From the desk of the Managing Director in February 2007

A belated Happy New Year and welcome back everybody, I hope your break was as relaxing as mine. It was great to come back to Alice Springs after the recent rains which filled the waterholes, brought some welcome cooler weather and turned the Centre a vivid green. Check out the pics of the Todd in full flow!

We achieved a great deal last year and really needed this break. I’m determined that we will pace and look after ourselves a bit better this year, while still maintaining a sense of urgency about our work.

Staff News

A special welcome to our new staff members Jenny Cleary, Lynette Swan and Tahnee Brown.

Lynette and Tahnee, both from Alice Springs, are our new program assistants supporting our research, communication and commercialisation work.

Jenny takes over from Maarten Ryder as leader of the Bush Products from the Desert core project. Jenny joins us from Rural Solutions SA, a government-owned consultancy business in Port Augusta and comes with a solid reputation in community development. I’d like to acknowledge the kind support from the South Australian Outback Areas Development Trust, which allows Jenny to remain based in her home town of Port Augusta and strengthens our collaboration with our South Australian stakeholders. You can read all about her appointment in last week’s media release.

A big thank you to Maarten for helping to develop the project since 2004. He wanted more time to pursue his wider research interests but will stay involved in the Bush Products team.

Terri Harbrow has elected to return to Brisbane for family reasons. We wish her well.

The restructure of our management team has seen Craig James take on the newly created position of General Manager Communication and Commercialisation. He will shortly be moving to Canberra for family reasons.

Ruth Davies is settling into Brisbane and has been greatly assisted by CSIRO at St Lucia.

Congratulations to Mark Moran, the leader of core project 5, Desert Services that Work. Mark was recently awarded an honorary position of Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland in recognition of his excellent research.

Industry Survey

The recent successful independent Commonwealth review of the Desert Knowledge CRC surveyed our stakeholders about their views on four major topics. The survey report concludes that we are very well connected to end users, and are creating significant tangible and intangible value for them. Here are some of the results:

1. End user awareness and involvement: Over 80% of those surveyed agree or strongly agree that they were satisfied with how we communicate and collaborate with end users, including with Aboriginal stakeholders.

2. Accessibility, relevance, and quality of our research: More than 90% of respondents agree or strongly agree that the investment in our CRC will lead to sustainable tangible and intangible benefits to people and communities in remote regions.

3. Changes needed to strategy or its implementation, or to management generally: 94% of respondents agree or strongly agree that our management effort is effective. There are indications that recent improvement has been evident in a number of areas.

4. Potential/actual contribution we make to commercial growth: 93% of respondents agree or strongly agree that we will deliver benefits to business in the desert economy.

We can be very proud of these results which, as the report notes:

“… have been achieved in an environment that is highly complex. In this challenging context, the Desert Knowledge CRC has been able to harness the energy and goodwill of end users, industry, research organisations and other key stakeholders. Overall, in a short period of time, the CRC has established a sound platform in a very complex environment. It has the support and confidence of end users to continue to build on this foundation in the pursuit of its vision.”

Canberra Showcase

In December we were part of a group of CRCs selected to show off their work at the inaugural CRC showcase at Parliament House.

The event was an opportunity for Ministers, politicians and their staff to mingle with DEST staff and CRC representatives, and update their knowledge on the CRC program, its initiatives and results to date.

I had a chance to meet with Minister Julie Bishop. She was fortunately aware of our work through her contact with Fred Chaney the Chair of Desert Knowledge Australia.

She praised the achievements of CRCs in making science useful, for having a significant impact on improving Australia’s GDP, and in particular for assisting small businesses to get really useful technologies and products to market.

“High quality and high impact research are vital if Australia is to stay in the global race and these are a hallmark of the CRC Programme. The report of the Economic Impact Study of the CRC Programme, which I launched in October this year, found that the activities of CRCs have increased Australia’s Gross Domestic Product by nearly $2.7 billion.” Minister Bishop said, “For every $1 invested there was around $2.16 being returned to the Australian economy.”

Growing the Desert

I’m very pleased with the final report and case studies of Metta Young’s Growing the Desert project which was submitted to NCVER for external review late last year.

The report will be submitted for publication on the NCVER web site and will then go up on ours. I’ll keep you posted.

Congratulations on a great effort.

Core Project 5 Workshop

The steering group for the Desert Services that Work project met for the first time in late November. Members include practitioners in Aboriginal affairs, traditional owners, regional leaders, entrepreneurs, senior departmental officers, a policy historian and the senior governance advisor from the Asian Development Bank. They came from five jurisdictions and live as far apart as Jigalong, Canberra, Port Augusta, Perth, Camooweal and Alice Springs.

The meeting led to a redrafting of the project’s five research questions and re-focused the project on international development practice and the ‘supply-chain’ in government. At the same time, it narrowed its scope to a limited category of services.

The CEO of CAT, Bruce Walker, sat in on some of the sessions and commented:

“This has been a valuable steering group to come out of the CRC. It is not often that you get a group of people together for the first time round that generate this level of insight.”

Experts wanted for Evaluations

The Forum for European Australian Science & Technology Cooperation (FEAST) seek registrations from experts to help them evaluate research proposals.

This may be a good opportunity for Desert Knowledge researchers to broaden their understanding of the quality of research that is now being funded nationally and internationally and of what is being proposed at the ‘cutting edge’.

FEAST particularly welcome applications from suitably qualified women.