The University of Melbourne

Ruby is a third-year Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Melbourne, double-majoring in Politics and International Relations, and Geography. Ruby is passionate about justice and inter-generational equity in terms of our responsibility as guardians of the planet, and views universities as highly critical in facing Australia’s future challenges.

  • Coordinator of the University of Melbourne Student Union Bike Cooperative since 2019
  • Selected and trained as a Climate Reality Leader – 2020
  • Represented the University of Melbourne at the Global University Climate Forum – 2020
  • Completed an internship with the Climate Council Australia – 2019-2020
  • Achieved the University of Melbourne Leaders in Communities Award – 2020
  • President of the Melbourne University Surfriders Club – 2021
  • Student Representative on the Arts Faculty Board – 2021

Head Non-Fiction Editor of Ablaze magazine – 2020

>  A closer look

Ruby feels highly privileged to have had many experiences in leadership roles and respects the responsibilities that come with these opportunities, particularly in regards to environment and sustainability. She believes that her actions now are an investment in our shared future community, and aims to bring commitment and enthusiasm to all her work within the environmental sphere. Since 2019, Ruby has served as one of two volunteer coordinators of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Bike Cooperative. Through this work, she supports the provision of a free service to University of Melbourne students through bike mechanic appointments, bike maintenance skill-sharing workshops, group ride-to-uni days, and social breakfasts. Also through the UMSU Environment Department, Ruby was a key part of the organising group for the University of Melbourne contingent to the 2019 and 2020 School Strike 4 Climate/Fridays for the Future marches.

In 2020, Ruby was selected and trained as a Climate Reality Leader through Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, completing a week of training in areas including climate science, communicating your climate story, and climate education and outreach. During these workshops, Ruby connected with a group of passionate University of Melbourne student climate leaders, who following completion of the training collaborated to represent the University of Melbourne at the Global University Climate Forum (GUCF). Run out of the Yale Office of Sustainability, the GUCF aims to create a global forum for university students to develop and implement actionable projects combating climate change, with completed projects presented in a publication at the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As one of four members of the ‘GreenerMe Project’ team, Ruby supported the development of a conceptual green rating tool for food sustainability in supermarkets, similar to a green five-star rating tool, which aimed to support consumers to make sustainable choices whilst shopping, in an accessible, and standardized manner.

As current 2021 President of the Melbourne University Surfriders club (and previous Secretary and General Member), Ruby runs a student-led university affiliated sporting club, with an approximately 350 student membership body. In this role, Ruby instituted a series of club-first sustainability projects. Collaborating with the Sustainability Team at the university, Ruby has implemented a sustainable camps policy for the club, minimising both single-use plastic and food waste. The club is also participating in the ‘Green Impact’ initiative for the first time, undertaking practical tasks to make the club and university more sustainable. The club has also been involved in environmental activism to protect coastal areas from fossil fuel development. Similarly, the club has elected an inaugural Sustainability Officer to the committee this year.

In 2019-2020, Ruby completed an internship position with the Climate Council Australia, in the Media and Communications team. Through this role, Ruby’s focus was on supporting the growth of the Cities’ Power Partnership program, which recognises the importance of urban centres in emissions reductions. In this role, Ruby contributed to the creation of a ratings system for local council projects aimed at reducing emissions, and facilitated a local councils conference, where workshops promoted skill-sharing around localised emissions reductions projects.

Similarly, Ruby’s roles as Head Non-Fiction Editor of Ablaze magazine and Chief Arts Correspondent for That Loud Woman magazine facilitated a platform for student discussion and engagement around the climate crisis. Ablaze magazine, an independent student print publication funded by the University of Melbourne Student Union Environment Department, focussed on student voice in response to the catastrophic ‘Black Summer’ bushfires, with a sustainability focus. Ruby worked with student writers to develop a series of pieces covering topics such as ‘Climate Adaptation and Indigenous Knowledges’, ‘Ecological Thinking as a Response to Climate Change’, ‘Covid-19, Recovery, Opportunity’, and ‘The Cost of Cotton’. As Chief Arts Correspondent for That Loud Woman, Ruby wrote on a series of connected topics, including producing a podcast  interviewing members of the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy, and exploring the intersection of environmental justice with sustainability and First Nations connection to land, which reached over 3,100 people online.

Since 2015, Ruby has volunteered with Sea Shepherd Australia as a member of the Melbourne Chapter Onshore Crew. In this role, she participates in monthly fundraising events, festival and event stalls, and as part of a committed volunteer team, attends educational gatherings, and converses with the wider public as part of our outreach education program. In 2016, Ruby was part of a select group of Australian students chosen to take part in Yale University’s Young Global Scholars (YYGS) program in the Sustainability, Energy and Environment session. Following this, Ruby has continued to engage with the YYGS program as an Alumni Ambassador, including being interviewed around my environmental work in 2020.

In 2021, Ruby is completing an internship with Pursuit at the University of Melbourne, whilst acting as a student representative on the Arts Faculty Board, and peer mentor to incoming first-year Bachelor of Arts students.

>  Impact and benefits

As current President of the Melbourne University Surfriders club, and previous Secretary and General Member, Ruby has been making a concerted effort to introduce a culture of sustainability and environmental awareness and action in the clubs running. Alongside a 12-member committee, Ruby leads the approximately 350 member student club, with an alumni community of around 4,900 members. Since the beginning of her presidency in 2021, the club has introduced a sustainable camps policy, incorporating advice from the university sustainability team and their ‘Sustainable Events Guide’. The club runs seven weekend-long surf camps each year with approximately 70 participating students at each, and further social and educational events, and subsequently represents a valuable opportunity for student engagement and practice-changing. As part of this policy, the club participates in the ‘Choose to Reuse’ plate program for each of its meals provided on camps, utilising borrowable ceramic crockery and cutlery as opposed to the previous practice of single-use plastic disposable crockery, and bringing portable food waste bins on camps to capture food waste, which is then transported back to the university’s Parkville campus to create compost for the university gardens. Using ceramic crockery will this year alone allow the club to divert 5,040 single-use items from landfill. Similarly, all food provided at club events is now Vegetarian, in line with goals of lowering carbon emissions for the club. Further, the club has appointed its inaugural Sustainability Officer to the committee, which in future will now be a permanent addition to the committee roles. This enshrines sustainability as a facet of all club activities, and creates a level of responsibility as a club to follow through on the club’s sustainability goals and commitments. This year the club is also participating in the university’s Green Impact program for the first time and was their first student club in Green Impact to participate, through which the club completes tangible sustainability actions from a tasks toolkit, including for example recognition and acknowledgement of country at each event the club runs. Importantly, as a surf club that is reliant on outdoor environments to run, Ruby recognises the inherent importance of natural landscapes to sport, recreation, and mental health. Under Ruby’s presidency, the club engages with local and state-level activist groups aiming to keep fossil fuel and gas development off of the Great Ocean Road and Eastern coastlines, in particular the Surfers for Climate and Surfriders Foundation groups. Through club forums, committee members share information around how surfers can become involved in environmental protection on their local coastlines, and participate in ‘paddle-outs’ for climate action. As part of the Fight for the Bight campaign, we provided free surfboard loans for any members who wanted to participate in paddle-outs for climate action.

As one of two coordinators of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Bike Cooperative since 2019, Ruby has supported and facilitated the provision of a free service to accessible to all University of Melbourne students, and creating sustainable behaviour-change in students. Focussed on supporting students to engage with bike-riding as a sustainable and affordable mode of transport in Melbourne the Bike Cooperative operates through the UMSU Environment Department as a physical space where tools and skills are provided to repair and maintain bikes. Since 2019 (though made challenging during Melbourne’s 2020 lockdowns), Ruby helps run monthly skills workshops for around 30 participants, focussing on topics such as ‘choosing a second-hand bike’, ‘common problem areas on bikes’, and ‘how to repair your bike at home’. Ruby also holds Bike Cooperative weekly ‘opening hours’ across two days, where students with bike issues are welcome to drop in with their bikes for an assessment, or to use the space and tools themselves. A bike mechanic was also engaged on a fortnightly basis to provide repairs and skill-workshops for students, where students were taught necessary skills to repair bikes at home, and keep bikes out of landfill. In collaboration with the sustainability team, the Bike Cooperative also runs a ride-to-uni day each year, with free sustainable and healthy breakfasts.

As a representative of the University of Melbourne at the 2020 Global University Climate Forum (run out of the Yale Office of Sustainability) in the ‘GreenerMe’ team, Ruby developed a conceptual five-star green rating tool aimed at providing a food sustainability measure for consumers in supermarkets, similar to Australia’s five-star health rating tool. In collaboration with academics and researchers from various University of Melbourne faculties, and support from sustainability officers and academics at Yale University and Harvard University, the team created a sustainable food guide for Union House food vendors, which was circulated to students. The team’s finished concept was submitted to the Global University Climate Forum, and will now be submitted in a publication to the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow in November 2021. The GreenerMe team was the only completed project from an Australian university. Our future aims for the project include collaboration with the Union House Development on campus to include a sustainability rating on vending-machine food, and continuation of a social-media campaign aimed at behaviour change amongst university students.

As Head Non-Fiction Editor of Ablaze magazine, Ruby produced around 170 print copies of a fully funded, A5 print zine of 90 pages, including graphic work, art pieces, and fiction and non-fiction writing on issues of the climate crisis. The online magazine was accessed over 200 times. Similarly, her podcast episode on the Djab Wurrung Heritage Embassy was played on community radio station 3CR on the show Done By Law in early 2019. Through these processes, Ruby engaged with over 30 student writers on climate action, and hundreds of student-readers to inspire climate action.

>  Leadership and engagement

Within the institution, Ruby liaises with a number of teams, stakeholders, and strategic plans, in particular the university’s 2017-2020 Sustainability Plan, which is now being redeveloped for 2022. As an environmental leader at heart, she strives to incorporate the broad and varied needs of diverse environmental stakeholders in whatever situation she is working in. 

As someone passionate about giving back to the university community in an environmentally-focussed way, it was this drive that helped Ruby to complete her University of Melbourne Leaders in Communities Award by 2020, incorporating award categories including 20 hours of university-based volunteering, 40 hours of external volunteering, and professional development activities.

Ruby has also been recognised for her leadership and commitment through her appointment to roles as the current University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Student Representative on the Arts Faculty Board in 2021, and as Peer Mentor to incoming first-year Bachelor of Arts students since 2020. Importantly, in her role on the Arts Faculty Board, Ruby represents student interests on one of the largest faculties at the university. As it is important that she analyse and dissect all proposals to the Board from the perspective of the student body, and identify issues or problems she sees arising either directly or indirectly that will impact on the student experience, learning, or wellbeing, Ruby brings a sustainability perspective to all decisions made here, as climate change will be a critical factor impacting on students’ futures.

Through her work with the Global University Climate Forum (GUCF), Ruby was recognised as a sustainability leader at the university. Following consultation with Associate Director of Sustainability Clare Walker on the GreenerMe team’s project, the team was asked to further represent the university at an upcoming Universities 21 RISE sustainability challenge.

As a leader in sustainability, Ruby’s implementation of environmental programs within the Melbourne University Surfriders club are unprecedented at the club, and amongst many University of Melbourne affiliated sports clubs. Similarly, following her work with the Melbourne University Surfriders club, Ruby was invited to present on behalf of the club to the Melbourne University Sport Board in March 2021, and subsequently has engaged in further conversations Melbourne University Sport leadership around future support for programs. For the club’s work in the Green Impact program, the club’s Sustainability Officer was invited to present to a student workshop for Green Impact teams on sustainable actions and practices as a club.

>  Wider societal impact

As a young person growing up in an internationally connected world, Ruby realises that to make an impact she must have a global view. With environmental issues increasingly moving into this globalised mainstream, her goals to protect and preserve our natural environment must recognise and work towards this wider perspective. Through student engagement at university, alongside Ruby’s volunteer work, she works towards not just localised impacts, but global impacts through a focus on climate change action. 

As a Sea Shepherd Australia onshore volunteer since 2015, Ruby recognises the value of our oceans on a global scale to climate action efforts, through protection of both marine species and marine ecosystems and environments. As an onshore volunteer for the Melbourne Sea Shepherd Australia Chapter, Ruby contributes to fundraising efforts, educational talks at schools and festivals, outreach stalls, beach cleans, and marine debris cleans. Further, through her internship with the Climate Council Australia, Ruby understands the value of multi-lateral action and decision-making on climate change, working on climate and energy pledges from over 140 local government areas across Australia.

In 2019 and early 2020 (pre-COVID 19), Ruby was a key member of the campus organizing group for the University of Melbourne contingent to the School Strike 4 Climate/Fridays for our Future marches. Coordinating across diverse groups including high school students, university staff and students, and trade unions, this effort was aimed at creating global awareness of the climate crisis, and trigger behavioural change, policy change, and youth engagement as part of a global protest.

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