Workshops for Sustainability in Australia

Workshops for Sustainability in Australia

“It is so encouraging to see students from different disciplines where sustainability hasn’t been embedded and to see how social, economic, and environmental justice are indivisible.” Danielle is engaging students to apply sustainability to traditionally neglected fields, something excluded in most formal education.

Key Points:

  • Life-Long Learning for Sustainability
  • Getting local means adapting to new challenges

By a string of seemingly good luck, Danielle found herself presented with an exciting opportunity. In 2018, Danielle Wolf was building a bootcamp for global sustainability at Western Sydney University. She was on a mission to create an academic program for students across ten campuses on sustainability literacy. Danielle went to Melbourne for a lecture by Dr. Jeffery Sachs, SDSN Director, on The New Age of Sustainable Development. There, she happened to meet Michelle Huange,  a regional coordinator for SDSN Youth in Australia. Once she found out about the then up-and-coming SDG Students Program, Danielle made sure to join.

“It was one of those situations where it was a string of events that fall into place...”

In reality it was more than luck. Danielle’s pathway to SDSN Youth demonstrates the benefits of being willing to put yourself out there.

“So you can be at the right place at the right time, but unless you are willing to show some initiative you can miss the opportunities!”

Today, Danielle is rounding out her first year as founding SDG Coordinator for Western Sydney University.

A Life-Long Learner

As an educator, Danielle is able to develop strong programming for university students in sustainability literacy. She got to talking with the academics and staff at Western Sydney and started interning with the Sustainable Futures Office. There, she helped pioneer an online sustainability bootcamp. But after a while, Danielle realized she wanted to go back to school and complete a BA in Social Science, specializing in Peace & Development and sub majoring in Global Sustainability.

Thanks to her previous experience in designing curricula for development, Danielle has advanced standing in her academic program. She is one of the first students to join this program. After all, she’s taking the very courses she planned over two years ago.

An Unexpected Catalyst of Change

“There are plenty of people in the student community interested in learning about this, but unless you have a strong network it can be difficult to reach them. Most students are not sustainability literate. As the university has committed to more sustainability initiatives, I’ve been able to reach more students.”

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Advantageously, Danielle is very active with campus organizations like the Student Council, where she is the Environmental Representative, and her connection with the academics who created the Bootcamp. She has fostered a wide range of students from all academic backgrounds to join the Hub by sharing the value of joining the SDG Students Program.  The Hub community at Western Sydney, made up of around fifteen students, includes future electrical engineers, lawyers, HR and Communications experts, and more.

“It is so encouraging to see students from different disciplines where sustainability hasn’t been embedded and to see how social, economic, and environmental justice are indivisible.” Danielle is engaging students to apply sustainability to traditionally neglected fields, something excluded in most formal education.

Danielle started the Hub by herself. With a campus spread across ten locations, it was difficult to bring people together physically. But with the transition to online schooling due to the pandemic, she has a much higher interest rate and engagement rate in the Hub activity!

“Everyone is looking for something that is innovative and different. People are stuck at home with more time.” This has been an exciting new stage for the Hub, since many Western Sydney students busy working part time jobs in addition to schooling have limited time to engage with the campus community.

One major factor in Danielle’s success at starting the Hub has been making sustainability personal for students. She helps others find what is personally relevant and important to them.

Through the Hub, “they have the global connection and global opportunities, but unless they see how it is practically relevant to them or how they can use it to their passion… it is a lost cause.”

Between Hope and Despair is Motivation

Danielle understands how that learning about climate change and social injustices can lead students to both hope and despair. But she finds inspiration from the creativity and community of alternatives to development, like integrating nature into the classroom.

“Obviously it matters if we can save the planet, but that’s not why I do it. I do it because it’s the right thing to do. I’m passionate about seeing people be reconnected with each other and with nature.”

Part of that reconnection, Danielle explains, is understanding how indigenous perspectives of development lead to a more sustainable relationship with the environment. “Particularly in the Global North, there is a strong obsession with economic growth. So I’ve been exploring indigenous cosmologies in the Global South where it is about community and living well with each other… where nature has its own rights and integrity.”

Danielle sees how reliant current climate solutions are on technology, especially in education during COVID-19. A better form of exploration, she says, is simply going back to the roots of community and nature. While most people “overlook planting trees”, ecological solutions to increasing resilience from fire, drought, and climate change can be extremely effective.  She tries to convey the value of ecological restoration to combat climate change and to restore what “has been destroyed in pursuit of economic growth”.

Her personal goal is to help people see the value in protecting nature for its own sage, and reconnecting with nature as a teacher in sustainable living. Danielle advocates for others to immerse themselves  in nature, and it’s proven to be an effective way at communicating the physical and mental health benefits.

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Getting Active! Getting Local!

Danielle and the Hub have been running DIY Workshops & webinars on sustainability hacks - easy lessons for students to shift to a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition, the Hub members are all taking a free online course together from the Gaia Education Institute. Each week, they learn about design perspectives for sustainability and hold a group discussion recapping the week’s lesson.

Another important feature of this university’s Hub is strong partnerships with the local community. Danielle believes that the Hub members should learn to leverage strength for partnerships. Her Hub gets hand on with building community food gardens. Even during COVID-19, they volunteer as essential workers to provide sustainable food.

Through a collaboration with Farm it Forward, a local organization building resilience against food insecurity in low socioeconomic areas, the community garden program is expanding! Danielle also encourages students to effectively engage with external organizations like LandCare and 250.org.iu.

Getting active locally for Danielle also means participating in activism. She is a strong advocate for accountability of companies and organizations to follow through on sustainable goals. Through a semi-virtual and semi-physical space, the Hub has worked to petition large corporations to follow through on divestment from dangerous mineral extraction.

Looking Ahead…

This year, Danielle is joining the Alumni Steering Committee to advise other Coordinators on the best practices for running a Hub. She is eager to actively participate in workshop exercises for day to day leadership and project implementation. Danielle wants to stay in higher education and build alternative development frameworks. She is eager to continue working with indigenous cosmologies of nature and humanity, and to apply the understanding of oneness to Global North-led programs. Danielle loves working with youth and in the university systems because, “they are so integral to changing the world.”

In the near future, Danielle envisions herself even being part of the SDG Students Program and SDSN Youth full time.

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