Thought Leadership Event Series

Western Sydney University was placed first in the world in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact rankings, the only global performance measure that assesses universities against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event series aims to celebrate and promote this #1 ranking, complementing work being undertaken across the University as part of its Sustainability and Resilience Decadal Strategy 2030.

For more information or to get involved,  please contact: Emma Boddington or Bhadra Chandran

Upcoming events

3rd June: Turtles Rock! Let's Shellebrate - Associate Professor Ricky Spencer

In-Person / Online

As part of Reconciliation Week and in celebration of World Turtle Day, Western Sydney University Library and Associate Professor Ricky Spencer, in partnership with Penrith City Library, present an interactive family workshop on how we can all help protect Australian endangered turtle species, incorporating mindful rock painting activities, following on from turtle-themed Indigenous story time activities led by Pearl Wymarra, Aboriginal Elder.

This event is part of the Growing Thought Leadership Series which aims to promote and celebrate Western Sydney University's work aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for people of all ages.

Time: 12 noon to 1pm

Location: Penrith City Council

Growing Thought Leadership Logo

25th July: Redrawing the Circular Economy : Organic waste and Peri-urban futures - Professor Stephen Healy

In-Person / Online

This talk presents the findings of an Australian Research Council Discovery project called "Innovative Waste Economies: Redrawing the Circular Economy". The circular economy is a policy response to the global waste crisis, aiming to replace the "take-make-waste" economy with a more sustainable model that prolongs product life, reduces waste, and recovers the value of discarded materials. However, achieving circularity requires more than just technical improvements in waste management - it also involves reconfiguring social practices, economic relationships, and ingrained habits.

Our research centres social-practices of experimentation with waste already underway in Australia that are attempting to renegotiate how we live with waste. In this talk, we discuss one such experiment that involves a range of stakeholders working together to organize the reverse logistics of transporting organic waste (specifically, spent coffee grounds) from Sydney city cafes, businesses, and universities to peri-urban farms practicing regenerative farming. Our research aims to explore the social and economic relationships required to make this type of circularity work. The City of Sydney has set the ambitious goal of an 80% reduction of organic waste from landfill by 2030. Meeting this ambitious goal involves rapid and ambitious transformation. What emerges from our research is a more inclusive and participatory vision of circularity, which aims to achieve a wider range of goals beyond simply waste reduction.

Date & time: Tuesday, 25 July 2023, 12:00pm-1:00pm

Location: Western Sydney University, Parramatta City Campus, Peter Shergold Building, Level 9, Conference room 2 (PC-01.9.16).

Booking for this hybrid event are essential

4th August: The Painted River Project – Dr Leo Robba and Dr Ian Wright

In-Person / Online

Western Sydney University design and water researchers Dr Leo Robba and Dr Ian Wright have combined art and science in The Painted River Project, which highlights the importance of preserving and improving river and water catchments in Australia through community engagement and education.

The Painted River endeavours to engage the community through art on the health and future vision for rivers. Water and our river systems are the foundation of healthy cities and human well-being.

Date & time: Friday, 4 August 2023, 1:30pm-2:30pm

Location: Western Sydney University, Parramatta City Campus, Peter Shergold Building, Level 9, Conference room 2 (PC-01.9.16) or Online via Zoom.

Bookings for this hybrid event are essential

31st August: Workforce and Training Issues in the Disability Sector - Dr Caroline Mills

In-Person / Online

About the speaker: Dr Caroline Mills holds a Master of Applied Linguistics from Macquarie University and a PhD from The University of Sydney. Her thesis title was Classroom based sensory processing intervention for children with autism.

In 2013, Caroline was awarded The Aspect Elizabeth Hoyles Fellowship for her research and in 2016, Caroline was appointed an Aspect Practice Specialist in recognition of her experience and leadership in sensory processing practice and research.

Dr Mills' research looks into supporting children and adults with disabilities, particularly autism to participate in their communities and be included. She has conducted research in a wide range of schools to support students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Date & time: Friday, 31 August 2023, 12:00pm-1:00pm

Location: Western Sydney University, Parramatta City Campus, Peter Shergold Building, Level 9, Conference room 2 (PC-01.9.16) or Online via Zoom.

Bookings for this hybrid event are essential

7th September: Rethinking Approaches to Achieving Sustainable Development Goals in an Era of Smart Computing - Professor Athula Gaige

In-Person / Online

Professor Athula Gaige graduated with B.Sc. first class honours in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. In 1987 he won a Cambridge Commonwealth Scholarship to read for a PhD at the University of Cambridge where he developed a computer vision system for a robot working in a semi-structured environment. After finishing his PhD he joined the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). At the time of leaving UTS he was an Associate Professor and the Head of Computer Systems Engineering Group. At UTS he conducted research in the field of Multimedia and Hypermedia Engineering. His work received international recognition and he was invited to join the Editorial Boards of IEEE Multimedia.

In 1998 Athula joined the University of Western Sydney as Head of School and Professor of Information Technology. In 2001 he guest edited two special issues of IEEE Multimedia on Web Engineering, which provided the foundation for the evolvement of this new discipline area. At present he is researching Web Engineering, eTransformation and how to provide remote healthcare. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of The International Journal on Advances in ICT for Emerging Regions (ICTer) and an Associate Editor of the International Journal on Web Engineering.

Dr Bahman Javadi is an Associate Professor in Networking and Cloud Computing at Western Sydney University. Before that he appointed as a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the INRIA Rhone-Alpes, France in 2008–2010. He received his MS and PhD degrees in Computer Engineering from the Amirkabir University of Technology in 2001 and 2007, respectively. He had been a Research Scholar at the School of Engineering and Information Technology, Deakin University, Australia during his PhD course.

Dr Javadi is the co-founder of the Failure Trace Archive, which serves as a public repository of failure traces and algorithms for distributed systems. He served as a program committee of many international conferences and workshops and co-guest editor of several special issues.

Date & time: Thursday 7th September 2023, 12:00pm-1:00pm

Location: Western Sydney University, Parramatta City Campus, Peter Shergold Building, Level 9, Conference room 2 (PC-01.9.16) or Online via Zoom.

Bookings for this hybrid event are essential

25th October: Teaching for Sustainability - Professor Graciela Metternicht

In-Person / Online

Graciela Metternicht is the Dean of Science at Western Sydney University. She is a Professor of Geography with over 25 years of experience in environmental management, sustainability and the science-policy interface. Her research interests are primarily in environmental geography, with a focus on geospatial technologies and their application in environmental management and policy (sustainable land management, terrestrial ecosystems) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Graciela is a Scientific and Technical Adviser on ecosystem restoration and sustainable land management for the Global Environment Facility (GEF); Chair of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Panel; member of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management; member of Future Earth Global Land Program Scientific Steering Committee; Councillor, International Society of Digital Earth. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Environmental Geography at the Earth and Sustainability Science Research Centre, UNSW Sydney.

Professor Metternicht’s career has bridged science to policy; for 5 years she was Regional Coordinator of Early Warning and Assessment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Previous academic appointments include, Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies (UNSW Sydney), Head of Discipline and Professor of Geospatial Systems and Environmental Management at the University of South Australia and Professor of Spatial Sciences at Curtin University of Technology.

Graciela has made significant contributions in the field of production and management of spatial information for land degradation and agriculture-related applications. Grants she secured from the Australian Research Council,  industry, international agencies and the CRC for Spatial Information have produced critical evaluations on the performance of different operational remote sensors and platforms for the mapping and monitoring of rangelands and agricultural landscapes, including pastures, crops, noxious weeds, soils, native vegetation.

Professor Metternicht has provided significant leadership on how remote sensing and GIS can be used for the practical solution of problems related to vegetation degradation, soil salinization, rangeland management, and sustainable rural planning.  Outputs of her research include the formulation of protocols for improved mapping of landscape conditions for optimising farming.  She has also supervised research on the production and modelling of spatial information for the analysis of urban landscapes and vegetation.

Date & time: Wednesday 25th October 2023, 12:00pm-1:00pm

Location: Western Sydney University, Parramatta City Campus, Peter Shergold Building, Level 9, Conference room 2 (PC-01.9.16) or Online via Zoom.

Bookings for this hybrid event are essential

8th November: Fix My Food: Sustainable Food Systems - Dr Catharine Fleming

In Person/Online

Dr Fleming has a PhD in paediatric nutrition and dietetics and over 12 years’ experience in paediatric nutrition relating to infant and young child feeding, paediatric food allergy and childhood obesity. In particular, she has expertise in metabolic disorders in specialised paediatric populations such as childhood cancer survivors.

Dr Fleming is a member of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology, Paediatric Oncology in Developing Countries Nutrition Working Group and has an active part in coordinating the global development of a nutritional screening tool. Dr Fleming has provided nutritional consultation for the development of a unique, participatory, workshop-based method to explore adolescent and maternal/infant diet and nutrition as a contribution to the 2019 State of the World’s Children report on child and maternal diet and nutrition by UNICEF.

Date and Time: Wednesday 8th November, 2023, 12 noon to 1pm

Location: Western Sydney University, Parramatta City Campus, Peter Shergold Building, Level 9, Conference room 2 (PC-01.9.16) or online via Zoom.

Bookings for this hybrid event are essential

Past events

1 June: Either Lost or Found? A Child’s Story from a WWII Australian Internment Camp - Professor Pedram Khosronejad and Mrs Helga (Girschik) Griffin

In-Person / Online

As many as 50,000 German, Italian, and Japanese civilians were sent to Internment camps in Australia during WWII. Until today, the lives and fates of 512 German civilians of Persia (Iran), the imprisoned inhabitants of Australian World War II confinement centres, and the roles that they and their family members played in the development of post-war Australia has been ignored by academia.

Professor Pedram Khosronejad and Mrs Helga (Girschik) Griffin present the findings of a research project which explores the socio-cultural history and memories of a group of civilian German detainees and migrants in Australia through their heritage and the roles that they played in the development of the country after World War II.  This presentation is the result of a four year collaboration between Professor Khosronejad and Mrs Helga (Girschik) Griffin, the only surviving female among the civilian Germans from Persia (Iran) who were brought to Australia as families and allegedly kept in detention, but actually lived like prisoners in Tatura’s Internment Camp No. 3 (1941-46).

The daughter of an Austrian railway engineer working in Iran (1936-41), Helga was aged six when, with her parents and younger brother, she became a captive of the British Army’s invasion of that politically neutral country in 1941. Her family was evicted from Iran and sent by sea to a WWII prison camp at a secret destination. Her family’s internment in Australia’s Camp 3, Tatura, in north-western Victoria, lasted five years. Helga’s story represents a rare opportunity to hear a first-hand account of a young female’s experiences arriving in Australia by boat as a stateless refugee and being placed in detention for an unforeseeable time. She is the only surviving female from 512 civilian Germans detained in Iran who were taken into Australian WWII internment prison camps.

The research project investigates whether the concept of internment is a polite euphemism to disguise the political actuality of civilians being treated like prisoners without any political or moral conviction. Helga’s so-called internment was associated with life threatening danger during transportation, long-term detention in an antagonistic political environment, and the fracture of a child’s normal development. It is questionable whether such violations of Human Rights are excusable in the interest of a foreign neutral country’s national security during a time of war.

This event also includes an exhibition curated by Professor Pedram Khosronejad displaying some of the objects from Mrs Griffin’s family collection from their internment periods in Tatura Internment prison camp.

After the event, Mrs Helga (Girschik) Griffin will be signing copies of her book "At Home in Exile", which will be available to purchase for $44. Please bring exact change.

Tatura Internment Camp

Girschik Collection. Curator: P. Khosronejad © P. Khosronejad
Tatura, Victoria, Australia, 10 March 1945. Family groups of German Internees at No. 3 Camp, Tatura Internment Camp. Back row, left to right (standing): Helga Girschik; Rudolf Girschik; Lothar Streker; Daniel Streker. Front row (sitting): Peter Girschik (standing); Elfriede holding baby Herbert Girschik; Elisabeth Streker; Liselotte Streker.

Biography of Professor Pedram Khosronejad and Mrs Helga (Girschik) Griffin (PDF)

19 April 2023: Wombats: Creatures of Wonder - Associate Professor Julie Old

The Growing Thought Leadership series aims to promote and celebrate Western Sydney University's work aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for a younger audience.

Come and learn about wombats, an Australian native marsupial that is endangered and needs our help.

Enjoy hands-on craft activities creating your very own wombat mask and discover more about these fascinating creatures.

Presented by Western Sydney University’s Associate Professor Julie Old, Ecologist and Western Sydney University Library.

19 April 2023: Gender Matters - Professor Susanne Gannon

In-Person / Online

How and in what ways does gender matter in Australian education? How are pedagogies, practices and policies influenced by understandings of gender? What old ideas and approaches persist and how do these need to change for the present? How are young people, teachers and school leaders responding to contemporary notions of gender? How has feminist thinking and praxis been effective in the in the past and what is needed now? In this presentation, Professor Susanne Gannon revisits her work in this field over more than twenty years, in the school education and university sectors, to consider what does it mean now for schools to be inclusive, safe spaces for all students of all genders to thrive. In particular her work considers initiatives in secondary schools, and the findings from the ARC funded Gender Matters project (with Prof Kerry Robinson).

14 March 2023: What did Australia learn about Country after the 2019-2020 catastrophic bushfires? - Dr Jessica Weir

Associate Professor Jessica Weir discusses what Australia learnt about Country in response to the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-20 and invites discussion from the audience.

What did Australia learn about Country after the 2019-20 catastrophic bushfires?

Australia’s 2019-20 catastrophic bushfires were shocking – the long stretch of burnt out eastern-seaboard localities, the capital cities blanketed in smoke, and particles from this continent circling the globe. There was national and international media interest in Indigenous peoples’ burning practices as ‘the answer’. This media attention reflects generational shifts by non-Indigenous individuals and institutions towards more respectful relations with Indigenous peoples (e.g. Welcome to Country ceremonies).

However, understanding whether Indigenous fire management is the answer requires understanding first what is the question; and this, as Indigenous leaders keep reiterating,  requires understanding Country.

This presentation considers what the catastrophic bushfire inquiries tell us about where the Federation of Australia is at with learning about Country. Associate Professor Weir will demonstrate how diverging and aligning Indigenous and non-Indigenous bushfire expertise offers not just more possibilities for responding to global environmental crisis, but more possibilities for understanding expert knowledge itself.

Associate Professor Weir: 'I contribute as a white non-Indigenous scholar descended from colonialists, and my scholarship is both charged and constrained by this positionality.'

8 March 2023: Women in Science Panel, Celebrating Female Scientists

Join us as we host a panel of scientists from fields such as biology, human anatomy, forensic anthropology, ecology and environmental science. Learn how they got into science, their current research, what challenges they have faced as females in the scientific community and celebrate the rise of women in the industry.

Proudly bought to you by Western Sydney University Library, Science @ The Local and Penrith City Library

28 February 2023: Life after school for young people with intellectual disabilities - Dr Lise Mogensen

Dr Lise Mogensen is an Associate Professor at School of Medicine Western Sydney University, with demonstrated teaching excellence in project based learning. Lise’s areas of expertise include Research Design and Supervision, Lecturing, Medical Education, Medical Sociology, Childhood and Disability Studies. Dr Mogensen holds a PhD in Social Justice and Social Change from Western Sydney University.

Life after school for young people with intellectual disability: “I want to be more than a disability person’’

This session is presented by Associate Professor Lise Mogensen, School of Medicine, Professor Gabrielle Drake, School of Social Sciences, Dr Jenny McDonald, School of Medicine and Dr Nicole Sharp, School of Health Sciences, and Director of Believe and Become Occupational Therapy.

The researchers present findings from a recent study exploring the transition from school to adult life as experienced by young people with intellectual disability in Queensland, NSW, and Victoria. The project also explored whether the change from a social welfare model of disability support to a consumer-focused market-based system, funded by the NDIS, better enable consumer ‘choice and control’ as intended. Findings from interviews with parents, educators, health, and disability services providers will also be presented, questions and discussion will be invited from the audience.

14 February 2023: From Hot Suburbs to Cool Towns - Dr Sebastian Pfautsch

Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world, where nearly 90% of the population lives in towns and metropolitan areas. The trend in Australia and elsewhere in the world is towards larger and denser cities. Both processes, expansion of cities at their fringe zones and densifying within, make cities hotter. This is counterproductive in a time where our summers become hotter. We must do the opposite – develop urban spaces so they keep cool.

Dr Sebastian Pfautsch is an Associate Professor at the Urban Transformations Research Centre of Western Sydney University where he develops strategies to keep cities cool. He is an advocate for change who regularly features in the media. His work has changed government policies and practices and he has won state and national awards for his projects.

In this talk, he explained why it is necessary to pivot urban design and development from business-as-usual to cool. Using practical examples, he demonstrated the wide range of possibilities available today to create heat-smart towns and cities for tomorrow – from simple changes around residential homes to turning public parks into large air conditioners.

You may find out about his work on car parks, playgrounds and schools as well.

This presentation was recorded, and is available to watch.

7 November 2022: Climate action and carbon transitions – Dr. Roger Attwater

Dr. Roger Attwater discussed operational sustainability at Western Sydney University, and invited discussion from the audience.

WSU’s commitment to the UN-led ‘Race to Zero for Colleges and Universities’ is for Carbon Neutral 2023 and Climate Positive 2029.

The presentation outlined our journey during 2022 towards Climate Active accreditation of carbon neutrality, and our developing Carbon Transition Plan to progress towards being a low carbon organisation and our Climate Positive aspirations.

22 November 2022: Maldhan Ngurr Ngurra: Partnerships for sustainable regional futures – Associate Professors Louise Crabtree-Hayes and Neil Perry

Associate Professor Louise Crabtree-Hayes and Associate Professor Neil Perry discussed regional collaboration and invited discussion from the audience.

In 2021 after two years of closure, the University's Lithgow building re-opened as Maldhan Ngurr Ngurra - the Lithgow Transformation Hub. The name translates as 'working together, side by side'.

The name was provided by Wiradjuri language holder Sharon Riley to uphold the vision developed by local stakeholders, which is for Maldhan Ngurr Ngurra to act as a catalyst for regional collaboration towards sustainable futures.

Framed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Maldhan Ngurr Ngurra is now a thriving centre of regional innovation with a program of intertwined capacity-building activities that continues to expand and deepen.