National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network Communiqué

March 2020

The National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network (NBCEN) produces nationally consistent public information in response to pest and disease outbreaks that impact on Australia’s agricultural industries.

The network consists of communication managers from the Australian, state and territory agriculture agencies, Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, and the Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Local Government Association, Wildlife Health Australia and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions are Observers.

The network facilitates the rapid and consistent dissemination of information that affected people need to prevent and respond to a pest or disease outbreak. Audiences may include affected producers/growers and their local communities, trading partners, the general public, media, and stakeholders such as exporters and supply chain service providers.

NBCEN also plays a pivotal role in pest and disease prevention and preparedness communication and stakeholder engagement activities.

NBCEN meeting

NBCEN held its face-to-face meeting in Sydney at the Taronga Zoo boardroom. The meeting was held on March 3 and 4, hosted by NSW DPI and Wildlife Health Australia.

Key outcomes

ASF exercise

Members participated in an exercise that tested NBCEN procedures in the early stages of an incursion, using African swine fever as the scenario. This exercise focused on knowledge of existing processes by jurisdiction and identified risks that could derail a coordinated approach to a major incursion announcement. Insights from the workshop will be collated into a flow chart for future best practice announcement approaches.

Partnerships – best practice approaches

Network partnerships were discussed. The AHA/industry workshops were identified as a good example. This workshop has offered networking opportunities with industry and government, resulting in stronger links to industry comms contacts. Around 23 industries are now involved and better prepared for an emergency response.

Industry presentations

Industry are invited to NBCEN meetings.

The Australian Chicken Meat Federation addressed questions from the network on biosecurity awareness among chicken meat producers, previous incursions they have dealt with and identified risks for the future, and how NBCEN could prepare for a response to a biosecurity incursion in the chicken industry.

The Zoo and Aquarium Association outlined communication work in the peak body representing zoos. This included species management, standards and accreditation, animal health and biosecurity, operations, NMG training and contingency planning for staff.

New invasive species websites for cross promotion through the jurisdictions

The Centre of Invasive Species Solutions discussed their work to develop a weeds national platform by reinvigorating old websites. A national platform is needed to help promote best practice management of invasive species for landholders/managers, community coordinators, researchers and policy analysts. It will support national pest animal plans and threatened species strategies. A number of digital resources will form the national platform and it is expected to be launched in October.

Biosecurity Incident Public Information Manual maintenance

As part of NBCEN’s commitment to PI training and collateral, the network agreed to update the BIPIM with an industry checklist; a stakeholder mapping template; and a first 72 hour checklist. Other resources are still to be developed such as an evaluation template and a tools checklist.

NBCEN agreed to commit to completing these updates by the next meeting, requiring a joint effort across jurisdictions.


  • National Comms and engagement strategy
    The network discussed the overarching draft document draft that has been prepared by Queensland. In conjunction with NBCEN’s work plan, it can be used to help determine future planning, engaging with communities and can be used in a variety of settings such as the AHA workshop. The network agreed that once finalised, it should be submitted to NBC for endorsement.
  • Social research
    Queensland presented on their ongoing work in using behavioural research to inform the messaging delivered to the public during incidents. NBCEN members discussed the value of having a national set of shared metrics to guide the approach to research. Queensland continues to develop six questions for national use that will help to understand high risk behaviours/industries/audiences.
    NSW shared outcomes from research into attitudes and behaviours around post-border supply chain biosecurity. This work was funded by the Australian Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation, and while it has a NSW focus, provides insights to industry and other jurisdictions regarding engagement of cargo pests post-border. The work will inform the development of a future suite of communication and engagement materials and strategies by NSW DPI and is available on the Biosecurity Portal.
  • Mission biosecurity
    NSW DPI gave an update on Mission Biosecurity, including that the roll out will begin in May. Collateral has been developed, a website is being built (intended for 3 years initially), and social media is planned for the launch.
  • International Year of Plant Health
    DAWE provided an update on departmental IYPH activities, including the development of an exhibit at Questacon with a plant/pest/response theme. The network heard that the IYPH coordinator is now on board at Horticulture Innovation to manage comms over the year. Members were encouraged to list IYPH communication achievements in the tracking spreadsheet.
  • Emerging threats
    The network talked about the response to fall armyworm and how the rapid transition to management created communication issues which should be considered for future.
    CSIRO noted the escalating international human health coronavirus crisis, and that CSIRO’s priority work has shifted to finding a vaccine for this.

Wildlife Health Australia address and bushfire PI learnings

WHA presented on their work during the recent bushfires and the myriad of communication challenges they faced in an unprecedented fire season. Other jurisdictions noted that during these response times, it could be helpful to appoint a ministerial liaison officer so that comms resources are not diverted from the response.

Tour of education learning spaces

Rotating NBCEN meetings around jurisdictions provides members with an opportunity to visit unique biosecurity facilities.
NBCEN members toured the education learning spaces at Taronga Zoo. The aim of the immersive classrooms is to inspire and educate the next generation of conservation scientists. NBCEN saw how these spaces combine cutting edge technology and animal exhibits, giving students a unique opportunity to interact with wildlife.

Come and meet us!

NBCEN is dedicated to establishing relationships with our communication counterparts from industry. If you’re from a livestock or plant industry group or any of the associated supply chains, please feel free to come and meet us at one of our face-to-face meetings. Register your interest in meeting with us by emailing NBCEN.

Meeting attendees

The NBCEN’s October 2019 meeting in Sydney was attended by the following members:
Malcolm Letts [Chair] – Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Kirsten Phillips – Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Louise Morgan – Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Nicole Schembri – New South Wales Department of Primary Industries      
Rebecca Bowman – New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
Linda Varrica – New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
Lisa Keen – Wildlife Health Australia
Monique Mahoney - Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment          
Pip Gare – Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Helena Bott – Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources
Joanna Tsoukalas - Primary Industries and Regions South Australia              
Nicole Cairns – Agriculture Victoria 
Jenny Ford – Agriculture Victoria
Ryan Wilkinson – Tasmania Department of Primary Industries Parks Water & Environment
Rick Bryant – Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Lisa Bertram – Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
Alex Lucchetti – Plant Health Australia
Jackie Poyser – Animal Health Australia
Danika Barnard – Animal Health Australia
Cass Erbs - CSIRO
Ian McDonald - Centre for Invasive Species Solutions

Next meeting

The next face-to-face meeting is expected to be held in Adelaide in September 2020.

Contact NBCEN

For more information about NBCEN contact the Secretariat in the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment by emailing NBCEN or phone (02) 6272 2445.