The Institute for Social Sustainability

The Institute for Social Sustainability

The Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy (ISTP) at Murdoch University was established in 1988 to foster critical understanding of the roles and effects of science and technology for the benefit of all sectors of society. The ISTP has always been dedicated to interdisciplinary and collaborative research to develop innovative solutions to a range of global, national and local sustainability challenges. An international research reputation was built mainly around the topics of sustainability, urbanization and cities. After restructuring in 2008, the ISTP sat as a separate research unit within the School of Sustainability until January 2011, when it and the former School, were moved into the School of Social Sciences and Humanities. Since the appointment of the current Director, Professor Glenn Albrecht in early 2009, the ISTP has focused its research profile around key themes in regional resilience, animal ethics, environmental change and mental health and scholarship aimed at creating a genuinely sustainable society. With powerful waves of interconnected economic, ecosystem, climatic and political change now running through a globalised human society, the challenge of sustainability has never been greater.

In July 2011, the ISTP (Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy) was re-named the Institute for Social Sustainability (ISS). This new iteration of the ISTP will have a focus on the social aspects of sustainability but will continue to have broad research interests in the domain of sustainability. The newly constituted ISS, with a new Board, will invite membership from staff within the School of Social Sciences and Humanities as well as encourage past members of the ISTP to remain as active members. Social sustainability researchers located elsewhere in the university will also be invited to participate. In early 2012 there will be an official launch of the newly constituted ISS and during 2012, national and international visitors will be invited to come to Murdoch University and speak on the theme of social sustainability at ISS seminars.

The ‘social’ has always been one of the ‘three pillars’ of sustainability (society, economy, ecology), but one neglected in scholarship and research as ‘social sustainability’. The ISS will be well positioned to conduct research that fits within international, national and state political and priorities and it will continue a tradition of competitively funded leading-edge research that will help create and maintain, at all scales, healthy, resilient and equitable human communities.

Globally, in the early C21 there are important shifts occurring in sustainability theory and praxis where the focus is moving towards a greater understanding of the social and cultural context of science, technology and policy. This shift is most clearly observed in an area such as climate change where after many decades of attempting to address climate change and lower greenhouse gas emissions with science, economics and technology, it is now widely recognised that social, cultural and psychological factors are additional major drivers of the initial acceptance of the need for transition and are vital factors in the acceptance or rejection of science-based information.

In 2011, the ISS has completed or has ongoing research projects that include an Australian Research Council Discovery Project on 'Climate Change and Community Attitudes' (G. Albrecht, CI), ARC DP work on 'the ethics of the thoroughbred horse industr'y (G. Albrecht, CI), NCCARF funded research on 'water security and resilience in the outback towns of Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie' (G. Albrecht CI). Future research projects revolve around the relationship between climate change, ecosystem health and human mental health. In addition, current research of ISS members includes the project, WA 2020, which is an examination of the past, present and future sustainability of Perth and the State of Western Australia. The ISS will also continue to be a partner in an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) project 'demonstrating distributed leadership through cross-disciplinary peer networks: responding to climate change complexity', a multi-institution project that commenced in 2009.


Seminars - image30 September - 2 October 2013.


Alumni - image30 September - 2 October 2013.

Professional Development

Professional development - image30 September - 2 October 2013.