Consultation, Communication

Effective consultation – analysis, consideration, communciation

Sandra Welsman of Frontiers Insight offers a track record of effective interaction across industries involving a diversity of stakeholder groups such as staff, shareholders, communities, unions, through:

  • Forums and roundtables – design, facilitation, action and reporting – researched, cleverly structured to optimise consultation and participation outcomes
  • Tailored consultation programs involving large numbers with facilitation to bring together multiple interests in enterprises, industries or regions, to identify synergies and shape change programs and actions that win support
  • FocusShops – group issue analysis and idea generation – focused workshops to explore across areas, structures, interests and other factors. Exploring opportunities, unpacking issues. Aiming to distill hard-edged outcomes for planning, issues management, change.
  • Investigative discussions - as part of reviews, contacting cross-sections of stakeholders and concerned interests. Incorporating insights into strategic and operating plans and review reports.
  • Seminars, speeches, articles – communicating progress, results, issues analysed.

Communication and consultation are now expected in all types of Australian industries and workplaces. An educated, articulate population wants to provide their views about vision, change objectives and processes, obstacles and issues, performance targets, benchmarking and ‘who’ should be involved in doing ‘what’ to achieve results. People want their leaders to demonstrably listen, explain, interact, convince.

Consultation, issue collection and problem solving forums need to be carefully designed. speechThese events need to address the circumstances and should be tailored to optimise returns on time and resources. Outcomes should include ideas, insights, engagement, commitment.

Similarly, any planning, policy development, change, or performance review process within an industry, enterprise or organisation depends on consultative interaction.

For many reviews, interviews with key players and a cross-section of stakeholders can be important to obtain candid insights. Experience says that a skilled interviewer will secure much more face-to-face, than by phone or writing.  Some reviews will also need calls for submissions and structured multi-participant forums.


Consultation. Communication. Forums . Roundtables . Seminars

Australian Sugar Industry Alliance – Research Development and Extension (RD&E) Reform 2011-2013

The RD&E Reform package and implementation program centred on structured consultation, analysis of inputs, inventive consideration of approaches to address multiple concerns and expectations, making inputs clearly evident and considered in the Sugar RD&E Reform report, and ongoing consultation and communication around points agreed, implementation, and to achieve strong support across the industry – sugarcane growers and millers – and many stakeholder groups, staff, boards, industry organisations, governments, researchers, agencies. The RD&E Reform Implementation Leader developed and co-ordinated, and a small very dedicated team progressed, a multi-fronted and responsive consultation-communication plan – including in outline:

  • May-Jul 2011 Sugar RD&E reform structured consultation. 100+ written inputs and interactions, 80+ meetings in Brisbane, from Cairns to Ballina NSW, and in Canberra, with research providers, all industry organisations and staff groups across locations.
  • Sept-Oct 2011. Australian Sugar industry Alliance, with support of CANEGROWERS, ASMC and Chairs of BSES and SRL, agrees to implement full RD&E reform package with equal grower-miller funding. Communication with staff, industry groups, Ministers, researchers.
  • Nov 2011-Feb 2012. Field meetings series 1. Sugar RD&E reform package sessions for leaders and associated Sugar Advisory Services Development Program (SASDP) discussions. Ballina NSW, Ingham Qld, Innisfail, Bundaberg, Mackay, Proserpine, Ayr-Burdekin, Ingham, Far North, Mareeba. Briefings/discussions: Boards of ASMC, CANEGROWERS, BSES, SRDC, SRL, plus ACFA. Then, Tully, Burdekin – Kalamia, Pioneer boards, Rocky Point, NSW, DEEDI, DERM Qld.
  • 23 Feb 2012. Initial proposal submitted to Minister and Department. Also to stakeholders for information and comment.
  • March-May 2012. Field meetings series 2. Aiming for wide grower, miller, services, adviser participation. Town hall briefings and discussion on full RD&E reform package, modern, restructured research, extension/ advisory changes, opening of Sugar Advisory Services Development Program, Sugar Research Australia steps. Mareeba, Mossman, Gordonvale; Innisfail; Tully, Ingham, Burdekin, Bundaberg, Childers, Maryborough, Brisbane/ Rocky Pt, Ballina; Proserpine, Mackay/Sarina. Ongoing interactions with Minister, Department.
  • 31 May. Communications and consultation report and voting plan to Minister regarding Sugar Poll 2012 for Sugar Research Australia and a new statutory levy.
  • Jul-Sep 2012. The Sugar Poll 2012 industry-wide vote on formation of Industry Owned Company and Statutory Levy. 5.7 Sugar Poll website open for information, 75 questions/answers on Initial letter to all growers, millers. 16.7. Draft SRA Constitution posted on website. 25.7. Sugar Poll 2012 Voter Information Paper. Ongoing communications in multiple forms – electronic, media, field meetings as needed. Industry leaders united on Voting Yes 2-page poster – making wide grower and miller commitment clear. 1-2 Aug. Sugar Poll postal voting papers to all growers and millers. Industry communications continue. 31 Aug. ‘Post your vote by 31 August’. 7 Sep Sugar Poll results announced. Letters and communiques for all staff, stakeholders groups, Ministers.
  • Outstanding Poll results. More than 77% of the industry’s cane farming entities and all sugar mills participated in the Sugar Poll conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission for the industry through August. Industry leaders believe this participation rate of 77.5 % in a voluntary agricultural industry vote is unprecedented. Of these, 84% support the formation of Sugar Research Australia backed by a new statutory levy to be shared equally between growers and millers.
  • 18 Sept. ASA Sugar Industry Researcher Roundtable. Over 90 registered including CSIRO, universities, agencies, other providers, BSES, SRDC. Covering: forward RD&E structures, strong research planning for priorities, relevance, results, plus evaluation and management processes, forward timing.
  • 20 Sept 2012. Full ASA Application to the Minister regarding Establishing an Industry Owned Company, Sugar Research Australia, declaration of SRA as industry services body, and institution of the new statutory levy agreed in the Sugar Poll 2012..  Six volumes posted on the Sugar Poll website and distributed widely.
  • Ongoing. Sugar RD&E Reform Updates widely distributed by email and on website and via letters to key stakeholders organisations.
  • 19 March 2013. Sugar Research Australia information session for over 140 staff of BSES, SRDC, SRL.

Sandra’s engagement with the Australian sugar industry at both leadership and grass roots level has been comprehensive and fundamental to the successful delivery of Sugar Research Australia. Sandra’s attention to detail and her capacity to challenge industry stakeholders to adopt and support the necessary changes to research structures, and the level of investment in research, has brought the project to its current status. Simply put, Sandra has been a tireless advocate for positive change, well and truly above and beyond the call of the role. This reform project today sees the establishment of a new industry owned company, and the Federal Minister about to take the necessary legislation to the Australian Parliament.  5.2013


6.12 Speaker at LAMBEX 2012 a powerful whole industry conference in Bendigo, on “Owning up to our Achilles’ heals: We can’t hide from survival rates, castrations and curfews. Do we need to rethink these and be ahead of the attention?” woodhenge

Skills Issues presentations- NSW Regional Co-ordination Management Group. Outline report findings and discussion of issues and ideas, Feb 2009.

ACPET - facilitated focus-shop on national/international higher education directions, policy and regulations – key issues and development directions for specialist providers, as basis for developing reference policy portfolio, Dec 2008.  ‘Thank you for yesterday’s session, feedback has been very positive.’

University of New England, Planning forums and consultation. The strategic planning process was designed for the Vice-Chancellor, Executive Committee and stakeholders of the university community and progressed over May to Dec 2006 in stages, tailored to reflect inputs from four rounds of consultation plus submissions. These included developing a public Discussion Paper, thinking-working papers for 10 executive working sessions, plus facilitation of 12 general forums – all aiming for engagement, criticism and ideas.

This is a strong process … the words are strong, powerful, resonate with readers. UNE staff contributor during consultation 10.2006

To communicate the original, ongoing research and critical analysis behind The Frontiers Institute, a number of items  were presented and published by Sandra Welsman from 2007 including:

• Lateral thinking on skills for agrifood industries, FPJ 9.2008 >>
• The Promise of Good Teaching – getting much more from student surveys. 7.2008 >>
• Double or Nothing! Boosting returns to science from double degrees. 3.2008 >>
• To Boldly Go! Can Bright Students realise their Learning Potential at Universities? 11.07 >>
• Engaging Industry, Participative Forum to Explore not-so-Academic Questions. 11.07 >>
• Double or nothing! Clever thinking, double-degree frustration and returns to Science. 9.07 >>

Enterprise key to the future – A 2016 Scenario for Australian higher education. Published in The Australian Higher Education Supplement 11 Jan 2006.

Ndarala Special: Australian Education – 2016 Looking Back. ‘This provocative article … paints a very changed world …’

Promulgating the research behind Regulation Strategy courses . In addition to many submissions for industries and organisations, presentations and papers by Sandra Welsman on some of the original, ongoing regulation research, include:

• A web-letter on Australian deregulation policy and issues with rules, 1.2009
Business Regulation – promises, realities, futures. to John Howard’s Decade Conference 2006 >>
A Science : Law stand-off. International dimensions, local implications. research paper delivered to 22nd Law & Society Conference, Griffith University 2004 >>

Why the Bush needs the City.invited piece on rural skills, new modes of workforce thinking, action and education, published by The Weekly Times 14 Sept 2005. Based on SJ Welsman submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry inquiry into rural skills training & research, 2005-2006 and inputs to a hearing of the Committee.

City must be wooed. D McKenzie 14 Sep 2005 The Weekly Times. ‘Australia’s House of Representatives is currently holding an inquiry into rural skills. Dr Sandra Welsman, who has lot of experience in rural industry, education and training, told the  inquiry that urban Australians are very reluctant to move to the bush to work for a number of reasons, including the perception that  actual farm ownership is the only way to achieve success in rural life. …

“I was very pleased to read the article … in the current edition of The Weekly Times. Your thoughts are so accurate and true … and I am glad that they are receiving some publicity. I own and operate a small employment/ recruitment agency in … WA, dealing mostly with rural, regional and remote areas and find that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to attract people even for seasonal basic farm jobs. … I look forward to seeing change in the public perception about rural matters. If only there was more mention in the media of the positives rather than the concentration on ‘doom and destruction’ issues.’ CB Employment 20.9.05

Australian Organics Industry Roundtable, to develop a vision for the future of the industry, 2004. On commission of DAFF and RIRDC, researching a disparate industry, deriving themes for discussion, structuring and affiliating a working roundtable opened by the Minister, through to writing the outcomes/actions report for stakeholders.

Engaging Industry – interactive forum on issues in universities consulting to industry, 2003/2007.  Industry seeks – to address a business need, issue or opportunity; added value – contribution more effective / efficient than staff; brainpower, expertise, focused creativity; problem solving objectivity, and at times – arm’s length, prestige, network links. Industry expects – Performance, Value-added and useful, Business answers and strategy, Delivery of the service sought in quality, time, attitude. (Case study: healthcare business consulting).

‘Many thanks for speaking … I hope it was a salutary lesson for people, inspiring them to change and set changes in place.’ Vice Chancellor, Dec 2003

Think Big Apple! Seminar inspiring careers in agriculture, law, science, business with links to UG and MBA goals.  Numerous inquiries for AgLaw courses received during 2003-2004. more on AgLaw

Researcher Roundtable, Review of Performance AWI, April 2003.  Sandra Welsman designed and led a challenging roundtable structure with hard-edged topics and coordinated 15 speakers aiming to air issues with processing, production, genetics and environmental research and development to open interactions. A full, productive day attended by over 80 researchers from around Australia.

Wool Industry Planning Consultation Forums, 14-15 March 2002. As part of the initial AWI strategic planning process in the first six months of operation after a decade of industry difficulties. Sandra Welsman conceived and developed the Forums – architecture: concept, structure, chairs, speakers and researching and Issues Papers for each session distilling issues and directions relating to the industry and innovation:

• Representation, innovation & inventiveness: The Adoption Issue.
• Coming to grips with genetics in the wool industry
• Can science achieve big changes for wool?
• Ideal processes for reviewing research proposals, and wool-focussed education
• Marketing and product support. Market intelligence. Producer-processor alliances.
• Reducing handling, testing & selling costs. Products achievable via science or management.

‘The forums went very well – a good level of energy all round … lots of new ideas coming to the floor. Industry member, Tamworth 2002

‘Congratulations on the strategic plan. … it is very good and reflects the considerable effort that you and AWI have gone to canvass the opinions of … stakeholders.’ Department executive Canberra 2002

‘Congratulations on the very concentrated, demanding work and the resulting quality of the plan.’ WoolProducers president

dystrategyMajor structural reform and organisational change – communications programs with personnel. Tailored, responsive communication and consultation programs, adapting  techniques for different audiences and stakeholders (internal, external. media, political).

  • ACTEW, 1400 personnel. Led and addressed groups at locations, ongoing meetings with workforce representatives and unions. Corporatisation update Newsletters: Minister, personnel, government entities, unions. 1990-1991 >>
  • Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority sites (850 persons) on ‘Changes in the Snowy’- Sessions on Enterprise Restructuring, Award restructuring, increased flexibility, skilling opportunities.
  • Garden Island Dockyard (then 3000 personnel), series of seminars on corporate plan and negotiated change programs – ‘FULL SPEED AHEAD in 87/88′ – to achieve a 20% productivity jump. Addresses to workforce, union and customer meetings of 50 to 400. Monthly FULL SPEED AHEAD and ON-TIME, ON-TARGET progress newsletters to all personnel and customer stakeholders. 1987-1988. >>

CSR Limited Energy Division and Oil & Gas Division - media interactions, internal and external communications, events, issues management during the resources boom – coal, coal loading,  oil and oil drilling, oil shale, uranium and oil processing sectors.

  • Resources Boom: Structured financial media tours of energy and mining activities and daily handling of diversity of media queries and issues, including acquisition of Delhi Petroleum, sale of Thiess Construction, and associated internal information.
  • Public issues handling: Jackson oil discovery; Queensland, media and Ministerial tour. Underground coal mine collapse, Queensland. New Yarrabee coal mine opening.  Honeymoon Uranium Project SA, media and political tour and briefings; demonstration management strategy.
  • Internal Communications: Strategies and communication activities for ‘bringing together’ of disparate acquired companies located throughout Australia.

Australian Wool Industry – implementing objective measurement R&D worldwide, including

  • Australian Woolgrower Field Days and Seminars on Objective Clip Preparation and Objective Measurement across all States and regional areas. Designed and co-ordinated more than 250 field days, also workshops for TAFE educators, woolcassers, woolbrokers.japan-td
  • The Objective Measurement of Raw Wool: A Technical and Marketing Demonstration conducted by Australian Wool Corporation on behalf of Australian Wool Growers: Nagoya, Japan.  Demonstration design, coordination and report preparation, S J Welsman.
  • Mill tours and Reviews for Wool Processor Associations for Australian Wool Corporation. Issues analysis and plans discussed with wool trade at meetings in Osaka and Nagoya in Japan, and in South Africa, Europe, USSR including International Wool Textile conferences.