> The initiative
Coordinated at a global level by the UNU-IAS, Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) are multi-stakeholder networks of existing formal, non-formal and informal organisations working together to facilitate Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) learning and action in a local setting. RCE Greater Western Sydney (RCE-GWS), auspiced and hosted by Western Sydney University (WSU), is situated in one of Australia’s most rapidly growing regions in the country facing many social, cultural, economic and ecological sustainability challenges. As an anchor institution in the region Western Sydney University brought together key partners to strategically link, leverage and strengthen sustainability work that was already happening in parallel. Endorsed by the UNU-IAS in 2011, RCE-GWS network has built collaborative and innovative place-based programs and initiatives for 10-years. Our 26 external partners include the region’s educational institutions, non-government/non-profit organisations, school networks, community groups, local government, and government agencies. All of our sustainability initiatives are developed by our partners collaboratively and focused on formal and informal education for school students, teachers, university students, staff, academics, and community members. These initiatives are a combination of in-kind, internally and externally funded collaborations, ranging from professional development days for teachers like the “Living Links – Aboriginal Cultural Studies Program” program that development and delivery of quality Aboriginal education across Greater Western Sydney implemented in local primary schools, to large scale whole of region resilience and biodiversity engagement programs such as the “Bee Aware of your Native Bees” program that promote the conservation of native bees by building awareness of their existence and importance as pollinators across Greater Western Sydney and Lithgow with a hugely active national online community.
Our aim is to educate and empower local people to take action in their local places. Our strategy for implementation has been to collectively work to address our regional challenges identified as a network to deliver local impact. Since the launch of the global Sustainable Development 2030 agenda, our areas of focus have been realigned to the global sustainable development goals (SDGs). Our current collaborative initiatives fit under three thematic core areas of impact and are underpinned by the cross-cutting SDG 4, 10 and 17: Urban Heat and Climate Action (SDG 7, 11 and 13); Food Justice and Sustainable Agriculture (SDG 2 and 12); and Urban Biodiversity and Riparian and River Health (SDG 6, 14 and 15).
Our governance structure constitutes the central leadership of the RCE-GWS network and represents the interests of our members, other than just the University. This governance model shares the responsibility of the operations and functions of the larger group, including endorsing new RCE-GWS partners applications, identifying potential projects, and determining key directions based on of widespread input of our larger group (i.e. our core areas of impact above). The host and secretariat is the Sustainability Education team under the Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning Futures, who is responsible for coordinating network meetings, managing grant funding, annual UNU-IAS reporting and embedding the RCE into the institution.