Storytelling for a healthier Reef


Department of Agriculture & Fisheries, Queensland Government

The background

Reef Extension Practitioners’ play an important role in supporting farmers and growers in the areas surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, to adopt practices that reduce nutrient, sediment and pesticide runoff from farms and ultimately to support the long-term health of a national icon.

When COVID-19 restrictions hit in early 2020, Reef Practitioners were unable to do their usual work of visiting growers out in the field and, instead, had to find innovative and new ways to support those whose work is directly impacting the Reef.

To help steward greater sustainability around the Reef, program participant Katrina from Growcom captured the story of her father, Damien, a sugar cane grower from Northern NSW. Speaking passionately about the importance of greater agricultural practices, it’s incredible to imagine what’s possible with some simple storytelling skills.

The challenge

Supporting farmers and growers, many of whom have had skills and practices passed down over generations, to change the way they do things can be a tall order. Finding new ways to share important sustainability messages both with and about local farmers and growers is key to the survival and health of the Reef. But where to start when there’s such varying levels of digital literacy, storytelling skills and confidence communicating online?

The opportunity

To bring farmers, growers, agronomists, small businesses, and community organisations together, funded by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and use story to shine a light on those who are implementing more Reef-safe practices leading the way in sustainability and create a fertile ground for stewarding change.

The solution

Embarking on a journey of learning digital storytelling skills through a six-week Facilitated Online Learning Program hosted by our Stories for Impact team.

“I have always felt apprehensive about video editing and knew nothing about it. When this course came up I thought I should give it a go and try and learn a new skill! The course guided us through how to put together a digital story and provided valuable feedback on our story ideas with plenty of support and encouragement [for us]. I will be able to use my new-found skills regularly and I have the confidence now to put my hand up and say `I can make a video about that if you like’ and have fun actually putting it together!”

– Linda, Communication and Engagement Officer, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

The investment

  • Six weeks of weekly live webinars and challenges to work through how to find, make, edit and share digital stories
  • ≅10K
  • Commitment to getting comfortable with the discomfort of learning new skills and being in front of the camera

What emerged

  • 30 confident storytellers from 11 different organisations with some valuable new storycrafting and editing skills and a short video each to share such as this by agricultural economist Caleb from Townsville whose video reached more than 11,000 people and was viewed more than 7,000 times!
  • A strong sense of community and connection amongst participants during a challenging and stressful lockdown due to COVID-19
  • Better understanding of how to identify and craft more engaging messaging and information both for and about local farmers and producers
  • Increased buy-in for the Reef Extension Practitioner Program and sustainability practices in the region
  • Greater knowledge and uptake of the various support services available for farmers and producers on the way to more sustainable systems and processes

The three things we learned:

  1. Going through a learning experience, as a cohort, is a powerful way to share skills, insights and to build connection
  2. Sometimes creative limitations (such as COVID restrictions!) can open our eyes to the incredible stories that are closer to home
  3. Regional communities are hubs of innovation, always having to find new ways of doing things in response to the changing environment and economy

“The course has certainly been worthwhile because I have successfully made a video that conveys a positive message. I loved that I was taught to draft my thoughts onto a story canvas and interpret that into a digital story. I am so pleased I took the course as I now feel more confident about taking on small video making projects in the future.”

– Debra, MSF Sugar, Project Uplift




communications, conservation, digital storytelling, internal video training, marketing, smartphone filmmaking, storytelling training, video training