When did you start at Climateworks, and what led you to join?
I started at Climateworks in April of 2012. Wow. Almost a decade at the same organisation. GenX-ers aren’t meant to stay in jobs that long.
I was previously working at the Moreland Energy Foundation (now Australian Energy Foundation) as their ‘Energy Policy Advocate’. MEFL as they were known was a small, community-based organisation, passionate and scrappy, leading the charge on community energy solutions, and I loved working there.
I knew that climate change and sustainability was my passion and the area I wanted to stay in, and I wanted to have the greatest impact I possibly could. I believed that changing Australia’s biggest and most powerful institutions and government policies were the way to do that. When I saw Anna Skarbek speak at a Centre for Sustainability Leadership event, I thought ‘I want to learn from her’, and when a ‘Project Officer’ role came up I leapt.
What contribution to Climateworks are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the work I did with the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council over many years, to get the built environment industry groups comfortable with and advocating for a net zero target, and for energy standards for buildings in line with a net zero target. It was a perfect example of the unique role that Climateworks can play. Inside the tent, bringing influential players together, producing the knowledge they need and producing it in a way that brings them along on the journey so that they become champions of climate action, and working with those partners to get that knowledge in front of the right people to drive action.
I’m also very proud of the work I did to establish the Land Use Futures program, an ambitious, multi-year piece of work that brings together some of Australia’s leading research institutions, partnering with global institutions, to wrestle with one of the most difficult challenges to achieving a safe climate and healthy environment. In particular, the way my team has managed to deliver this program in a truly collaborative and participatory (and fun) way with our stakeholders has been one of the highlights of my career, and something I will take with me into everything I do in the future.
However I think the thing I’m most proud of is my contribution as part of the organisation’s leadership team to building an organisation that has survived and thrived through very rapid change, with a new strategy, new structure and enormous growth.
What changes have you seen in the time you have been with Climateworks (both within the org and in the external context)?
A lot has changed! When I started it was just eight of us, all squeezed into a little corner of the Myer Foundation’s offices. Very quickly we expanded on the back of increasing demand for follow-on work from the Low Carbon Growth Plan, both regional and state applications of this work, and implementation projects. We moved to a basement office in Flinders Lane which had a very start-up vibe to it, freezing in winter, boiling in summer, no natural light, but it was great fun. We soon outgrew that office, moving to 41 Exhibition Street, and then again, moving to our current offices, which very much don’t have a startup vibe. Climateworks has very much become an institution of Australia’s climate movement, and our organisation has matured in many ways as our office surroundings have changed.
The external context has also shifted a lot. In 2012 we were still talking about ‘reducing emissions’, now no-one would dream of anything other than getting to net zero. We didn’t have the Paris Climate Agreement, and it really felt like an uphill battle. Now decarbonisation is the clear goal globally, no-one serious suggests that we need anything less, and the rate of change in climate action has accelerated rapidly. This is incredibly hopeful.
However, global emissions have continued to increase, and the state of the climate and our planet has rapidly deteriorated, culminating in the horrific fires last summer. We have more work to do than ever to make our contribution to securing a safe climate.
What are your hopes for the land sector in the future?
I believe that transforming the way we produce food and manage the land to build healthier soils and more resilient and profitable farms is not only essential for tackling climate change, but offers the greatest hope for preserving the natural systems that ultimately sustain us all.
Some of the most innovative farmers in the world are in Australia, and have found ways to farm profitably, working with nature not against it. They are finding that they can rebuild the degraded landscapes they have inherited by building the ecological function of the land, they can produce food and fibre in a profitable way, and they can survive the ups and downs of drought, flood and fire better. Many of them have found that changing their approach to farming has improved their mental health, their relationships and their overall wellbeing.
I hope that Australian farmers and land managers can learn from these innovators and lead the world in farming in a way that helps repair the climate and restore nature.
Tell us about your new role.
My new role is as the Engagement and Communications Manager for Soils for Life, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to support Australian farmers and rural communities in regenerating soils and landscapes to build natural and social capital and transform food systems.
It’s an evolution of the Land Use Futures work I already started at Climateworks, zeroing in on the opportunity that I am most passionate about. One thing I love about the approach that Soils for Life takes is that it recognises the social aspect of change in farming communities. Farmers often learn best through peer-to-peer networks. They trust their peers because they have experienced the challenges of life on the land and can interpret and share information in a way that matches this experience. Peer-to-peer networks also provide social support in communities where trying something new can sometimes be stigmatised. Soils for Life helps to catalyse the establishment of these networks and support them to be successful, in particular by acting as a knowledge broker to the research community, and as an advocate to policy makers.
As Engagement and Communications Manager and member of the management team, I’ll be doing everything from supporting strategy development, designing engagement and communications plans, overseeing social media and mainstream media, producing communications content, translating research outputs and I’m sure a lot of other things!