The “Building a New Economy for Western Australia” two day symposium was an engaging and provocative event that sought to address critically important contemporary challenges in our society by “casting” participants as everyday heroes with the capacity to find pragmatic solutions.
The event was held on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th August 2018 with local groups Friends of the Earth Perth, Enkel, and the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability (Murdoch University) partnering with the New Economy Network of Australia organising the event. Globalactive as an affiliate of Friends of the Earth and of Enkel had the opportunity to participate and publish content from the event.
As is abundantly clear, the efficacy of our work to protect ecosystems and in seeking social and economic justice for all is directly compromised by the underlying economic foundations that continue to shape and define our world.
In a search for alternatives that go beyond continuing to simply address symptoms, a growing number of theoretical models, frameworks, potential solutions, narratives and social movements have emerged around the world and here in Australia. From the “Real” Sharing Economy, Collaborative Economy, Solidarity Economy through to Doughnut Economics there is a “New Economy” movement emerging that share two key goals;
- to challenge the current dominant economic system, with its reliance on fossil fuels, large scale resource extraction and socially unjust structures and wealth distribution, and
- to create and strengthen economic systems that serve the needs of people in ways that are ecologically sustainable, socially just and culturally diverse.
The 2018 “Building a New Economy for Western Australia” Symposium was developed with the following objectives:
- Networking/Community building – to bring people and organisations working in this ‘New Economy’ space together to meet each other and develop strong relationships.
- Connect the dots between existing initiatives – remember an economy is really about looking after the wellbeing of everyone; no initiative has all the answers, their approach is simply one of many. Rather than competing with business as usual and between ourselves we need to find common ground on how we approach our collective challenges.
To assist participants and presenters to synthesise the various threads of the symposium into a meaningful and substantive narrative for us all to move forward with, a key pondering was being proposed upon which we encouraged a collective “meditation” over the course of the event and which sharing on was intended to be shared in the final discussion panel;
“It’s now 2035. Looking back, what innovations, practices and trends have shaped the new economy in WA?”
Rather than the usual “talk-fest”, organisers employed “futures” tools with the goal of fuller participation from attendees and seeking therefore for more tangible outcomes moving forward. Organisers have follow up events planned, a “sharing-economy” mapping project already in motion, and hope to nurture a “commons-transition” network in WA encouraging the sharing of resources.
The event also served as a precursor to the 2019 national New Economy Conference – following on from events in Sydney (2016), Brisbane (2017), Melbourne (later in 2018) discussions are underway with NENA to run the 2019 conference in Perth. As such this year’s event aimed to build interest and act as a testbed for ideas.
Western Australia is blessed with bountiful natural resources and a wealth of human talent. But the model on which our society is based is intrinsically unstable, resulting in booms and busts, degradation of natural resources, uncertainty of business and employment, and concerns about social justice. Time and time again, our faith is placed in the latest short-term ‘silver bullet’: a new resources boom, a new infrastructure project, a drive for more technological innovation. But too often such proposals come at an interconnected economic, social and environmental cost.
Fortunately, there is a growing awareness across Australia and internationally that can see that ‘more of the same’ is not the answer. Unfortunately, more often than not, we still work in a siloed fashion, believing that our approach to creating new, diverse economies and better ways for our society to live, work, play and care for the environment is the best.
However there is a new movement emerging for a ‘New Economy’ working to transform Australia’s economic system so that achieving ecological health and social justice are the foundational principles and primary objectives. Many different movements have emerged around the world focused on the concept of a ‘New Economy’. Although they use different labels, such as the Social Economy, Solidarity Economy, Sharing Economy, Collaborative Economy, Steady State Economy and Community Economy, they all share two key goals: (i) to challenge the current dominant economic system, with its reliance on fossil fuels, large scale resource extraction and socially unjust structures and wealth distribution, and (ii) to create and strengthen economic systems that serve the needs of people in ways that are ecologically sustainable, socially just and culturally diverse.
Assisting the host organisations in holding space for the conference are the following national leaders in the New Economy movement who delivered keynote addresses.
Dr. Michelle Maloney is a lawyer, activist and co-founder of the New Economy Network of Australia and co-founder/director of Australian Earth Laws Alliance. She is the former Chairperson of the Environmental Defenders Office Queensland and Executive Committee member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature. Michelle is passionate about building Earth centred law, governance and ethics and ensuring new economic initiatives are anchored to Earth centred values. Michelle holds degrees in law and politics from ANU and a PhD in law from Griffith University.
Michelle assisted in opening the event by providing a recorded presentation joining Karun Cowper from Friends of the Earth (also Enkel and Globalactive), Adam Jorlen from Enkel, Robert Eggington from Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation, Kobi Arthur Morrisson Nyoongah signer/songwriter and JP Parker from Infinite Solutions Institute.
Saturday morning presentations
Dr. José Ramos is a researcher of and advocate for commons based social change. His focus is on supporting anticipatory design and social innovation through his practice Action Foresight and through a number of high impact projects. He is senior consulting editor for the Journal of Future Studies, and writes widely on cultural, political and economic issues.
Dr. Amanda Cahill is the CEO of The Next Economy. Originally trained in anthropology, she has spent over two decades working with communities across Australia, Asia and the Pacific to develop more equitable and sustainable local economies. Over the last few years she has been working with coal and gas affected communities in Australia to develop economic transition plans that will move Australia closer to zero emissions while strengthening local economies. Amanda has a PhD in Human Geography from the Australian National University, an Adjunct Lecturer position at the University of Queensland and was on the founding committee of the New Economy Network of Australia.
Dr. Martin Brueckner is a senior lecturer at Murdoch University who over the last fourteen years has worked in a variety of teaching and research capacities across different disciplines and universities with a focus on sustainability with a social and natural justice lens. He is co-founder and co-director of the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability – a multidisciplinary hub for teaching and research that endeavours to shape new thinking and practice on key aspects of responsible citizenship.
Saturday afternoon presentations
Dr Kate Ringvall – Ikea Australia – Circular Economy. Responsibility/place of big business in New Economy
Johnny Doan – Paper Mountain – The space between…Creative communities, arts and culture in the New Economy
Andrew Thomson – Enkel – A New Economy – How might we get there?
Suresh Rajan – West Australians for Racial Equality – Cultural diversity in the New Economy in WA
David Cake – Electronic Frontiers Australia – do-ocracy: building with volunteers, via hacker spaces, Burning Man, and virtual organisations
Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie – Future Human Academy and award winning game designer – Using the power of play to enable people and organisations to thrive in the future.
Eugenie Stockmann – Green Fabric – Sustainable community building and living: Housing Co-operatives
Claire Vanderplank – The Slow Project – Comparing gift economics with current system in terms of what it does to our psychology and ability to live fully human
Daniel Mackey – Ethical Fields – incubator.coop Supporting new co-operative businesses – getting dirty helping others build a future that is everyone’s business
Darren Lomman – Greenbatch – Giving waste plastic a new life
Kate Biondo – Galactic Co-operative – Setting up a worker owned coop in WA
Nicole Hodgson – Murdoch University – New Economy innovation in regional and rural areas
Phil Brown – Transition Towns WA – Transition Town movement in WA and beyond
Dave Palmer – Murdoch University – Community Development practice tools and insight for the New Economy
Rod Mitchell – National Chair, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Australia – Replacing Capitalism… With a Doughnut? – a new system that is pro human, pro planet and aims to “sustain all life”
Tanvier Fowler Social Ecologist – Exploring Diverse Economies through Art Therapy: a personal journey.
Final Panel Saturday Afternoon
Moderated by Karun Cowper
Dr Jose Ramos
Dr Sky Croeser
Dr Amanda Cahill
Alison Xamon MLC
Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie
Dr Kate Ringvall