National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network Communiqué October 2018

The National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network (NBCEN) produces nationally consistent public information in response to pest and disease outbreaks that impact on Australia’s agricultural industries.

The network consists of communication managers from the Australian, state and territory agriculture agencies, Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, and the Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Local Government Association, Wildlife Health Australia and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions are Observers.

The network facilitates the rapid and consistent dissemination of information that affected people need to prevent and respond to a pest or disease outbreak. Audiences may include affected producers/growers and their local communities, trading partners, the general public, media, and stakeholders such as exporters and supply chain service providers.

NBCEN also plays a pivotal role in pest and disease prevention and preparedness communication and stakeholder engagement activities.

NBCEN meeting

NBCEN held its face-to-face meeting in Western Australia at the office of Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). The meeting was held on October 31 and 1 November, hosted by DPIRD.

Key outcomes

National biosecurity communication and engagement strategy

NBCEN discussed a national biosecurity communication and engagement strategy that will be developed in 2019. The strategy will ensure a consistent approach to biosecurity messaging and activities across all jurisdictions. A dedicated resource is being funded to undertake the work, in collaboration with NBCEN members.

A national biosecurity statement has been drafted by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and will provide the basis for future biosecurity commentary and a launch point for the national communication strategy. The statement is being finalised, and the national communication strategy is set to be developed in early 2019.

NBCEN members provide strategic, nationally coordinated advice on communication and engagement activities, not only to support responses to pest and disease outbreaks but also on prevention and preparedness activities in the biosecurity sector. A communication strategy will help build a national biosecurity brand through coordinated messaging, and also reduce the duplicated work effort and costs across the jurisdictions.

Biosecurity Warrior and a new digital communication initiative

New South Wales has a strategy underway to raise public awareness of biosecurity. They have extended their promotional activities and resources to other jurisdictions for their use. This includes the 2D character, Biosecurity Warrior, which is currently being used in school awareness programs to educate the community in an engaging, interactive and relevant way.  It is trademarked to NSW but licenses can be obtained for use at no cost.  

NSW also invited jurisdictions to co-fund and participate in NSW’s digital communication project as part of their state push for biosecurity awareness. Digital resources will showcase the importance of biosecurity and the risks that pests, diseases and weeds present to the economy. This includes the development of podcasts, short video stories, and a 3-part TV series. 

NBCEN members are considering how the Biosecurity Warrior program could be integrated in their own jurisdiction and the merits of the digital communication project.

Public information preparedness resources

Queensland shared the engagement resources they have developed for public information communications in a biosecurity emergency with all jurisdictions. These include a stakeholder engagement strategy and toolkit, risk assessment materials, a rapid response kit, and various policies, procedures and templates i.e. on social media engagement.

These valuable resources support a consistent approach to communications across all jurisdictions in the event of a pest or disease outbreak. They are stored on NBCEN’s Sharepoint site for easy access.

Western Australia’s Chief Plant Protection Officer

NBCEN members took the opportunity to meet Dr Sonya Broughton who is the Chief Plant Protection Officer for Western Australia. Discussions centred on WA’s response to citrus canker and the impact it’s had on growers. Dr Broughton highlighted the importance of discretion in the national talking points when referring to the location of affected areas so that growers cannot be identified by media outlets.

Citrus WA's Bronwyn Walsh provided an update on the WA response to citrus canker from industry's perspective.

National Biosecurity Behaviour Science and Market Research platform

NBCEN now have a micro-site on the National Biosecurity Portal for behavioural science and market research. This is a key deliverable that will assist improved engagement and communication with stakeholders to educate on their biosecurity responsibilities.
The site includes a range of research papers from other jurisdictions, and other agencies including CSIRO, ABARES, Centre for Invasive Species Solutions and Plant Health Australia/Animal Health Australia.

This work was delivered by the NBCEN members from Queensland and Plant Health Australia.

Lessons learned from recent incidents

NBCEN members from Western Australia, Northern Territory and Victoria provided overviews of public information activities undertaken during responses to recent incidents including citrus canker and varroa mite.  Sharing lessons learnt, as well as ideas that have worked well, is valuable for each jurisdiction.  This is a set agenda item at all NBCEN meetings.

WA biosecurity programs and resources

NBCEN members got an overview of biosecurity activities, programs and technologies in use in Western Australia. This included their app for reporting pests, an SMS pilot and new kits for producers to improve cattle health surveillance, the Carnarvon Medfly project, and the future development of a National Incursion Management Framework.

NBCEN also gained biosecurity insights from the perspective of the Grains Industry Association, WA.

Tour of the Sterile Insect Technique labs at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

NBCEN members were grateful for the opportunity to tour the Sterile Insect Technique labs at DPIRD.

The labs have been piloting techniques to control and eradicate Mediterranean fruit fly since 1978.  Sterile fruit flies are reared in the facility and released into affected areas to mate with wild females and produce infertile eggs.

These labs are a vital part of Western Australia’s biosecurity system and currently support an eradication project underway in Carnarvon.

Come and meet us!

NBCEN is dedicated to establishing relationships with our communication counterparts from industry. If you’re from a livestock or plant industry group or any of the associated supply chains, please feel free to come and meet us at one of our face-to-face meetings. Register your interest in meeting with us by emailing NBCEN.

Meeting attendees

The NBCEN’s October 2018 meeting in Perth was attended by the following members:

Melissa Brown (Chair)Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Monique MahoneyAustralian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Lisa BertramWA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Jodie Thomson WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Katrina BowersWA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Suzy NortonWA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Emily StaniforthNSW Department of Primary Industries
Melanie CurtisAgriculture Victoria
Prue OxfordAgriculture Victoria
Phil WoodTasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
Sacha KitsonQueensland Department of Agriculture and  Fisheries
Mandy GylesPlant Health Australia
Jackie PoyserAnimal Health Australia
Danika BarnardAnimal Health Australia
Rupert WoodsWildlife Health Australia
Ian McDonaldCentre for Invasive Species Solutions
Katey BuckleyAustralian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
By teleconference
Fontella KoleffDepartment of Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia
Lucy BuhrDepartment of Primary Industry and Resources
Geoff VirtueACT Government
Rupert WoodsWildlife Health Australia

Next meeting

The next face-to-face meeting will be held in Darwin, in May 2019.

Contact NBCEN

For more information about NBCEN contact the Secretariat in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources by emailing NBCEN or phone (02) 6272 3409.