Department of Geography and Planning

Dr Greg Walkerden

GEOPLAN - Greg WalkerdenPosition: Lecturer
Location: W3A 430
Telephone: +61-2-9850 7991


I have spent much of the last twenty years seeking to catalyse change in environmental management, through roles in government, consulting, NGOs, and universities.

Using professional practice as a medium for action research has been central to my work. My action research frame is: In many respects, we don't know how to sustain the socio-ecological systems in which we are embedded. So appropriate environmental management will commonly be exploratory, and often innovative.

I research and design practices, and various kinds of supports for changes in practice (e.g. policies, strategies, capacity building processes, and decision support tools).

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Research Interests

My research is organised around practical questions - 'how to ...' questions:

  • how might we manage socio-ecological systems sustainably?
  • how can we catalyse change in the management of socio-ecological systems?
  • what shifts in business models and public policy might be transformational?
  • how can we foster innovative practice?
  • what approaches to researching practices, and designing new kinds of practice, are fruitful?
  • what micropractices underpin effective and innovative practice (e.g. heeding our 'feel' for situations), and how can these be developed and taught?
  • what is 'skillful practice', in general? 

As a result, much of my research has a design focus: designing policies, strategies, systems, and practices to support shifts to socially, economically and ecologically sustainable forms of life.  

My academic roots are in philosophy and social psychology, and they remain a strong influence on my research.  My focus is applied however: I explore problems seeking practical solutions, so for that reason my work is transdisciplinary: bounded by what needs to be explored to find approaches that work, rather than by the limits of disciplinary questions.

Much of environmental management is about influencing people, and generalist skills - organising, innovating, reflecting, negotiating, etc. - make a large contribution to successful practice.  My research interests reflect this.  I am interested in both the landscape of practical skills that underly successful professional practice in general, and ecosystem management strategies for particular places and systems.  (The latter are probably better described as 'approaches to influencing the dynamics of socio-ecological systems so that what occurs is relatively welcome'; in this context, 'management' does not imply control.)

Some examples of my specific areas of interest are as follows.

  • Technical / political / managerial triangulation
    Employing technical / political / managerial triangulations (e.g. systems analysis, stakeholder analysis, management system design) to design socio-ecological policy and management approaches.  Sustainable development, catchment management, water cycle management, biodiversity conservation generally, and fostering ecological permeability in mixed use landscapes in particular, are five areas in which I work.
  • Capacity building
    Building the capacities of organisations to approach opportunities and problems in new ways, by undertaking innovative (for the organisation) projects and leveraging these as capacity building processes.  This involves widening the dialogue around key project decisions (they can be made in expert supported workshops, for example).  This approach (i) legitimises shifts in practice because the organisation tries something new, (ii) builds informal networks amongst staff who value the shift, and (iii) builds individuals' capacities through exposure to expert input and dialogue.  (This is an approach taken up and widely used in the water sensitive urban design area, for example.)
  • Sensibility modelling
    Modelling the sensibilities of skilled practitioners to build decision support tools to share know-how in ways that support 'reflective transfer' - innovative, locally astute decision-making.  Models of sensibilities help practitioners both draw on their practice traditions more effectively (particularly in areas where we don't have well defined decision logics), and leverage their evolving feel for the specific situations they are in.  (See my 'Reflective practice experiments' and 'Adaptiveness and openness in ecosystem management' papers.)
  • Reflective practice experiments
    Fostering improvement in professional practice by encouraging a shift to intentionally reflective practice, in which one approaches practice experimentally (as exploratory, move-testing and/or hypothesis-testing), paying particular attention to microprocesses and micropractices, and specifically exploring a gestalt shift into heeding one's evolving 'feel' for a situation (which is inherently holistic and open) systematically.  (See my chapter 'Felt knowing: a foundation for local government practice' - for which my title is 'Felt knowing: a foundation for adaptive ecosystem management practice' - for more on this.)
  • Redesigning institutions and markets to better serve the public interest

    (1) Both top down approaches (governments addressing market failures) and bottom up approaches (e.g. helpful disruptions with the emergence of new business models, as is occurring now with renewable energy) can make large contributions, and weaving these together is often what's needed.

    (2) Working on two underlying tensions: (a) Between the political self-interests of political actors, and (in democracies) their commitment to serve the public interest which legitimises their leadership.  (b) Between placing shareholders' interests at the centre of corporate governance, to free up capital for productive use, and institutionalising selfishness in powerful organisations in ways that undermine these organisations' 'citizenship'.

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Two short videos that describe my research and teaching are:

Adaptive professional practice in ecosystem management - reflective practice experiments
(PhD research overview, prepared for a Macquarie University award presentation) (1:50 mins) (35Mb)

Reflection in Learning: Discipline case study - Adaptive Management 
(prepared as a teaching resource for students engaged in Macquarie University's Participation and Community Engagement program) (4:46 mins) (60Mb) 


Coordinator of the Environmental Management specialisation in the Master of Environment.

Courses I coordinate and teach in:

  • GSE843 Environmental Decision Making
  • GSE845 Environmental Impact Assessment
  • ENV300 Environmental Decision Making

Professional Roles

Batkin Walkerden Associates Pty Ltd
Principal, August 2003 - February 2009

Wyong Shire Council
Environmental Systems Manager, January 1997 - July 2003

Environmental Management Software Pty Ltd
Managing Director, 1991 - December 1996

Computer Task Force Pty Ltd 1983 - 1990
General Manager 1988 - 1990
Software Development Manager 1986 - 1987
Contract Software Developer 1983 - 1985

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Awards, Honours and Invitations

The awards for projects are all awards for team efforts in which I played a leading role.

  • Invited paper. 'The management of transformational change - can we capture how it works'.  Human Ecology Forum, Australian National University, Canberra, 2012.
  • Vice-Chancellor's Commendation for Academic Excellence, for an outstanding PhD thesis. Macquarie University, 2010.
  • Invited address. 'Education for sustainability'. Speech on behalf of students, Graduation Ceremony, Macquarie University, 2010.
  • Invited paper. 'Political skill: models from practice'. Human Ecology Forum, Australian National University, Canberra, 2007.
  • Keynote paper. ''Orchestrating Water Cycle Management: Practices and Metapractices'. Hydropolis: Stormwater Industry Association National Conference, Perth, October 2006.
  • Invited paper. ''Gendlin's reflective practice: methods for social scientists and philosophers'. Working with Gendlin's Process Model Workshop, Soesterberg, the Netherlands, May 2006.
  • National Award for Excellence in Stormwater Education. Stormwater Industry Association, 2006. - Sustainable Stormwater Management Capacity Building Toolkit.
  • Invited paper. ''Sustainability: innovating for the common good'. Western Australian Local Government Association Annual Conference, Perth, August 2005.
  • Water Quality / Catchment Management Award. NSW Local Government Excellence in the Environment Awards, 2005. - Sustainable Stormwater Management Capacity Building Toolkit.
  • Keynote paper. 'Water sensitive urban design: facilitating adoption by local Councils'. Water Sensitive Urban Design Capacity Building Project Launch, Sydney, 2002.
  • Stormwater Management Award. NSW Local Government Excellence in the Environment Awards, 2002. Tuggerah Lakes Adaptive Management Strategy.
  • Invited workshops. Eugene Gendlin's A Process Model. Focusing Institute, New York, 2000, 2001, 2002.
  • Built Environment Award. Local Government Excellence in the Environment Awards, 2001. LHCCREMS's Urban Water Cycle Management Program.
  • Stormwater Management Award. Local Government Excellence in the Environment Awards, 2001. LHCCREMS's Urban Water Cycle Management Program.
  • Invited workshop. 'State of the Environment Reporting in NSW'. Municipal Association of Victoria, Melbourne, 2000.
  • Natural Environment Award. NSW Local Government Excellence in the Environment Awards, 1999. LHCCREMS' Regional Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.
  • Keynote paper. 'Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management: a case study from Wyong'. CSIRO Division of Wildlife and Ecology, Annual Conference, 1997.
  • Best Practice Case Study, New South Wales State of the Environment Report, 1997. The Tuggerah Lakes and Catchment Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management Project was written up as an example of best practice in managing cumulative impacts.
  • Invited address. 'Our environmental dilemma'. Speech on behalf of students, Graduation Ceremony, Macquarie University, 1994.
  • Department of Planning Prize for Environmental Studies. Graduate School of the Environment, 1991.

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Selected Publications

Journal articles, book chapters

  1. Mitchell M, Griffith R, Ryan P, Walkerden G, Walker B, Brown VA, and Robinson S 2014.  'Applying resilience thinking to natural resource management through a "planning-by-doing" framework'.  Society and Natural Resources, 27(3):299-314.
  2. Walkerden G, Ryan P, Griffith R, Robinson S. 2013.  'Exploring transformation for resilient Australian landscapes and communities', in University of Oslo, Proceedings of Transformation in a Changing Climate, 19-21 June 2013, Oslo, Norway. University of Oslo, Trykket. 
  3. Rice M, Henderson-Sellers A and Walkerden G 2013.  Overcoming a Diabolical Challenge: Comparing journalists' and researchers' views on the performance of the media as a channel of climate change information. International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement.
  4. Henderson-Sellers B, Gonzalez-Perez C, Walkerden G 2013.  An Application of Philosophy in Software Modelling and Future Information Systems Development.  Advanced Information Systems Engineering Workshops: Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing.148:329-340.
  5. Walkerden, G. 2010, Adaptive professional practice in ecosystem management: reflective practice experiments. PhD Thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney.
  6. Walkerden, G. 2010, 'Adaptiveness and openness in ecosystem management', in V.A. Brown, J.A. Harris and J.E. Russell (eds). Tackling wicked problems: using the transdisciplinary imagination. London, Earthscan.
  7. Walkerden G. 2009, 'Researching and developing practice traditions using reflective practice experiments', Quality and Quantity, 43:249-263.
  8. Walkerden G. 2006, 'Adaptive management planning projects as conflict resolution processes', Ecology and Society, 11 (1): 48. [online] URL:
  9. Walkerden G. 2005, 'Felt knowing: a foundation for local government practice', in G. Keen, V.A. Brown, and R. Dyball (eds), Social learning in environmental management, Earthscan, London.
  10. Walkerden G. 2004, 'Thinking at the edge in environmental management and ecological theory', The Folio, 19(1), pp102-110.
  11. Walkerden G. 2004, 'How I read the structure of the A Process Model', The Folio, 19(1), pp124-130.
  12. Walkerden G. 2004, 'Excerpts from a study session on A Process Model', The Folio, 19(1), pp132-136.

Conference, seminar and workshop papers

(In addition to the invited papers listed above.)

  1. Ryan P, Griffith R, Walkerden G 2014, 'Planning for change, a change for planning', 5th National NRM Regions Knowledge Conference, 17-19 March, Launceston, Tasmania.
  2. Walkerden, G., Baker, M., Coulson, D., Harvey, M., Lloyd, K. & Semple, A. 2012. Innovative ways of practising and documenting reflection for learning. Presentation to the Macquarie University Indigenous Research Network, 23 November, 2012.
  3. Harvey, M., Winchester-Seeto, T., Baumann, C., Smith, K. & Walkerden, G. 2012. Reflective practice for learning through participation: Disciplinary case studies. Video launch, the Macquarie University Expanding Horizons, Learning and Teaching week, 17-21 September, 2012.
  4. Walkerden, G 2012. 'Integrating scientific research using a logic of practice'. Institute of Australian Geographers Annual Conference.  Macquarie University, Sydney.
  5. Walkerden, G. 2006, 'Capacity building for Water Sensitive Urban Design', Hydropolis: Stormwater Industry Association National Conference, October 2006, Perth.
  6. Walkerden, G. 2006, 'Teaching professionals to work from felt knowing', Focusing International Conference, May 2006, Soesterberg, the Netherlands.
  7. Walkerden, G. 2006, 'Focusing, enlightenment and the presence of God within: phenomenological explorations of 'the good'', Focusing International Conference, May 2006, Soesterberg, the Netherlands.
  8. Walkerden G. 2005, ' a water sensitive urban design capacity building toolkit', Stormwater Industry Association Conference, April 2005, Port Macquarie, NSW.

For additional detail see my CV: Short CV or Full CV

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