Environmental advocacy at Griffith University

Environmental advocacy describes social action that occurs when communities are compelled by a tension between desired and actual environmental management. Effective advocacy bridges the gap between community values and institutional environmental management.

Environmental Advocacy was a one-semester postgraduate elective offered through the School of Australian Environmental Studies, Griffith University, Australia. It was available to students enrolled in the Faculty of Environmental Science postgraduate programs and as an elective course. The course attracted ten credit points toward relevant degrees and involves ten hours of class and independent study each week.

Wild Mountains 2003

Wild Mountains 2003

  • Students learnt about the strategies, tactics and traditions of environmental advocacy through a combination of traditional academic research and experiential learning. An integral element of the course was a 50 hour placement with community sector advocacy organisations.
  • The course did not focus on the technical dimension of environmental problems but, rather, on advocacy strategies to resolve them.
  • The course was developed in close liaison with key Australian environmental advocacy organisations and provides opportunities for close collaboration between the academic and community sectors.
Wild Mountains 2005

Wild Mountains 2005

The course was removed from the curriculum in 2006. Comparable courses are available at progressive universities including:

‘Activism and Social Change’ Masters Program @ University of Leeds
‘Public Advocacy and Action’ Diploma and Maters program @ Victoria University
RMIT University Community Advocacy Unit

Environmental advocacy course curriculum

This course was developed by James Whelan in 2003. Please use these resources with appropriate acknowledgement.

What students said about the course

“The course has really empowered me. I was passionate about it all, knew how to throw my body around in a direct action setting, but the steady approach of strategy and planning eluded me. I feel like the course gave me a game card… how to play the game, so my energy doesn’t get dissipated by less useful things, and I dont have to fret so much about if something doesn’t seem to work. It doesn’t have to work, right now that is, it may work, or be part of something that works later! so you’ve give me a whole new lease of activism life… I’ll always love direct action, but it’s so good to have a few ways to go.”

“The course is practical. It relies on real life stories to connect with theories of change and ideas about campaigning. It encourages analysis which is sadly lacking in the movement and provides politics in a university which frequently forgets its political role.”

“The strengths definitely lie in the experiential learning component of the course (internship). I also found the facilitated discussion/engage approach to lectures more beneficial for my style of learning than ‘lectures’. The focus on evaluation and reflection was particularly valuable.”

“For me, the greatest strength was that the coursework strongly informed my activism. Another great strength was the people involved – they were great!”

“It’s been an excellent opportunity to reflect on what I’ve done and the approaches I’ve taken over the past five years.”

“The weekend retreat at Wild Mountains was a tremendous opportunity to get to know the other students and really develop a learning circle – in a way that classes would never have established.”

“The sessions we worked through… personal theories of change, the role plays … were fantastic, really got me thinking about the different aspects of campaigning.”

“This course encourages analysis which is often lacking in the movement and provides politics in a university which frequently forgets its political role.”

“The strengths definitely lie in the experiential learning component of the course (internship) and also having the opportunity to mix with the campaigners in the course who were auditors.”

“I found the facilitated discussion/engage approach to lectures more beneficial for my style of learning than ‘lectures’. The focus on evaluation and reflection was particularly valuable.”

“Being involved in a campaign was incredibly useful to truly experience some of the setbacks, and wins of campaigning.”

“The diversity of topics and the freedom of learning within the weekly workshops were excellent.”

“The diversity of people within the course particularly those overseas made it really interesting.”

“I realise every time I talk to someone how influential what I’ve learned in environmental advocacy has been. The tools we learnt about are useful on a personal level as well as an organisational one (especially strategic questioning & MAP) and now that I’ve started using strategic questioning in addition to the usual issue-based interview questions, I get much more interesting answers!”

Wild Mountains 2006

Wild Mountains 2006