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Update on the “Who Cares” social research series

Every 3 years since 1994, the former Office of Environment and Heritage has conducted a survey of the NSW community and discussion groups to track trends in the public’s environmental views, priorities, knowledge and actions. Full reports and data tables and other supporting documents for the six surveys undertaken between 2000 and 2015 are available for download here.

The Who Cares social research series is a much-loved piece of research used by many members to inform the work we do with community, especially our local government members. AAEE NSW member and retired OEH Manager, Lynne McLoughlin, was the principle researcher for the Who Cares program for many years.

The NSW Government has indicated that the ninth survey in the Who Cares series was scheduled for delivery in 2018 but has been postponed until 2019 however nothing has yet been released. Thanks to interest from some of our members at the Rumbulara Environmental Education Centre, AAEE NSW contacted the DPIE (now responsible for the research) to find out more about the status of the program and the 2018 research release.

We were able to catch up with the new Team Leader of Social Research at the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment (DPIE) and received this update:

“The Who Cares series has played an important role in tracking changing community values about the environment and specific environmental issues. As survey methods have become more accessible, we have observed a range of other attitudinal surveys about environmental issues serving a similar function. A review of the Who Cares research in 2018 resulted in a decision to discontinue the series and set up a new social research function that could capture community insights/needs/knowledge into decision-making more easily. There were some delays in setting this up, but we are now working on the design and delivery of the program. The 2015 Who Cares survey was consequently the last one in the series. The new program is known as Community Insights. One of the many positive legacies of the Who Cares series is that social research is recognised as having an important role across a range of our environmental programs. We are therefore structuring the Community Insights differently, with a range of smaller surveys that will integrate some survey items from the Who Cares series so as to maintain a longitudinal dataset on key issues.”

While it is a shame to hear the Who Cares series will not continue in it’s original form, we are heartened to hear that the Community Insights program is progressing and will pay tribute to the great foundational dataset the Who Cares research developed.

We hope that social research can continue to play an important part in developing our environmental education programs into the future.

As an Association. we will be staying in close contact with the DPIE to ensure the voices of environmental educators across the state are heard as they plan and deliver the new program. We will keep members updated as we hear further updates, or as new research is released.

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