Key Outcomes

Report on Sustainability Forum 22 September 2008, NERAM, Armidale
Dr Robyn Bartel, Chair, Talloires Declaration Implementation Committee

The day was intended mainly to provide a structured opportunity for the ~100 delegates, who represented a wide range of interests, to workshop some ideas, visions, values and focus for strategies to attain sustainability in the New England region in several themed areas. Both self-generated themes and themes previously identified from Focus Groups prior to the Forum were workshopped and initiatives identified and discussed. Workshop members were both self-selected and randomly assigned. Outcomes/results have been recorded by the Forum convenors and will form the basis for future work including interactive development and evolution via public participation (see point 5 below).

The day acted as a focal point for energy in establishing networks and generating ideas as well as also building momentum and motivation for future action amongst delegates who might ordinarily remain in “silos”, distal from one another both geographically, professionally and ideologically. NESAC should feel exceedingly blessed to have such social capital within its bounds and to have hosted such a forum which could pave the way for the region to become a leader and model on these issues. An important point of agreement was that we could make significant changes by just making a commitment to sustainability as a region; we would not need to “be” sustainable overnight, as this is unrealistic, and, considering the state of the world at present, simply starting on the road to be sustainable is a challenge and to show significant leadership in itself (a position which is mirrored by UNE and its commitment to Talloires).

The day will generate a vast “to do” list which, given capacity limitations within the region and existence of important counter factors external to the region, may be difficult to achieve follow-through without significant support. This will depend heavily on personnel and funding being forthcoming and these being sufficient to enable change in the short-medium term in some key areas. The engagement of policymakers in particular may require significant lobbying which requires the deployment of highly developed skillsets, as well as luck etc! An important aspect also to remember is the people who were not in attendance at the Forum who will need to be canvassed and included and in many cases persuaded (which underlines the need for lobbying and possibly also formation of concrete alliances amongst traditionally divergent groups).

UNE was identified as a central player in the debate, both in terms of providing human and intellectual resources, but also as a ~”corporate citizen” of the region who needed to lead on the issues. Several weaknesses were identified, including a perception that UNE was becoming increasingly “disconnected’ from its local community and therefore increasingly seen as aloof and lagging behind on several issues (sadly inevitable considering pressures on the higher education sector reducing the “fat” of human and fiscal resources to be devoted to such pursuits – however this is poorly understood by people outside the sector). Several opportunities present themselves for UNE to value-add to existing initiatives within the region, to acknowledge and support existing UNE initiatives and UNE staff who are already devoting time and energy to such pursuits (which will have beneficial flow-on effects for UNE for e.g. being identified as a “sustainable region” will attract students to enroll at UNE), and also to take several further opportunities which are well within current capacity but have been lost opportunities to date.

Previous Focus Group themes are available at
and the website has recorded the activities from the day.

Dr Robyn Bartel, Chair, Talloires Declaration Implementation Committee
Thursday 25 September

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