Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action
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Faculty and Staff
Peter Brennan, PhD, Academic Director
Peter Brennan designed the Sustainability and Environmental Action program and has been academic director of the program since its inception in 2000. An Australian national, Peter was born and bred in Brisbane, just north of the program base in Byron Bay. He has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in ecology and geography from the University of Queensland and a PhD from the University of Hawai'i, where he was an East-West Center fellow. His dissertation was a study of the effects of forest fragmentation on the rainforest communities in Central Queensland. Prior to working for SIT Study Abroad, he worked for five years as an archaeologist in Hawaii and has taught at New Zealand’s University of Auckland, as well as the University of Hawai'i and Queensland University of Technology. Dr. Brennan served as academic director of the SIT Study Abroad program in Cairns, Australia, from 1993 to 1997. Prior to becoming academic director of this Australia program in 2000, he worked as a consultant ecologist and environmental planner for a company based near Byron Bay. As academic director, Dr. Brennan designs the academic components of the program, supervises the program staff and faculty, teaches courses, and serves as a resource to ensure students’ academic needs are met. In this role, he draws on his familiarity with the region as a resident of New South Wales and his passionate belief in field-based, environmental education.
Elizabeth (Eshana) Bragg, Ph.D., Assistant Academic Director
Dr. Bragg is an environmental psychologist and has been teaching with the SIT Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action program since 2000. She has an undergraduate degree in ecology and psychology from the University of Sydney and a Ph.D. from James Cook University in Far North Queensland. Her work and passion focus on understanding the psychological relationship between people and nature and using this to motivate profound social change and effective environmental action. Eshana is a member of the editorial board of Ecopsychology, a peer-reviewed, international journal dealing with environmental psychology. She has worked as a sustainability consultant with Sustainable Futures Australia, based in Byron Bay, for the past 13 years. In this position she specializes in the development of innovative educational materials and experiences as well as systems for organizational change, and she has managed award-winning projects. She works in partnership with government, industry, and local communities (including Aboriginal custodians).
In her role with the SIT Australia program, Eshana provides support to the academic director by facilitating student discussion groups, setting essay topics and grading, teaching research methods, and supervising Independent Study Projects. She also leads a two-day workshop on environmental philosophy in a rainforest meditation center at the beginning of the semester as well as an inspiring and practical workshop on ‘action for social change’ later in the semester.
Gina Crane, Homestay Coordinator
Gina Crane has been the homestay co-coordinator for the Australia program since 2003 and prior to that was a homestay mother for six semesters. She is responsible for recruiting, vetting, and training homestay families, assigning students to homestays, and organizing social events associated with the homestay. . Gina is a qualified chef but now works in the field of community services.
Laura Brennan, Lecturer and Program Assistant
Laura Brennan has worked for the program since its inception in 2000. She handles the program’s accounting and behind-the-scenes organization. She also teaches various methods classes and has overall responsibility for the Aboriginal portion of the program. Laura has advanced degrees in accounting and Asian Studies, has taught at Hawaii Pacific University, and was co-academic director of the Cairns SIT Study Abroad program for four years.
Peter Cuming, Lecturer
Peter Cuming, a leading Australian sustainability planner and educator, has been teaching with the SIT Sustainability and Environmental Action program since 2001. He holds an honours degree in urban and regional planning, a diploma of Permaculture, and completed postgraduate work in coastal management and mediation. Peter is the founder and managing director of Sustainable Futures Australia, an award-winning firm established in 1987 and focused on sustainability planning, design, and education. He has 29 years experience as an environmental planner, strategist, and facilitator of community-government-industry partnerships, planning processes, and organizational change. Peter has been chairperson and member of a range of key natural resource management, education, health, and community development boards and advisory committees, and was an elected local councilor for two terms. He teaches the program’s two-day workshop on sustainability.
John Dahlsen, Artistic Advisor
John Dahlsen is a world renowned environmental artist, who also has teaching qualifications from the Melbourne College of Advanced Education. John lives in Byron Bay and his environmental art work incorporates sculpture, assemblage, installation, and painting. He has exhibited widely in Australia, North America, and Europe and has either won or been a finalist in a number of Australia’s most prestigious art awards, as well as winning an award at the 2003 Florence Biennial. His work has been covered in major newspapers and on television stations worldwide. John has lectured at a number of universities in Australia and internationally, and has been an invited speaker at architectural and environmental symposiums, including at the Australian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Over the last 15 years, John has worked mainly with found objects, making sculptures and assemblages from beach litter, largely based on environmental themes, taking society's discarded objects of the everyday and transforming them into formal compositions. His work represents a long standing exploration of the coastal landscape, examining the passage of time in the landscape and the place of humans in it. He has used recycled materials to convey the history and memory of a place and to comment on the human experience of place, beauty, and degradation of the environment.
In the Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action program, John lectures on the links between art, the environment, and sustainability and acts as an advisor for students who pursue creative Independent Study Projects in the field of fine arts.
Dr. Geoff Mosley, Lecturer
Dr. Mosley has led the program’s week-long field trip in Tasmania since 2004. Dr. Mosley has a Ph.D. from the Australian National University and was previously the CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, where he is presently a councilor. He is the author of over 20 books dealing with conservation and recently published Steady State: Alternative to Endless Economic Growth.
From 1981 to 1988, Dr. Mosley represented Australasia and Oceania on the World Conservation Union, he has been a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas since 1979. He is currently the Australian Director of the Washington-based, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy. Senator Dr. Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens, has claimed that no one has played a bigger role in the protection of Antarctica than Dr. Mosley. In 2005, Dr. Mosley was awarded the Order of Australia, Australia’s highest civil honor, and in 2008 he was awarded the United Nations Association of Australia's Individual Award for his current conservation endeavors.
Mary Graham and Russell Butler, Elders
Mary Graham is a highly respected Bundjalung elder and former academic who has held numerous senior positions in Aboriginal organizations. She has been a member of the Prime Minister’s Reconciliation Council and an elected member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. As part of the Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action program, Mary teaches a one-day workshop on Aboriginal worldviews. Mary has worked with SIT Study Abroad since 1993.
Russell Butler leads the four-day Aboriginal field trip. He is a Banjin elder who learned many traditional skills and stories from his grandmother. Russell has stated "I went to two schools - mainstream school and my grandmother's school ... now it's my job to teach my sons, to pass on that knowledge and keep those skills and traditions alive." SIT has had the privilege of working with Russell since 1993. Russell specializes in teaching students the cultural and material aspects of the traditional Aboriginal lifestyle. He uses stories, discussions, and bush walks to teach students ethnobotany, tool making, and Aboriginal environmental philosophy. Russell is also a renowned artist and an actor, starring opposite Jodie Foster in one movie.
Helena Norberg-Hodge, Lecturer
Author and filmmaker Helena Norberg-Hodge is a pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement. She is a widely respected analyst of the impact of the global economy on communities, local economies, and personal identity, and is a leading proponent of ‘localization’, or decentralization, as a means of countering those impacts. Helena’s book Ancient Futures has been described as “an inspirational classic”. Together with the film of the same title, it has been translated into more than 40 languages and has sold about half a million copies. She is also the producer and co-director of the award-winning film The Economics of Happiness, and the co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture.
The Earth Journal counted Helena among the world’s ”ten most interesting environmentalists”, while in Carl McDaniel’s book Wisdom for a Liveable Planet, she was profiled as one of ”eight visionaries changing the world”. She has also been awarded the Right Livelihood Award, or ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’. Educated in Sweden, Germany, Austria, England, and the United States, Helena specialized in linguistics, which included studies at the University of London and at MIT. Helena is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC), a founding member of the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture, and a co-founder of both the International Forum on Globalization and the Global Ecovillage Network.
Helena has lectured in seven languages at universities around the world and has previously taught in SIT’s International Honors Program. As part of the Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action program, Helena teaches classes on the impacts of globalization and on the localization movement.
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