International recognition for University’s green initiatives

Monday, 30 November 2020

The University of Newcastle has been awarded three of the eight 2020 Australasian ‘Green Gown Awards’ in the categories of Climate Action, Benefiting Society and Student Engagement.

Out(fit) Team, Winners in the Green Gown Awards Student EngagementShellie Smith, d’Arcy Newberry-Dupre, Miranda Cunningham
Out(fit) Team, Winners in the Green Gown Awards Student Engagement category, Pictured L to R Shellie Smith, d’Arcy Newberry-Dupre, Miranda Cunningham

The institution’s efforts to become a carbon-neutral university, improve physical and mental wellbeing of girls and create better spaces for disadvantaged women and children have all been recognised by the Awards organiser, Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS).

The winning entries from the University of Newcastle were:

  • ‘Sustainability Reimagined’ by the Infrastructure and Facilities Services team in the 2030 Climate Action category
  • ‘Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered’ by the School of Education in the Benefitting Society category
  • ‘out(fit)’ by the School of Architecture and Built Environment in the Student Engagement category

Both the ‘Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered’ and ‘out(fit)’ entries were winners in international categories and will go on to be considered for the International Awards to be held next year.

Two other programs from the University of Newcastle were shortlisted as Finalists:

  • ‘Hunter Water Story’ by the School of Education in the Benefitting Society category
  • ‘Germinate – May Contain Seeds’ by the School of Architecture in the Creating Impact category

University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor Academic Excellence, Professor Jennifer Milam, congratulated the winners.

“I’m incredibly proud of the five teams for being chosen as finalists - the fact that three of those teams won in their categories is a bonus. These initiatives are a great demonstration of our commitment to sustainability as well as an inspiring example for our students,” said Professor Milam.

“Each project displayed a high degree of innovation and all of them involved meaningful engagement with various communities during their inception and development.”

The Green Gown Awards represent the most prestigious recognition of sustainability activities within the tertiary education sector. The Australasian Awards, open to all tertiary education institutions in Australia and New Zealand, were started in 2004 and brought to Australasia in 2010 to inspire, promote and support change towards best practice sustainability.

Further detail on all University of Newcastle finalists

Sustainability Reimagined

Addressing climate change is critically important for our students, staff and partners. Through 2019 we achieved a major milestone on our journey towards becoming carbon neutral. Our first-of-its-kind Energy Supply Agreement with Red Energy meant from January 2020 we are powered by 100% renewable electricity, reducing our CO2 e-emissions by 70%. Complementing this we rolled out 534kWs of rooftop PV solar, switched over 6,000 lights to LED, and commenced installation of four dual electric vehicle charging stations (with infrastructure to future-proof for an additional 20). We enhanced the biodiversity of over 30ha of dedicated bushland zones including planting 2,500 endemic native seedlings to sequester approximately 230 tonnes of CO2-e. We contributed to a circular economy through soft plastics and disposable coffee cup recycling programs, and significantly scaling up our rainwater harvesting capacity. Guided by our sector-leading Environmental Sustainability Plan 2019-2025 we are reimagining sustainability now and for the future.

Watch the video

The Awabakal and Worimi Hunter Water Story project

Sustainability through Care, Reconciliation Creation and Culture: The Awabakal and Worimi Hunter Water Story project was initiated by Hunter Water Corporation in the Lower Hunter as a school community program to align with their Reconciliation Action Plan. Hunter Water worked with the University of Newcastle and the Awabakal and Worimi communities to create a storybook with 10 Aboriginal students from Newcastle High School. The students worked together to create a contemporary Aboriginal story about the conservation of water for primary schools, their communities and the Awabakal and Worimi families and community that is called Where’s Our Water? The story was illustrated and designed by Newcastle University Creative Industry students in a Work Integrated Learning assessment task. The story was facilitated by Aboriginal educators Emeritus Professor John Lester, Paul Myers, University Aboriginal educator Deirdre Heitmeyer and Aboriginal artist, Saretta Fielding.

Watch the video

Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered

Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered is a community-based education program targeting fathers/father-figures to improve their daughters’ physical activity levels and social-emotional wellbeing. Importantly, this innovative program also addresses and challenges the culture of gender prejudice existing in girls’ lives.

Using innovative collaborations with local schools and industry partners, results have been overwhelmingly positive with significant long-term health improvements achieved. Since its development in 2014, the program has led to $4.1 million in research funding and seen delivery to 790 daughters and 678 fathers in various sports across NSW and in the UK.

In addition, a highly innovative University course has taught over 190 preservice and in-service teachers to deliver the program; creating wide-ranging education and community benefits through improved teaching practices and holistic outcomes for children and the wider community.

Watch the video


out(fit) is a community engagement initiative of the University of Newcastle, through which female students from the built environment discipline volunteer their specialised skills to benefit the community of Newcastle and the Hunter Region. We do this by engaging in hands-on design and build projects, primarily for underrepresented communities, with a focus on creating spaces for disadvantaged women and children. By providing access to design services for those who would not ordinarily benefit from this professional assistance, we can have a tremendous impact on daily lives.

Watch the video

Germinate – May Contain Seeds

This project sought to explore a playful, socially-engaged, and an environmentally kind response to the challenge of mosquitos. The student and staff researchers approached this challenge by creating a shared habitat for mosquitoes and humans to peacefully coexist. Certain aromatic plants repel mosquitos by confounding their sense of smell. The aromatic plant seeds are crafted into ‘seed bombs’ and placed into a repurposed gumball machine. Students, staff and visitors can purchase the bombs for a nominal donation and then they throw them into the adjacent environments. The project is extended into the community through workshops and an open-source website.

Watch the video

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.