Winners & finalists

ACTS is delighted to announce the winners for the 2019 Green Gown Awards Australasia and the ACTS Awards of Excellence.

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the achievements of our winners, highly commended and finalists!

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2030 Climate Action

sponsored by

The University of Queensland

100% Renewable by 2020: UQ’s Warwick Solar Farm initiative

UQ is one of the largest energy users among Australasian universities. A successful energy management program has reduced electricity usage by almost 15% since its peak in 2014 and UQ has been an early leader in clean energy deployment.

To build on these successes, UQ committed to being 100% renewable by 2020. Rather than signing a contract, however, the University committed to a build, own, and operate model for the $125 million Warwick Solar Farm — a first in the world for a University and a demonstration of UQ’s commitment to walk the talk on climate action.

A Green Gown Award for the Warwick Solar Farm recognises UQ’s sustainability leadership and endorses our bold vision to be the first major university in the world to generate 100 per cent of its electricity from its own renewable energy asset. UQ is demonstrating what is possible.

Professor Peter Høj AC, Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of Queensland.

Top 3 learnings

The University of Newcastle logo

100% Renewable, 100% Do-able

Climate change. A topic close to the hearts of our students, staff and partners. In 2018, we achieved a major milestone on our journey towards becoming carbon neutral, and the impact is being felt across the sector and our region. By procuring a first-of-its-kind energy supply agreement with Red Energy, we will be powered by 100% renewable electricity by January 2020, resulting in a 75% decrease in CO2e-emissions. This sector-leading move has inspired others around us to take action, as we collectively strive to tackle the global issue of climate change and create a more sustainable future for all.

University of the Sunshine Coast

Energy Efficiency Through Innovation

This Australian-first energy efficiency project delivers 42% campus energy savings, incorporating a unique set of components: a 2.1 MW PV solar array; a 4.5 ML thermal battery; real-time monitoring; and, control system.
The project establishes collaboration amongst:

  • Key university personnel with ownership of their component of the overall vision
  • University academics to develop course content that engages students in engineering and business disciplines, providing them exposure to a stimulating project and informing the next generation of industry leaders.

This project demonstrates delivery of an innovative business model using collaboration, trust and transparency as core aspects of the project.

Benefitting Society

Macquarie University logo

Yanama budyari gumada – walking with good spirit on Darug Country, Western Sydney

The Yanama budyari gumada ‘walk with good spirit’ research collective is based on Darug Country, at Yellomundee Regional Park, Western Sydney. Led by Indigenous Darug custodian Uncle Lexodious Dadd, and involving NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and researchers and students from Newcastle and Macquarie universities, together we run the Darug Caring-as-Country project. We work hard to rekindle Indigenous ‘Caring-as-Country’ mechanisms on national parks estate, and have facilitated 17 Darug cultural camps between 2016-2019, enabling 450+ people to enhance environmental stewardship of Yellomundee by connecting deeply with Darug Country, culture, knowledge and language. We share our important collaborative learnings widely, through documentary film, research publications, policy interactions, and social media.

Macquarie University and our Yanama budyari gumada project partners – project leader Uncle Lexodious Dadd, University of Newcastle and NSW NPWS – are delighted and honoured to receive the “Benefitting Society” Australasian Green Gown Award for this important work towards enhancing ecological and social sustainability on Darug Country, Western Sydney.

Professor Bruce Dowton, Vice-Chancellor, Macquarie University

Top 3 learnings

University of Technology, Sydney logo

The UTS Social Impact Framework

Universities exist for public benefit.  However, in order to maximise benefit and resist external pressures, universities need a deliberate and holistic approach to social justice.

In 2017 we created the UTS Social Impact Framework – the first of its kind at an Australian University – and boldly committed to a new strategic direction with a whole-of-institution agenda to harness our resources towards public benefit.

The framework provides a roadmap of outcomes or ‘Theory of Change’ that is transparent, rigorous, and evidence-based. It underpins the UTS 2027 Strategic Plan, ensuring university policies, systems, priorities, and major projects align with our commitment to social justice.

Western Sydney University logo

Youth for the Goals: The Asia-Pacific SDG Youth Challenge – Leveraging Global Networks for Local Change

The Asia-Pacific SDG Youth Challenge is an exciting and unique youth led initiative focussed on delivering the SDG’s at a local level. Conceived by RCE youth leaders at Western Sydney University and Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia the Challenge uses a peer-peer learning model coupled with virtual mentoring support to empower and enable youth leaders to engage with each other and to deliver grassroots projects that matter to them and their communities. Supported by the UNU-RCE network the challenge has engaged directly with 17,500 youth and delivered 39 individual sustainability projects across 9 countries. In 2018 SDG 13 and 14 were the focus and in 2019 SDG 1,6 and 10 – all underpinned by SDG 4.

Continuous Improvement

Charles Sturt University logo

Creating a world worth living in

When Charles Sturt University adopted the Learning in Future Environments Index in 2012, and embedded as a KPI in the university strategy, the path was set for an ongoing commitment towards best practice across the whole-institution. Headline achievements include: being the first certified carbon neutral tertiary institution; Graduate Learning Outcomes incorporating sustainable practices; our Research Narrative framed around ‘creating a world worth living in;’ establishing in one of Australia’s largest rooftop solar energy systems by 2019; and investing $996,000 in sustainability & research grants between 2009 and 2018. Charles Sturt has demonstrated improvement each year.

This is recognition that our structured approach to continuous improvement, as guided by the LiFE Index, is generating positive behaviour change and ongoing financial savings. The GGAA gives Charles Sturt further recognition and credibility as a University committed to a sustainable future and providing inspiration to our students, staff and regional communities that are so critical to our success.

Professor Andrew Vann, Vice-Chancellor, Charles Sturt University

Top 3 learnings

Deakin University logo

Sustainability – Making it matter

Over the past four years, Sustainability at Deakin has been transformed. We’ve implemented a range of initiatives to ensure the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the University, and are making a tangible contribution to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This progress has been enabled through strategic planning, data led decision making, and a style of engagement that empowers and supports others to lead the implementation of initiatives.

Key to this transformation, has been the establishment of:

  • Sustainability as one of Deakin’s four core values and the commitment to the SDGs
  • Sustainability Aspirations that will guide our focus and measure progress over the next decade towards 2030
  • A governance structure that will lead the embedment of sustainability in decision making, and empower operational areas to take responsibility for sustainability in their relevant areas
  • A communication campaign that will invite and support Deakin’s staff and students to take responsibility of their own impact.

Creating Impact

sponsored by

KeepCup logo

The University of Melbourne logo

Bees @ UniMelb

Bees@UniMelb plays an important role in meeting the University’s commitment to develop and maintain its campuses as living laboratories of sustainable communities. The initiative aims to educate staff and students about bees and beekeeping, utilising 5 hives located across two campuses.

The initiative launched in 2016 with a small start-up investment. The program is now self-funded entirely via honey sales and managed by a passionate group of staff and student volunteers.

In addition to making delicious honey, the bees contribute to inner city fruit and vegetable production by pollinating neighbouring gardens, whilst providing unique learning and teaching, research and engagement opportunities.

As a living laboratory, Bees@UniMelb demonstrates the importance of a sustainable ecosystem.  This Green Gown award is fantastic recognition of a dedicated group of colleagues and students keen to share their knowledge and skills with the community.  Congratulations to our passionate researchers and beekeepers.

Professor Duncan Maskell, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Melbourne

Top 3 learnings

The University of Adelaide logo

Reclaimed Restored Repurposed – old becomes new in the Roseworthy Garden

Students and staff from the Roseworthy agricultural campus have transformed an under-utilised patch of grass into a thriving edible garden, with 90% of materials used being reclaimed, restored or repurposed. Beyond delivery of a sustainable and functional garden, this project has provided an opportunity for the Roseworthy campus community to start conversations, share practical skills and build relationships. From planning and design, to construction, planting and harvesting, the garden has been a collaborative effort between student residents, grounds staff and local volunteers. On a small campus, this unique garden is having a big impact.

Charles Darwin University logo

Guerrilla Gardening

How the cultivation of mutually beneficial relationships has enabled CDU’s Facilities Management to achieve targets without a ratified Sustainability Plan. CDU started its journey towards sustainability in 2013 by developing, through engagement with staff and students, a draft CDU Sustainability Plan. Facilities Management, in anticipation of ratification of the plan, seized opportunities to improve its sustainable practices and this has resulted in significant sustainability improvements across a number of areas. The Plan is to be launched in July 2019.

The University of Queensland

UQ Unwrapped — Reducing UQ’s plastic footprint

UQ Unwrapped is an initiative to bring together the entire UQ community to act on the issue of single-use plastic consumption through an action-based membership model and student–staff focused engagement. UQ Unwrapped has been operating over the past 8 months and currently has 21 members, 3 plastic-free champions and has hosted 13 certified UQ Unwrapped Sustainable Events. Our members, champions and events have saved of approximately 800,000 plastic items going to landfill. UQ is the first university to become a Plastic-Free Place as part of The Boomerang Alliance’s Plastic Free Communities Program.

Learning, Teaching & Skills

Victoria University of Wellington

Getting Creative about Sustainability Education

Victoria’s creative sustainable design curriculum prospers from community engagement and prioritisation of a place-based context. Through the synthesis of theory, practice, and real-world application, students from different fields of study are empowered as agents of change to deliver on the SDGs. The courses building the framework of this curriculum bridge three year-levels and support a clear trajectory to postgraduate study.

A Green Gown Award is well-deserved recognition for the Victoria University community. Victoria is a leader in this area—our staff and students have embraced the concept of sustainability and continue to work hard to make our University a truly sustainable institution.

Professor Grant Guilford, Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University of Wellington

Top 3 learnings

Charles Sturt University logo

Sustainability for Everyone! Supporting sustainable practices as a graduate attribute at scale.

We recently committed to ensuring our graduates can implement sustainable practices. This has led to:

  • an audit of the assessment across all subjects identifying where opportunities to demonstrate sustainable practices are being provided
  • a ‘one-stop-shop’ of teaching resources, curriculum guides, literature, and a list of mentor contact details to help facilitate the change.
  • a series of ongoing workshops and PD sessions available to all staff
  • specific guides for course teams on how to changes courses to include sustainable practices
  • modifications to a range of subject and course design software (and approval processes) to include ‘badging’ whether they include sustainable practices
Griffith University logo

Global Goals Masters Programs: Business For Good

Trust in corporations to ‘do what is right’ has decreased dramatically in recent years. Business schools need to produce graduates that understand the purpose of business is greater than simply increasing the financial performance of organisations. Griffith Business School (GBS) has responded with an ambitious project by creating postgraduate programs that redefine the purpose of business as ‘business for good’. The School has created a suite of programs that include compulsory elements of ethics education, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), social business, as well as socially responsible strategy and innovation across key postgrad-level programs, including the MBA. Our mission is to produce business leaders who respond to contemporary social expectations of business and the future challenges in our world.


Creating the professionals that can embed sustainability in any context

We achieved TEQSA-accreditation for and developed the Diploma of Sustainable Practice. This course aligns with research conducted by the global professional association (ISSP) into the knowledge and skills required by a sustainability professional. The course creates sustainability professionals fully equipped to embed sustainability into any context. Successful projects conducted by students have positive outcomes for both organisations and communities and include a $380K grant for an Indigenous Corporation, ACTSmart waste management accreditation, and Local Government award for OOSH projects. June 2019 saw our first graduates with the dramatic difference in understanding, language, and strategic thinking obvious to teachers and graduates themselves.

Student Engagement

University of Wollongong logo

Desert Rose – A House for Life Demonstrating Sustainable Dementia-Friendly Design

The Solar Decathlon competition challenges teams of university students to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are innovative, energy-efficient and attractive. The University of Wollongong’s “Desert Rose” project involved students and staff from all five faculties and TAFE NSW. This team of students and staff have worked tirelessly to demonstrate the possibility of building a sustainable energy-efficient home that also meets the needs of an aging population. Team UOW achieved second place overall in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018 competition along with 8 other awards. “The Desert Rose” is the first dementia-friendly home in a Solar Decathlon.

The University of Wollongong aspires to drive awareness and commitment to sustainability in Australia. To have our students, researchers and collaborators recognised for their outstanding contribution to this mission with a Green Gown Award – the most prestigious recognition of best practice within the tertiary education sector – is exceptional. I am delighted!

Professor Paul Wellings CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Wollongong

Top 3 learnings

University of Tasmania logo

Repower the Tasmania University Union (TUU)

Repower the Tasmania University Union is an outstanding example of students’ engagement and students and professional staff collaboration for sustainability. The project delivered the first 100% student-funded on-site renewably powered Australasian student union, highlighted to students that renewable energy is a viable climate change response and leveraged opportunities to support student leaders. The project delivers an emissions reduction of ~19 t CO2–e per year via a 71kW photovoltaic system installed in three stages and energy audits delivering reduced energy consumption. Avoided TUU energy costs are re-invested in internships through the GGAA winning Sustainability Integration Program for Students.

Griffith University logo

The Art of Engagement: Students create environmentally sustainable action with big business

A student-initiated recycling and studio residency from the Griffith University, Queensland College of the Arts (QCA) engaged with international corporation, The Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) to create an arts-led environmental action and promote sustainability in the workplace.

The project connected artists and designers, creating environmentally themed artwork for an exhibition at QCA and FCTG. Featuring 17 artists from the college, the students worked across multidisciplinary fields for a multi-audience exhibition. The culmination of the project generated institutional change in waste and recycling policies across both institutions, creating conversation and cohesion to develop greener policies.

Otago Polytechnic logo

Town Belt Kaitiaki

The Town Belt Kaitiaki is a collaborative student-led education program supported by a Department of Conservation educator, who works student ambassadors in 13 Dunedin schools and early childhood centres supporting their use of the Dunedin Town Belt as an outdoor classroom. In 2019, a class of third-year Communication design students worked with the Town Belt Kaitiaki ambassadors to provide design solutions that better promote their organization and encourage the participation of the community with their program. The process was collaborative, and the clients were all school-aged children and teens, empowered to learn how to work with designers to further achieve their strategic goals.


ACTS Award of Excellence – Staff

sponsored by

University of the Sunshine Coast

Dennis Frost

Dennis Frost has shown vision and leadership in developing innovative strategies and projects which have saved energy and reduced the University’s environmental impact, including:

  • Leadership in development of the Carbon Management Plan and USC’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2025
  • Vision for and delivery of leading-edge energy efficiency initiatives, including implementation of smart controls to reduce energy use by 58% in lecture theatres and 49% in the library
  • Vision for and leadership of current large-scale solar and chilled-water project, with an industry partner, resulting in additional 42% reduction of grid energy use for Sippy Downs campus, at nil capex to the University
  • Engagement with lecturers to develop ongoing content and learnings from above project for inclusion within engineering and business curricula
  • Leadership of initiative to stop selling bottled water on-campus and implement refill alternatives.

Dennis has demonstrated a vision for the future, which is bold and innovative, yet practical and achievable.  In doing so, he has assisted USC to demonstrate leadership in sustainability at local, regional and national level.

University of Technology, Sydney logo

Emma Camp

Dr Emma Camp is a young, inspiring and passionate marine bio-geochemist and coral researcher, a champion for the protection of coral reefs and an enthusiastic collaborator with governments, scientists and the community. Her discovery of corals thriving in the extreme conditions of mangrove lagoons – dubbed ‘supercorals’ – has delivered transformative knowledge that has informed new management approaches on coral reefs around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef.  She has many awards and accolades to her name including United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals; National Geographic Explorer; and an ambassador for global biodiversity charity IBEX Earth. Emma is a gifted science communicator.

Otago Polytechnic logo

Jen Rodgers

As a Sustainable Practice Advisor, I have single-handedly led a number of successful initiatives for students, staff and the wider community. For the last 6 years in this single-person role, I have been making a significant difference to the culture of sustainability among staff and students at Otago Polytechnic (OP). To ensure positive impact, I build sustainability capacity and help others realise their potential. I demonstrate leadership through living the values of sustainability, modelling behaviours, celebrating progress and taking responsibility for leading projects in a collaborative way. Initiatives have included removing disposable cups from our café’s waste stream, working with ceramics students to create quirky cups to fill the gap, leading OP to gain and maintain a Fairtrade polytechnic status, coordinating and launching a staff ‘Make a Difference Guide’, and much more; all on a very limited budget!

The University of Melbourne logo

Helen Lamb

Helen’s significant impact and leadership has been achieved through a series of small actions, ‘walking the talk’ rather than one big project, all adding up to demonstrate true leadership in all areas of her life. In every professional role she has held she has found ways to advocate for sustainability within the organisation and create opportunities to share and celebrate achievements. She has been able to bring people along, due to her enthusiasm and drive for the need for change. Helen has demonstrated that it is possible to look professional in op-shop clothes, ride a bike to an important meeting, and show that growing your own food is fun. As a result others have been inspired to do the same.

ACTS Award of Excellence – Student

University of Wollongong logo

Clayton McDowell

Clayton McDowell is a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre who inspired 200+ students, 30+ staff and 86 industry partners to come together and think of a cause bigger than themselves. Clayton’s research into energy efficiency retrofitting of homes of low income elderly people in the Illawarra stirred him to form Team UOW, with the purpose of proving to the world that it is possible to create sustainable net-zero energy homes that also improve the quality of life of people living with aged related disabilities such as dementia. As Project Manager and student leader he guided the team through the design, construction and operation of the Desert Rose House, ultimately achieving the silver medal in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018 competition and eight other awards. Through this project Clayton and his team have reached over 10 million people inspiring the homes of the future.

The University of Melbourne logo

Raveena Grace

Raveena has been a driver for sustainability and change across the campus as a student, for many years. She is an extremely passionate person who is involved in a whole suite of sustainability initiatives to encourage positive change within the community, whilst completing her studies in a Master of Environment.

  • Selected and trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2019
  • Green Impact Project assistant 2017, 2018
  • Currently working with the UoM Sustainability team in the student ‘Engagement Officer’ role, delivering the Green Impact program University wide
  • Social Chair of the Post-Graduate Environment Network (PEN), 2017-2018, Vice-President of the Post-Graduate Environment Network (PEN), 2018-2019
  • Active member of the Fairtrade Steering committee and Sustainability Advocates forum at UoM, since 2017
  • Interned at the City of Whittlesea Council 2017
  • Avid writer for scientific scribbles and the University of Melbourne Pursuit Magazine about The Future of Climate Refugees
  • Volunteer for the Carbon Market Institute at the 4th Australasian Emissions Reductions Summit in 2017
  • Working for Bhumi Fairtrade Organic Cotton since 2013
University of Technology, Sydney logo

Tom Hume

Tom Hume is B Comms student with a passion for renewable energy and climate action. He has first-hand experience in the renewable energy industry, and works tirelessly to engage other young people to participate in the clean energy revolution. He is a Renewable Cities Youth Ambassador, and recently attend the Clean Energy Ministerial/Mission Innovation forums in Canada as Australia’s youth delegate. He volunteers with community energy not-for-profit Pingala, working to democratise energy by installing community owned rooftop solar where the benefits flow directly on to community investors and other non-for-profit organisations. His current project involves working with an Indigenous community in Brewarrina. Tom is an active member of the UTS student Enviro Collective and was awarded a UTS Green Hero Award in 2019 in recognition of his efforts to engage the wider student body in sustainability.

University of Tasmania logo

Zoe Douglas-Kinghorn

Transforming everyday sustainability experiences for staff and students on campus through creative student focused events, instigating waste free student lunches, supporting students moving out of campus accommodation to donate, swap and sell instead of sending their belongings to landfill, encouraging recycling and composting at the student union and setting up a mug library at the campus café.