a lot going on which has kept us interested, motivated and fully occupied. To list just a couple: there has been the rolling out of the Federal Government Future Drought Fund in which we have been caught up through various projects; there has been the very successful APEN (Australasian Pacific Extension Network) Conference – which was held virtually for the first time (innovation by Covid); and Amy has been progressing her PhD studies on the use of social media by rural/agricultural women around climate related challenges.
The Future Drought Fund has a real focus on monitoring evaluation and learning (MEL) with teams within DAWE (Department of Agriculture, Water & Environment) working with the different project teams to develop performance measures and reporting requirements – which carry through to the Fund’s overall objectives. This is not without complications and sometimes a little frustration, but the acknowledgement of the need for good M&E and the resources and effort being put into supporting and guiding this is a very positive step. We are working on the M&E side of the CSA (Climate Service for Agriculture) Project; have developed the M&E Plan for the Southern NSW Drought and Innovation Hub; and are supporting the M&E of the Queensland components of the Farm Business Resilience Project and the Regional Drought Resilience Planning Program.
The APEN Conference was a treat and the technology for the virtual conference worked very well (mostly!). APEN reported that ‘the Masterclasses were attended by 68 people in total and the conference attracted a total of 282 delegates supported by 26 incredible sponsors that enabled this conference to be the success that it was’. I ran one of Masterclasses – on Extension planning and evaluation – and our company sponsored the ‘APEN Amabel Fulton Award for Excellence in Extension by a Young Professional’ (congrats to the joint worthy recipients – Jody Ward, DAF Qld; and Sarah Thompson, Dairy Australia). So great to see extension growing in numbers, thinking and practice into the 2000s!
Amy will provide an update on her PhD in the next blog. I know that she has enjoyed some excellent conversations with rural women around their motivation, use and benefits of using social media and this is an important contribution in better understanding and supporting our rural communities.
Breaks are always important and Robyn and I had a chance to spend some days at Carnarvon Gorge for some day hikes with some of the best vistas that Australia has on offer. The photos/drawings come from that opportunity. I hope that you all get a chance to have a great break and enjoy what is on offer ‘out there’!