Turning a climate emergency declaration into a community-focused communication and engagement strategy.

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In 2020, Greater Shepparton City Council declared a climate emergency, resolving to take immediate action on climate change. Engaged to turn the declaration into whole-of-municipality action, Ellis Jones developed a communication and engagement strategy with a community-focused approach.


Local governments have an important role to play in encouraging community engagement with climate action to build resilience in the face of major changes ahead. With a duty of care to their communities, close to 100 Australian jurisdictions, representing 8 million people, have declared a climate emergency. 

Greater Shepparton is particularly at risk from climate change. Its industry, heavily reliant on agriculture, and its people, are expected to experience adverse impacts, including those from more extreme weather events. But its residents, businesses and industries have a wide range of opinions about climate change, from highly engaged and climate literate to very disengaged, posing a challenge. How to unite the community to tackle climate change?

Ellis Jones conducted desktop research and stakeholder engagement activities to define three objectives for the strategy. They were:

  • To raise awareness of climate change in Greater Shepparton for the community to have a strong voice in the climate emergency plan.
  • To engage the community in developing the climate emergency plan, understanding their climate risks and collaborating to find solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • To motivate and enable the community to act on the objectives outlined in the climate emergency plan, to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts.

We then brought together insights from behaviour change theory, climate change psychology, communications and engagement to craft a compelling climate emergency communication and engagement strategy. One that would speak to the whole community, across residents, businesses and council, bringing as many people as possible on board to address climate change in the region.


The climate emergency communication and engagement strategy provided a clear pathway forward to the Greater Shepparton team. One which they were confident would help them bring their community together to tackle the enormous, and often divisive, challenge of climate change. 

The strategy included communication and engagement campaign proposals with recommendations on messaging and channels, which:

  • use climate change language that resonates with people;
  • is locally focused and harnesses the trust networks of local leaders;
  • is fun and practical and provides feedback to encourage people to keep acting.

“We learnt a lot through the collaboration with Ellis Jones. Their depth of knowledge, theory and practice – combined with passion and creativity – was a great pleasure to work with. We were delighted with the Communications and Engagement Strategy. Ellis Jones developed valuable tools and campaigns that we look forward to bringing to life.”

Greater Shepparton City Council