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The University of Melbourne’s longest-standing Interdisciplinary Research Institute, the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) has come to a close, leaving a rich legacy of collaborative research, outreach and visionary thinking about the intersection of planetary health, and human and species wellbeing. It operated from 2008 and closed its ‘doors’ at the end of 2021.
- Longest standing Melbourne Interdisciplinary Research Institute (2008-2021)
- Raised the profile of social-environmental issues and made major contributions to knowledge on social sustainability
- Leadership over the years included inaugural director Professor Ruth Fincher, Professor Craig Pearson, Professor Brendan Gleeson, Professor John Wiseman
and Dr Sangeetha Chandrashekeran
- The Institute’s efforts were concentrated on the themes of Future Cities and Climate Transformations
- Both themes have recently been recognised in their own right through the establishment of the Melbourne Centre for Cities and Melbourne Climate Futures.
The Institute had a remit to build institutional capacity around sustainability-focused research, broker innovative partnerships, and provide a portal between the University and external stakeholders for activities, opportunities, and dialogue.
It was focussed on the intersection of the humanities and social sciences with environmental and societal issues addressing a range of sustainability pressures, including: natural resources, health, ethics, biodiversity and conservation, climate, cities, and human impacts in the Anthropocene epoch.
MSSI’s sustainability vision was based on principles of justice, care, and collaboration, and throughout the Institute’s 12 years of operation MSSI promoted critical thinking about the implications of our actions today on the natural environments, livelihoods, health, and prosperity of future
Through a collegial and values-oriented approach to research MSSI fostered an interdisciplinary research community and culture that recognised people and principles at the heart of the research endeavour.
It also leaves a leading example of community, business, government, and broader external engagement in sustainability. This included drawing on the networks, ideas and feedback of those outside the University through its Advisory Board – members of which reflected a diverse range of sectors and
populations from major corporates to small companies and not-for-profits.
Seed funded research outcomes:
By seed funding a range of projects, MSSI has supported the development of graduate and early career researchers and nurtured big ideas at an early stage that have gone on to have significant impact in Australia and abroad.
Seed funded projects allowed collaborative teams to investigate, publish and put into practice projects, including:
- Maximizing communication accessibility in public transport services (2018)
- Climate change in Myanmar and the politics of the New Yangon City project (2018)
- Understanding aquifers through groundwater stores (2019)
- Understanding frames and values in suburban transport politics (2019)
- Scaling up regenerative agriculture (2020)
- Protecting streams in our cities: Understanding how ‘general environmental duty’ and ‘state of knowledge’ can help transform stormwater management (2020)
- Indigenous youth priorities for future cities: developing a research agenda (2021)
- China’s palm oil business in Indonesia: foreign investor driven transitions, sustainability tensions and local negotiation (2021)
First published on 15 July 2022.
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