This 6-day intensive course introduces university students to the complex and interdisciplinary nature of protected area management. The course is delivered through the University of New South Wales in Sydney, in partnership with the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute.
Students visit the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (just inland of Sydney) to learn about nature conservation and to meet with a diverse range of stakeholders to explore the social process of what is taking place in managing protected areas, to unearth and understand the multitude of values, alliances, differences, tensions and opportunities.
The course includes interpretive forest walks and meetings with the local Indigenous community, National Parks agency, tourism businesses, and the fire management agency.
The course offers a hands-on practical approach, so that students learn how “issues with competing stakeholders, politics, funding and limited resources all play a pivotal role in management” (course participant).
During the course I felt a shift not only in my thinking but also in my identification with the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. In fact I now feel connected and responsible for its future. There should be more courses like this, which can begin to change the paradigm and remind us of our intrinsic 'love of nature'. The course forces you to think about what we value as important in the world around us.
If students/people can make a genuine real life sensory connection with what they are 'fighting' for, then their level of commitment to the 'cause' is often proven to be stronger.
The course allows you to face the realities and the nitty-gritties of daily management challenges, especially for large and complex protected ecosystems. You don't get that kind of learning sitting in a classroom. It also gives students the chance to talk to experts in the field (literally) and such an opportunity in university life is rare.
A fully immersive learning experience, illustrating the importance of the varied stakeholder and interest groups associated with landscape-scale conservation. It covers a range of management issues, with ample opportunity for discussion with stakeholders and with other participants.
This course is held annually for students from a range of disciplines, many with no prior experience of environmental science or management, and is being adapted by the BMWHI in partnership with the Protected Areas Learning & Research Collaboration for offering in a non-academic context for anyone interested in, or working in relation to, protected areas.