Project Summary:  
This project is designed to explore people’s values towards and interactions with Moreton Bay, and the rivers and creeks that flow into Moreton Bay, to inform management approaches by government, government-community partnerships, Traditional Owners and Indigenous organisations, and community groups. It provides the social component of monitoring and evaluation for the Moreton Bay Marine Park, and informs all of our partners about social aspects of the Bay and rivers, to help inform their management of waterways, communications strategies, and community engagement approaches.
It will also bring together Indigenous with non-Indigenous understandings to highlight differing cultural values and ways of protecting waterways. Academically, the project will show how knowing more about people-environment relationships can contribute to fully integrated management, monitoring and evaluation of protected areas, and promote linkages between land and marine management.
The project uses a framework of environmental values, developed by Yale University scholar Stephen Kellert. The methods are interviewing and observation, with the Indigenous participants developing other methods and forms of participation. By linking catchment with ocean, and social with biophysical sciences and economics, the project provides an understanding of the values held by the differing sectors, stakeholders and user groups connected to waterways in Southeast Queensland, and the role these values play in resource management.

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, UQ (co-leader)
School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, UQ (co-leader)
School of Social Science, UQ (Anthropology)
School of Social Science, UQ (Anthropology)
Deputy Director (General Manager)
National Climate Change Adaptation
Research Facility, Griffith University
Project Researchers:
  • Dr Natalie Jones - Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr Katherine Witt - Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Breanna Pinner - Indigenous Research Officer
Photo by Leonard John Matthews (Shorncliffe Pier 22/06/2008): //
People’s values from catchment to coast in south east Queensland
Sylvie Shaw, Helen Ross, Natalie Jones, Katherine Witt, Breanna Pinner, David Rissik and James Udy
This research explores how people value waterways in south east Queensland to enhance our understanding of why the rivers, creeks and Bay environment within our study area are important and meaningful to people: why do people care about these places? The findings of the study will be used to contribute social perspectives to the management of Moreton Bay Marine Park and the rivers and creeks that flow into it.
Moreton Bay Marine Park is located next to Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland. Moreton Bay itself supports a diverse range of habitats, including wetlands of international significance, as well as populations of rare and endangered marine species. The area, however, is under threat from urbanisation and rural development. Through this study we aim to identify the full spectrum of ways in which people value the waterways in south east Queensland.
To date we have carried out a preliminary analysis of 58 semi-structured interviews. In the interview we presented the participant with a map of the study area (south east Queensland) and asked them to mark on it the waterways which they particularly value, and then talk about why those waterways are important and meaningful to them. We used Stephen Kellert’s (1996, 2013) typology of 10 nature-centred values to guide the analysis of our data.
Preliminary findings
We have found that the waterways are places that provide people with a diversity of rich and meaningful experience. Following is a summary of how Kellert’s nature-based values were expressed in relation to the waterways in south east Queensland.
Kellert's values How they are expressed in relation to the waterways in SEQ
emotional attachment
People feel a deep emotional attachment – a “love”, “bond” or an “affinity” - to the waterways. These emotional connections are developed through family heritage; living, working or socialising along a given waterway; or associating it with a significant or memorable life experience.
direct experience of nature
Waterways are places where people can connect with nature and explore the natural world. This is particularly important for those people living in a highly urbanised environment.
ethical concern for nature
People expressed a need to protect the environment which they acknowledge is under threat from urbanisation and development.
scientific study of nature
People recognise that the waterways in SEQ play important ecological functions. Some of the habitats and species found in the region are of international significance.
practical and material use of nature
The waterways are used for many different practical and material purposes. For example, in the upper catchments water from creeks is used for farming and household use. In the lower catchments the deep channels within waterways are important to the boat and shipping industries.
physical appeal and beauty
An appreciation for the beauty of the waterways is widely shared.
mastery and control of nature
The waterways provide people with many physical and mental challenges, often as recreational pursuits, such as boating on the Bay, hiking or kayaking. People also recognise the need to control and manage water flows to mitigate the impacts of flooding.
feelings of transcendence; reverence for nature
Waterways can invoke a sense of belonging whereby people feel connected to life and the world around them. This lends people to feel a deep sense of respect for the natural world.
use of nature for language and thought
Waterways symbolise important and meaningful aspects of life for people. An arts community on one of Bay islands draws inspiration from the waterways in their artwork, which serves to heighten others’ appreciation and love for the Bay.
fear and aversion from nature
Interviewees talked about aspects of the waterways that need to be treated with caution and respect, particularly in times of flood in the upper catchments.
How will the findings of this study be used?
The findings will be used to provide new directions for the management of waterways in south east Queensland. They will be used to build a record of how people relate to and interact with the waterways and will inform those involved in waterways management about why the rivers, creeks and Bay are important and meaningful to people. The findings will also contribute to the design of a monitoring and evaluation framework in collaboration with our project partners: the Queensland Government, Healthy Waterways, SEQ Catchments and Traditional Owners.
 Photo by Cerae Mitchell
Kellert, S. 1996 The Value of Life: biological diversity and human society. Washington D.C.: Island Press. 
Kellert, S. 2012 Birthright: people and nature in the modern world. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Industry Partners: 
State Government
Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts
Healthy Waterways
Healthy Waterways is a not-for-profit, membership-based organisation working to protect and improve South East Queensland’s waterways. Our programs and services enhance regional collaboration, drive decision making, inform policy and inspire action to achieve effective catchment management and support economic growth for our region.


SEQ Catchments
SEQ Catchments maintains liaison with the former members of the South East Queensland Traditional Owner Alliance, and other Traditional Owner groups and Indigenous environmental management organisations, on behalf of the project



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