Telling great stories about why water monitoring matters

Mentee: Janice Taylor – previously DELWP Regional Water Monitoring Partnership, now VEWH
Mentor: Eleisha Keogh – West Gippsland CMA

Photo credits: Janice Taylor

Janice (left) and Eleisha (right)

Our goals:


When I was working within the Regional Water Monitoring Partnerships team, we identified that there was a lack of communication material about the program – not too many people really knew or understood what it was about, its purpose and importance. From this, I thought it would make sense to undertake a storytelling project with the Waterway Management Twinning Program. I wanted to capture the essence of the water monitoring partnerships using stories to share the importance of the monitoring program, the data collected and how it is used in decision making for waterway health outcomes. I wanted to go beyond just a video stating what the program was about and share insights into how it operates through the lens of the partners involved, all of whom work collaboratively to make the Program work.

The benefit of storytelling is that stories have the capacity to create feeling in the watcher or reader, and it is this emotion that enables the story to become meaningful and memorable. Using video also enables us to artistically interpret the data contained in figures and graphs so that it takes people on a journey where the data connects them to what it means ‘on the ground’, and WHY it is important.

Communication and engagement have previously been a bit of a gap for various industries, but this is now changing and is an emerging space where storytelling is gaining ground. Storytelling is a great communication tool, especially with social media and channels like youtube providing easier, faster access for broader audiences.

This project aimed to allow people to discover not just what, but who are the people involved in the Regional Water Monitoring Partnership, what makes them ‘tick’ and why the work undertaken through the program is so important.

I joined the Twinning program hoping to work with a mentor who wanted to learn more about storytelling so that we could both experience a journey of shared discovery, learning together, and gaining knowledge in a new area with techniques to help us both in our own organisations. I also liked that we could also bring our own insights and experiences to develop a product that might increase people’s awareness and understanding about the Partnerships Program.

Interviewee Matt Jones, ARI. (Glenelg River Fishway Story)

Actions (what happened):

Before the twinning program commenced, I undertook a short two day intensive storytelling course to get a better understanding of how to start my project. From then, it was all smooth sailing… just kidding! From there it was Twinning Workshop One in Warrnambool – where everyone met their mentor/mentee partners and the twinning organisers. Eleisha and I continued to meet up regionally in Sale and Traralgon, and in Melbourne when it aligned with other work events. We shared ideas on stories, thoughts about environmental water, and of course, shared food and some beverages. These discussions enabled us to go over the project plan, review progress, set goals, and also consider the wider context within which the twinning project sits – namely, our day to day lives. We stayed in touch primarily through email/phone and attempted a skype session a few times.

At the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the Water and Catchments communication team got wind of our project and informed us that they were also wanting to undertake something similar for a range of internal groups. I assisted their team with ideas of who/what/where/when, and we decided to go out together for the first story. This provided an opportunity to learn from some expert storytellers, and we enjoyed a great sunshine filled day too.

We approached various members of the partnerships to see who were interested in participating and what projects they had ongoing. We locked in some dates, locations and interviewees and set out on our journey. This led to learning about the importance of asking the right questions; good weather for filming outdoors, or near noisy streams; trying to get the right action shot/sequence/angle/lighting and having it match up to the interview.

I discovered that EDITING is by far the hardest thing to do and takes the longest amount of time; I needed to consider background music; and learnt the significance of having a storyboard to guide you and keep you on track. So many things to consider…but most importantly, to remember to have fun!

Key learnings (so what):

Eleisha Keogh:

  • The power of story-telling
  • The importance of knowing your WHY because it helps communicate FEELINGS and these are what RESONATE with other human beings.
  • “Don’t boil the ocean”: Trying to limit interactions to three things (hence I’m stopping here! ?).

Janice Taylor:

  • The importance and benefits of mentoring and networks/connections, a supportive environment
  • How to find the WHY to make an IMPACTFUL Story
  • Effective communication – knowing your own WHY

What did we personally gain from the program?

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the 2019 Waterway Management Twinning Program. It was a fantastic opportunity to make new, and renew connections with colleagues across different organisations. It also strengthened my appreciation for the importance of spending quality time to cultivate and maintain relationships, as an essential foundation for everything that we do in waterway management. I feel very privileged to have been Janice’s ‘twin’. She possesses boundless enthusiasm and energy and I have found this inspiring. I have learnt a lot about the art and science of digital story telling which has increased my appreciation for the role this medium has to play in our industry. It has also been incredibly rewarding to see all participants (mentors and mentees) learn, develop and grow throughout our journey together. As a result of this program I feel a little braver to show my vulnerability in order to help deepen connections with others. Thank you Siwan, Jan and Simone for an amazing ride! The Waterway Management Twinning Program is informative and challenging but conducted in a safe and relaxed atmosphere. A winning combination!”

– Eleisha Keogh

“I have been enthusiastic about joining the Twinning Program since I first heard about it. I believe mentoring fosters positive meaningful relationships and builds personal and professional growth through a mutual learning and understanding. The Program itself is a great opportunity to be exposed to a wide network of learning and understanding, and offers a supportive framework for individuals to grow in confidence and vulnerability. I was determined and committed to not just join the program for that reason, but to work on something I was passionate about by finding and developing a relationship with someone who I could strive to be more like. I feel very fortunate to have been able to be mentored by Eleisha who embodies the quiet reflective strength and character of a passionate leader, and who inspires me, both professionally and personally. Her support, knowledge and experience has been immeasurable and invaluable, and something I had been missing. So, I am very grateful to have been a part of such a wonderful program that has enabled me to explore an artistic avenue to capture, to share the stories of the partnership and allowed me to acquire a new skill and technique to help others understand their WHY.”

– Janice Taylor

Janice, Eleisha, Siwan and Jan.