Communities & Culture

The people of the South West are one of its most important assets.
Our communities are resilient, evolving and diverse, whether they are rural, peri-urban or urban coastal. SWCC recognises the value of these communities to environmental protection and management.

We also recognise the value of the diversity of cultural backgrounds within our South West communities, in particular Aboriginal culture. We look to the Noongar connection to Country to improve our approach to valuing, managing and protecting our natural environment.

In saying all of this, the South West natural environment is coming under increasing pressure from local community way of life and visitors alike. Population increase, increasing tourism and climate change are projected to test our environmental capital.

The fundamental principle underpinning this Environmental Snapshot is that the management of the Region’s natural resources will only be achieved at a broadscale if the capacity of the community and landholders to undertake landcare is fully supported, with locally delivered engagement and extension activities, community landcare support professionals and adequate financial resources to ensure the inclusion of wider community and Aboriginal cultural values into the management of private and public natural assets.

An improvement in the condition of these natural assets will require a substantial shift in; the behaviour and attitudes of individuals within our communities; government engagement and interaction with these communities; tourist and visitor education and landholder support to tackle the diversity of issues facing the Region.

Services and values

While European settlement and subsequent regional development trends in the South West over the past 200 years have undoubtedly created most of the issues and pressures confronting our natural assets, it is the regional community that holds the key to improved resource management.

The region’s rural, urban, Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal, professional and lay, research, business and academic communities provide the following values to natural resource management:

  • land management knowledge
  • traditional ecological knowledge
  • a stewardship ethic
  • eyes ‘on the ground’
  • a diversity of views
  • community networks
  • new ways of communicating environmental messages
  • local interest, connection and enthusiasm

Current condition, threats and trends

One of the biggest threats to the South West environment, our ‘sense of place’ and ‘way of life’ is population increase, urban development and associated land use conflict. The South West’s [Development Commission Region] population is expected to grow significantly by 2026, to the tune of almost 210,0001.

In conjunction, ongoing land degradation, including the projected continued spread of salinity, ongoing vegetation clearing on roadsides and private property, and loss of arable soils, are projected to compound these issues and place additional pressure on agricultural land productivity, fresh water resources, tourism attractions and wildlife habitat.

Temperature increase and rainfall decrease projected for the South West as part of climate change modelling will compound these issues.

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Maidens Reserve is a very popular bushwalking destination for Bunbury residents.

Urban population recreational use of the natural environment

The most popular recreational pursuit in the South West is walking and/or hiking, with 73% of residents getting out and about and enjoying our beautiful landscapes.

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There are a lot of urban residents in the South West who are keen conservationists and want to see urban bushland areas protected.

Urban perception of the natural environment

South West urban residents value our natural environment, with 23% concerned about development and a further 16% about land clearing.

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Our South West farmers are often the last line of defence when it comes to environmental management, particularly in pest animal and plant control.

Landholder education

56% of landholders in the South West have completed year 10 or year 12, 21% have completed TAFE or vocational college and 18% have completed a university course.

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The love of the land.

Landholder property values

Landholders in the South West are more motivated by ecological and environmental values of their property (41% of landholders) than economic values (only 8%). In addition, 24% of landholders ranked therapeutic value as most important for wellbeing and quality of life, while a further 16% ranked lifestyle attributes as most important.

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All of our South West waterways are precious to Noongar people. Keeping our waterways healthy keeps culture healthy. Photo by Tim Swallow.

Cultural Importance of Waterways

Did you know that all wetlands, creeks and rivers in the South West are culturally significant to the Noongar people, and this is directly linked to their environmental importance?

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Traditional Noongar tools and artefacts. Photo by Wendy Slee.

Caring for Country

The number of Aboriginal community groups involved in landcare in the South West has increased from 4 in 2000 to 15 in 2017.

Tools on yonga booka. Photo: Wendy Slee

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Enjoying our beautiful natural environment is one of the reasons the South West is such a great place to live.

Sense of Place and Wellbeing

72.5% of South West NRM Region residents agree that this is a great place to live, 79.5% agree that they are proud to live in their local community, 71.4% agreed there was good community spirit and 78.8% thought their community had a bright future.

Data Source

  • University of Canberra, Centre for Research and Action on Public Health. (2016). 2016 Regional Wellbeing Survey Results for NRM Regions. [raw data]
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Surface water runoff capture, water quality and water availability has been identified as a future management issue, as a result of climate change modelling.

Urban Environmental Beliefs

More than 84% of South West urban residents are concerned about climate change and its impacts on our region in future. Furthermore, they believe human activities are having an impact right now.

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Dams are vital to South West farmers for stock watering and irrigation.

Landholder environmental concern

South West farmers are most concerned about availability of water for agricultural purposes (31% of farmers), poor surface water in rivers and creek (29% of farmers) and poor-quality groundwater (28% of farmers), however by far the most commonly reported issue was introduced pest animals (78% of farmers).

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The Friends of Manea Park in Bunbury are bucking the trend in urban volunteering, holding regular volunteer activities in this beautiful urban reserve.

Urban Volunteering

Only 14% of urban residents were found to have participated in organised meetings or activities about environmental issues. Most commonly reported reasons for this is that residents believed they were too old, too busy or that they hadn’t heard about them.

Case Studies


  1. Department of Planning and WA Planning Commission. (2015). South West Regional Planning and Infrastructure Framework. Part A: Regional Strategic Planning. Western Australian Planning Commission, Perth.