August blog: Community connections, from the regions to the city

Connections continued over the last few weeks as we continued to build on our earlier work with the community, on a number of levels.

We took a call from the Sunraysia TAFE (Suni TAFE) as a bunch of students were coming to Melbourne.  To make sure that they had broad exposure to sustainable work being done in Melbourne and to build on the time I enjoyed talking to them in Swan Hill we organised a couple of visits around Melbourne.

Sustainability Victoria (SV) was glad to make time to explain its work to the Swan Hill visitors. Some of SV’s recent work includes ‘Get it Right on Bin Night’. SV staff also gave Suni TAFE students a tour of the SV building, highlighting the building’s sustainability features - including office waste, energy and water initiatives.

We also organised for the students to visit our colleagues and collaborators for a part of the south west tour of the state, Mike Hill and Lorna Pitt.  They were happy to make their work at WestWyck part of the Swan Hill visit. The WestWyck sustainability work is particularly interesting to the students from the Suni TAFE where they have a nine star eco-house and a seven star training centre built on site by local TAFE students under the direction of some great and committed local educators.

Mike showed the students the water sensitive and energy efficient design of their delightful housing complex and the students were so impressed that a number of the group wanted to know if it was possible to move in. Unfortunately there are no vacancies.

Swan Hill TAFE students have more in common with our Brunswick innovators than immediately appears to be the case.  All of them care about water conservation and integrated water cycle design in housing and developments.  Each person cares about keeping energy footprints down - for cost and carbon reasons.

Importantly, this visit promoted more connections around sustainability practice across what would otherwise be a gulf.  Out of the visit we learn that demonstration sites really do encourage people to make change, and their very presence inspires conversations about changing practices and that change is not oppressive, it can be done, can be easy, can be gradual, fast, collaborative, and individual.

It was really gratifying to be able to make this connection for the Swan Hill students.

When an acronym is useful

In these last couple of weeks I have been given two great examples of how to use an acronym for good effect.  The fact that they are stand outs makes them all the more powerful and supports my view that language, particularly an acronym, has to have meaning or grip the imagination.

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority auspices LABIF (Land and Biodiversity Information Forum). LABIF, where multiple points of view are aired and where members of the public and members of organisations come together for a conversation about  the environment is just - LABIF! The list of people who attend is long and their interests wide. Great acronym….

The second great acronym is MeNuer, which stands for the Melbourne Network of Urban Ecosystem Researchers, and whose logo tells the story……

Public communication and reporting

At the lovely Burnley Campus (The University of Melbourne), as part of an afternoon of research communication I spoke about that and public communication and reporting to a group drawn from The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Water, Monash University, RMIT, City of Melbourne, and Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). Burnley campus is renowned for teaching and research in environmental and ornamental horticulture.


This followed on from an afternoon presentation at Barwon Heads to the young professional group in DSE and Department of Primary Industries in the preceding week and I took on board the comments of a number of the early career researchers to ensure that I discussed the work we had done in public participation which is reflected in the Many Publics report.

An interesting connection came through the MeNuer session as I was told that the architecture faculty at The University of Melbourne had one of its lecturers attending the Burnley presentations.  I had spent an evening providing sustainability and other design feedback to a group of architecture graduate students putting together their project design for a new superior court project and the week before I presented at a design studio about Indigenous place making where we talked about environment and heritage design in the Wimmera.

Design is of such importance that connections can be made about its potential to deliver sustainable outcomes in a multitude of places and settings.  I had just spent a very interesting morning talking with the CEO of the Trust for Nature, Victoria Marles and Fiona Smith, Policy and Research Adviser, where, because of our work with RMIT and VCCCAR we had been collaborating on the charrette mapping process with Dr Rob Roggema a visiting (Netherlands) landscape architecture scholar.


Beyond all this we spent an informative morning with the Clean Energy Council's Darren Gladman.  The Clean Energy Council has developed a number of handy fact sheets. Of particular interest to households is the Solar PV, Household Solar Power Factsheet.

It was also very pleasant to spend some time with the ambassador for Victorian communities The Hon. Joan Kirner AC who is known to Victorians all over the state for her role in the establishment of Landcare (to say nothing about having been the first Victorian female woman to be premier).

Landcare events are held throughout Victoria, to join visit the Landcare website for a calendar of events.

Waste management in the west

We have already uploaded some of the photos on our Facebook page from the visit I made to the Barwon Regional Waste Management Group. See our Facebook page – Waste Management Group album.

This visit provided me with yet another illustration of the deeply committed work being done around the state by people in waste management.  At Barwon the team marry their work about waste with a highly interactive education project which is rolled out to students from the region.  The office abuts the transfer station, the recycling site and has a truly astounding collection of in-office teaching rooms.  If you live in the region go and have a look at what they do.  You may want to join them! I was really impressed with their hard work, enthusiasm and the intelligent way the team there understand themselves to be part of a community effort to do better in capitalising on the resource we often call waste.

Community connections in the office and the north-west

This week started with conversation with the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program Group at the office and will finish with a visit to Horsham where I am one of a number of the people presenting at the FACETS (Food, Agriculture, Climate, Energy, Topsoil, Sustainability) TED.

Whilst I am in Horsham I will meet with regional development manager, Jo Bourke, and she has organised a meeting with the Horsham women’s leadership group.


Environmental management conversations

Earlier this month the strategic audit team, Chris Balfour and Anne Ward, were invited to RMIT’s School of Accounting to deliver a lecture to 70 students on the value of sustainability reporting.  It was interesting to offer an alternative perspective to the traditional view of accounting and auditing reporting. The importance of corporate sustainability reporting and the concept of providing “environmental intelligence’ was discussed along with the benefits of how expanded reporting can provide insights how companies and organisations think of their future, rather than just standard profit and loss statements.  A number of case studies that were mentioned in the Oration paper from June “Be green-stay black” were cited.


Organisational accountability, climate change and the environment featured as issues of interest for the accountancy students.  This interest is growing in the accountancy profession as client groups are actively seeking advice on the carbon we don’t count. See the Association of Chartered Certified Accounts website for their report - ‘The carbon we’re not counting’.

Sustainability practice, including contract design was also discussed with reference to Melbourne Health and Victoria Police. More information about this is available in the latest strategic audit report.

RMIT’s Swanston Academic Building, a brand new complex features a number of environmental sustainability design features.

Practical conservation in action at Hindmarsh

Emma Henley from our office attended the 15th Hindmarsh Landcare Network Planting Weekend 17-19 August. Nearly 200 people descended on four properties over two days to plant 19,080 trees and other indigenous plants.

Councillor Janet Bolitho, City of Port Phillip and Former Mayor of Hindmarsh Shire Mick Gawith at the tree they planted for the 10th planting weekend celebrations. Hindmarsh Shire and City of Port Phillip have had an ongoing friendship for many years.

Clarke planting site 3 before and after plantings – amazing work!

Climate change adaptation connections

Finally worth a mention from last month is the Climate services for adaptation in Victoria workshop hosted by the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR) think tank on Friday 13 July.

Tim Morrissey, Senior Policy Analyst from the office was invited to attend a climate services workshop that brought together a small group of service providers and users. It was jointly sponsored by VCCCAR and Bureau of Meterology (BOM) and other participants included representatives from CSIRO, DSE, DPI and the major universities.

Climate services, such as high-quality long-term data sets, regional projections and analyses of extreme weather risks are increasingly important in a warming world.

The workshop aims were to:

  • Assess current climate services;
  • Build a common understanding between providers and users of climate services, and
  • Provide recommendations for improved climate services in a changing climate.

The day was divided into sections focusing on agriculture, fires and floods.  There were presentations from researchers and data providers, followed by small group discussions on how research served the needs of the wider community, generating new ideas on how this might be improved.

The workshop was a valuable opportunity to get involved in the discussion on how our future adaptation can be aided by research.

Sustainability in the City of Ballarat… there’s a lot going on.

This week has been one of writing but I found time to get up to Ballarat at the invitation of the University of Ballarat Sustainability Committee.

The university held an evening forum where Professor David Karoly and I both spoke about climate change, sustainability and our work and the role of community in generating change, adaptation and mitigation.

More than 100 local people came along to the forum, asked questions, commented and talked about the work they were doing to drive sustainability initiatives in their local communities.

Photo: (above) Professor David Karoly presenting at the forum

I organised to arrive in Ballarat early on the day so I could visit the office of Conservation Volunteers (CV) which is located at the university’s business Greenhill Enterprise Centre. 

For those of you who don’t know, this organisation actually started in Ballarat 30 years ago, is driven by a voluntary board, has volunteers all over Australia and into New Zealand. 

CV offers projects with corporations and for general members of the community who want to involve themselves in a range of work from  biodiversity conservation to tree planting.  And, the beauty of their offerings is that their team does all the organising for you.  All you have to do is log onto their website to find a project which interests you, sign up and show up at the pick up point! They bring you back to where you started, supervise you in the work you do, and make sure you don’t overdo it.

Their most recent report of activities can be found at and . If you have a look at the Annual Review 2011 which is now available, you will get a really good appreciation of the extent of their work and the partnerships which have been built over time with BHP, AMP, GHD, Bendigo Bank, Fontera and Rio Tinto, Medibank, Vicsuper, Worksafe to name just a few.

The university sustainability committee didn’t just organise an evening of talking and conversation it also ran a seminar on the following day which was attended by the Ballarat Health group, educators for sustainability, academics and members of the local BREAZE group -“local solutions to climate change”. Breaze provides a forum for talk about climate change and the challenges and opportunities at the local level. You can find out about their work at

For this seminar I joined Rob Gell and Peter Gell and others in making presentations about our work and in a panel discussion of ways to generate change.

The Central Victorian Solar City group presented on their solar project and DSE presented on the work which they had been involved in generating a sustainability committee in the region.

Ballarat also runs a Smart Living Centre in the Mining Exchange in Lydiard Street. This shop front is staffed by volunteers and it offers all manner of information to make changing unsustainable habits easier.

The Centre is funded by the Sustainability Fund which is managed by Sustainability Victoria. It is open from Tuesday through to and inluding Saturday.  If you are passing through Ballarat you can drop in and then go to the art gallery just next door.

If you would like to see the level of commitment to sustainability being made by the University of Ballarat simply check out