Bernie Goldie

Wollongong academic joins ranks of first Australian Laureate Fellows

A University of Wollongong academic, who will establish the country’s first research centre devoted to understanding the cultural dimensions of environmental sustainability, was today named among the first group ever to be appointed as Australian Laureate Fellows.

The Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, announced in Canberra this morning that Professor Lesley Head, who leads UOW’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, will join 14 other Australian Research Council (ARC) world-leading Laureate Fellows from throughout Australia.

The Laureate Fellowships are replacing the ARC Federation Fellowships of which UOW currently has only one recipient – the Director of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute and Executive Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, Professor Gordon Wallace.

The Laureate Fellowships are highly prized awards designed to develop and retain Australian skills.

Professor Head said the challenges of climate change were already interacting in Australia with a legacy of underlying environmental problems and ongoing social change -- cultural changes and solutions were urgently needed.

The program she plans to put in place, involving a team of postdoctoral and higher degree researchers, would see the establishment of the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research.

“We must create closer engagement between Australian and international efforts to improve environmental sustainability,” Professor Head said.

She said that despite widespread calls for cultural change to enable Australia to craft an environmentally sustainable future, the nation lacks systematic investment in cultural environmental research.

Professor Head was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities in 2004 for interdisciplinary contributions to archaeological and geographical sciences. She is the only Australian to be appointed the King Carl XVI Gustaf Visiting Professor of Environmental Science, Sweden (2005-2006). From 2008-2010, she is President of the Institute of Australian Geographers and is the outgoing Chair (2006-2008) of the Australian Academy of Science National Committee for Geography. Professor Head was a delegate to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit in the environmental theme.