Premier’s Sustainability Award Winner – Yarra Valley Estate – urges others to enter

Babbajin-Park;-Tony-with-wombat_resizeWinner of the Small and Medium Enterprises category in the 2015 Premier’s Sustainability Awards – Yarra Valley Estate – is now encouraging other sustainable businesses to enter the 2016 Premier’s Sustainability Awards to celebrate their work.

Yarra Valley Estate is a conference, wedding and accommodation centre, located at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Formerly a deer park stripped bare of all its trees and shrubs, this 120 acre property has been nurtured and rehabilitated so that today it is surrounded by lush forest with organic vegetable gardens and a private wildlife rehabilitation centre, Babbajin Park.

To ensure continual improvement, Yarra Valley Estate has measured its footprint and benchmarked operations locally and globally. The business has formalised policies and procedures to offset the business to carbon neutral and to remain in line with the purpose that the business perform public good through nurturing people’s wellbeing and helping reconnect them back to nature.

Louise Ward, Owner of Yarra Valley Estate, encourages business owners all over Victoria to enter the awards this year.

“Winning the Award shows you don’t have to be a big corporation or have a lot of budget to run a sustainable business,” she says. “For our staff, our customers and our community, entering has been probably one of the best things we’ve ever done.”

Sustainability Victoria CEO, Stan Krpan, congratulated the Yarra Valley Estate team for their sustainable project, and for their commitment to improving Victoria’s environment.

“Delivering these awards each year means we continue to discover the talent and passion Victorians have for protecting their natural environment and minimising the impacts of climate change.

“We encourage participation across all sectors, focussing on delivering a triple bottom line – environmental, economic, and social benefits for Victoria,” Mr Krpan said.

Now in their 14th year, the Premier’s Sustainability Awards continue to promote leadership and innovation in sustainability, and encourage a broader adoption of these practices by all Victorians.

There are 10 categories in this year’s awards program – Built Environment, Community, Education, Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection, Government, Health, Innovative Products or Services, Large Business, and Small and Medium Enterprises.

See Louise Ward’s video story and more information at

Register now to attend an information session for guidance on preparing a compelling entry, to ask questions relating to category eligibility and hear about benefits of entering.  To register email Session dates are Wednesday 18 May (2-4pm) and Thursday 9 June (10am-12pm). For more information, go to

Entries close 5 pm Monday 27 June 2016.

The new solar solution providing cheap energy for manufacturing industry

originAustralian businesses within the manufacturing industry highlight energy costs as the second highest burden their businesses face behind raw material costs[i].

And while solar has long been an option for manufacturing business to help reduce their energy costs, until now the costs of installing a large enough system to meet their energy needs has been too high for most.

Origin’s new Solar as a Service allows companies to enjoy the benefits of low cost solar energy without having to make the capital investment in the solar system.

Richard Parker, General Manager of Townsville Engineering, had been considering going solar since 2014 but never pursued it until Origin launched Solar as a Service.

“Origin’s Solar as a Service option allowed Richard to install an 80kW solar system on his roof without any capital investment in the system. The system is generating a third of the businesses’ energy needs at a rate much lower than what they are paying for electricity from the grid.”

“The whole process has been really easy since Origin came back to us with this new option. We’re excited to see the new electricity savings, but are also glad that we can find a way to be environmentally conscious,” he says.

Townsville Engineering’s premises covers over 5,000 square meters and services local government operations, mining companies, bulk-handling facilities and maintaining an export line in mining equipment. Richard’s decision to finally move onto an efficient solar system is not only beneficial to the organisation, but also the community.

“As a business that operates for almost 10 hours a day, this is a great service. I feel very positive about the change and can’t see any negatives.”

According to Phil Mackey, General Manager, Solar and Emerging Business, Origin’s “Solar as a Service provides business with a simple way to save money on their energy bills by providing them with access to low cost solar energy at a lower price than they are presently paying for their grid energy.”

“Plus the business does not have to pay for the system or worry about ongoing maintenance as Origin owns the system and looks after all this. This option is ideal for companies with unshaded roof space, who plan to be in their premises for the long term and operate during the day.”

Under Solar as a Service businesses can keep the same solar electricity rate for up to 15 years, protecting them against any possible future electricity price hikes, or they can choose a CPI indexed rate.

“We know from customers that being more environmentally friendly is of concern – especially those who use a lot of energy or operate on 24/7 basis. So offering Solar as a Service is enabling companies to cross two things off their list: saving energy bill costs and doing their bit for the environment,” says Phil Mackey, General Manager, Solar and Emerging Business, Origin.

The amount that each business can save will depend on their daytime energy needs, roof space, the size of the system installed, the length of their Solar as a Service agreement as well as what happens more generally with retail electricity rates. The customer doesn’t need to be with Origin for grid supplied electricity to take up the offer.

“The service is something that adds great benefit to not only a company’s cash flow but also to their green credentials too. And, at the end of the day, it gives companies a solution for some of their biggest and ongoing considerations,” Mr Mackey concludes.

For more information on Solar as a Service please watch the product video:

For some information on how much your business can save, visit:

[i] Research conducted by Origin Energy and Pure Profile in October 2013

10th Byron Bay International Film Festival Becomes Multi-Dimensional

The internet is awash with news articles examining the potential impact of Virtual & Augmented Reality with predictions that this new medium will reach across all sectors of business and community and will grow into a $150 Billion Industry. Virtual Reality (VR) is poised to become a household reality as consumer hardware options are brought to market by companies including Facebook, Go-Pro, Microsoft, Google and Sony and is considered by many to be  ‘the next internet’ – with 2016 resembling for VR where the dot-com boom sat in 1996.


As the world’s biggest Film Festivals (Cannes, Sundance and Tribeca) start to incorporate VR elements to their programs the Film and Television Industries are now looking seriously at how VR and film/TV will evolve together. BBFF’s Technical Director Osvaldo Alfaro and Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke have a longstanding passion for immersive mediums having established GreenhouseFX 3D|VR in Goonengerry, deep in Byron’s Hinterland, in 1999 and for the past 2 years they’ve been introducing the medium to filmmakers coming to the festival.

“Rather than ‘Jumping on the Bandwagon’, we’re hitting the ground running” says J’aimee. “We’ve developed a number of initiatives for BBFF2016 which will be held in its new timeslot of October this year which will introduce VR to Byron Bay and its Filmmaking and Creative Communities”.

Also in line with its focus on cutting edge storytelling BBFF will start screening in virtual realms. BBFF2016 will feature the inclusion of new Virtual Reality experiences accessible to festival patrons through Virtual Reality Head Mounted Displays (HMDs).

“This new facet to our festival really excites me as I’ve been passionate about immersive user experiences including Virtual Reality (VR) since the early 90’s”, said Ossie. “We are also proud to announce two new categories and associated awards for BBFF2016. The first will be the inaugural Best Achievement in a Virtual Reality Experience – a field suited to filmmakers engaging in the relatively new 360-degree film capture techniques, made possible by the newer panoramic camera rigs that house an array of cameras such as GoPro’s. The second will be the Best Achievement in an Interactive Virtual Experience more suited to worlds and experiences created within a game engine”.

As J’aimee explains, “Technology continues to break the boundaries between reality and imagination, and offers us new forms of entertainment which are more immersive, where you truly are transported to other realms. While our event remains focused on creating a shared screen experience for our audience we’re keen to explore the possibilities that Digital Immersion creates as this new technology evolves. ”

Ncube8 is supported by Festivals Australia and is a VR initiative aimed at introducing the medium to a wide-range of traditional artists including filmmakers. As well as providing workshops for anyone interested in the medium the Festival will also identify 6 to 8 artists and filmmakers in order to help them ‘evolve’ their work into virtual realms. Selected artists will receive access to VR tools &/or mentoring and support from established VR developers with the work created then showcased at the festival and on-line.

Co_Lab_Create is a networking and discussion-based event aimed at the Film, Visual Effects and Gaming Industries. “In our opinion these 3 Industries together will develop and create the digital entertainment and electronic culture of the future. VR and Augmented Reality will continue to evolve in the years to come and what is ground-breaking today will seem primitive in just a few years” J’aimee added.

The new VR categories will be open soon but ‘traditional’ Film Entries for the 10th Byron Bay International Film Festival are open until June 10th 2016. The festival will start to roll-out workshops for Filmmakers and Artists in early July. Artists and Filmmakers interested in being considered for VR/AR Incubation should contact

More information about the festival is available at

The Transitions Film Festival Returns To Adelaide, 20 – 29 May 2016

The Transitions Film Festival returns to Adelaide this May with an inspiring line-up of powerful documentaries about what it means to be human.


This year’s Festival highlights films about discovery, purpose, innovation, impact and the transformational ideas that will change the way we live.

Taking place at Mercury Cinema, Gawler Cinema and Victoria Square/ Tarntanyangga, the program showcases 14 feature documentaries.

The future of food is explored in 10 Billion: What’s on Your Plate, which investigates the mindboggling methods we will use to feed ourselves in the future; Just Eat It, an adventure story about the life of a daring couple as they challenge themselves to survive solely off discarded food for six months; and Australian feature Polyfaces, a portrait of the world’s ‘most innovative’ farmers.

The challenges and solutions to climate change are highlighted in Ice and Sky, a lyrical and stunningly beautiful personal journey, which follows world-famous scientist Claude Lorius back to the historic moment where we first found evidence of a human footprint in climate change; Racing Extinction, the latest feature from Oscar-winner Louie Psihoyos (The Cove); and Black Hole, a riveting exposé featuring activists on the frontlines in the fight against climate change in Australia.

The forces of economics are thrown under the microscope in Two Raging Grannies, which follows two stubborn and cantankerous women on their epic quest to answer one of society’s most important questions, and Poverty Inc, which throws down a contentious and controversial challenge to the global aid industry.

Other highlights include Bikes Vs Cars, a battle for the future of urban transportation; Ever the Land, an exploration of the bond between people and their land through a landmark architectural undertaking by one of New Zealand’s most passionately independent Maori tribes, Ngāi Tūhoe; and In Utero, an investigation into life in the womb and its lasting impact on human development, human behaviour, and the state of the world.

This year’s festival also includes a free outdoor and family friendly screening of Landfill Harmonic, an uplifting film about the global rise to fame of a child orchestra that uses instruments made entirely out of recycled garbage; and a screening of Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World at the Gawler Cinema in collaboration with Transition Gawler.

Sharing provocative films about activist grandmas, the future of food, sustainable construction, climate change, global inequality and pathways out of poverty, and hosting post-film discussions with filmmakers and local thought leaders, the 2016 Adelaide Transitions Film Festival will challenge and empower audiences with stories of hope, innovation and insight.

For full program visit:

Energy Storage Council’s Australian Battery Guide

This guide, prepared by the Australian Energy Storage Council (ESC), is an easy to understand framework designed to provide guidance to the energy storage industry and consumers in the interim while formal Australian Standards and being developed for the sector.

Industry leading companies are committed to the highest levels of safety and performance. Together with consumers and other stakeholders the industry is actively involved in creating ‘worlds best practice’ when it comes to producing, selling, using and disposing of energy storage products.

Together we have a shared responsibility to mange energy storage products and materials to reduce their impact on the environment and manage any risks they may pose to human health and safety.

Over the last few years battery technology has undergone rapid change with a range of new chemistries being developed. It is no longer practical to dedicate a standard to a single battery chemistry. A new approach is required to accommodate the wide variety of battery chemistry under a single design and installation guide.

Lithium-ion based batteries are quickly gaining market share in this sector.  As such we have carefully considered the appropriate management required for this class of batteries in this guide. This guide is designed to grow and be enhanced, augmented and updated to be applicable to all emerging ESS technologies.

This approach to provide ‘just in time’ expert advice is focused in the first instance at identifying areas where the current understanding is lacking and additional work is required to maintain system safety.battery

ACT announcement a win for all of Australia

THE Climate Council has welcomed the ACT government’s announcement that they will bring forward their target to power the Territory with 100% renewables target forward to 2020.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the move would have strong community support.

“The ACT government has consistently showed strong leadership on climate change issues,” she said.

“This decision not only reflects community expectation for strong climate change action but the ACT will undoubtedly attract an early-adopter advantage by seizing the opportunities of renewables investment.

“Not only are the ACT showing other states how it can be done, they’re also helping to boost jobs and investment in regional communities across the country where it sources much of its clean energy.

“The wave of positive community sentiment around this announcement shows that Australians want more renewable energy and they want it now.”

CSIRO climate scientists essential to combating climate change say Australia has reiterated how important the role of CSIRO climate scientists are in combatting climate change and have questioned whether an internal discussion about whether to cut 120 climate science jobs was influenced by pro-fossil fuel politics.

Emails released indicate management flagged cutting 120 scientists working in government-funded climate change research, with a shift in focus from monitoring and managing climate change to one of “adapting” to it.

“As global warming rises to terrifying levels, the idea that our premier scientific body would desecrate its climate division is outrageous,” said the National Campaign Director for Australia, Charlie Wood.

“Here we have a Government approving major new coal projects on the one hand and slashing climate science jobs on the other.

“Statements indicating the CSIRO would shift its focus to adapting to climate change are similarly worrying. We should be doing all we can to mitigate its dangerous impacts.

“If the Turnbull Government is serious about climate change they will protect climate jobs and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Every indication so far is that they are set on doing the opposite. It’s time for voters to decide what they think about this in a few months time.”

National Youth Week: Indigenous Youth Talent Shines through Art

It’s National Youth Week, and Indigenous Australian youth are invited to submit their art to the 2016 MAX National Indigenous Art Competition.

2015 youth winner Jyi Lawton used the competition to catapult himself into the arts scene in South East and Central Queensland with his winning entry ‘Didgeriwho?’ through the competition’s specific youth category. Since then, Mr. Lawton’s work has been featured in another public exhibition and he’s participated in a live art show in Brisbane.

“The art competition was an awesome opportunity to display my work and the stories behind it in a public forum, especially as an emerging First Nations artist,” Mr. Lawton said.

He explained that art can be a powerful way of highlighting issues facing Indigenous Australian communities, saying “competitions like these are a great way to share stories, from traditional dreamtime stories and creation, to raising awareness of modern day issues.

“The highlight for me last year was being able to connect with other emerging Indigenous artists to network and share ideas. Story telling has been a way of sharing stories in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture for thousands of years,” the Bidjara and Gangulu artist said.

In 2016, finalists will have the chance to connect with 2015 National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Artist of the Year Daren Dunn and NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister Leslie Williams, who have both offered their support for the competition and finalists’ exhibition in June.

Mr. Lawton says this kind of support for Indigenous youth is vital, and is a great advocate for using art as a way to communicate with and support troubled Indigenous teens.

“I have donated numerous pieces of commissioned work for Not for Profit organisations including (Ipswich suicide prevention charity) Break the Cycle. I’ve also run some art workshops with Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, Reiby Youth Detention Centre in Sydney, and for Cunnamulla students that are part of (Queensland University of Technology Indigenous initiative) Project Imba.

“Art has been used as a means of storytelling for thousands of years. Initiatives like this are important to promote awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in the wider community,” Mr. Lawton said.

Submissions for the 2016 MAX National Indigenous Competition are open now until April 25. For more information or to submit your artwork, please visit

Key Facts and Figures

– Entries are now open for the 2016 MAX National Indigenous Art Competition

– The competition features an 18-25 Youth Category, which 2015 winner Jyi Lawton said catapulted him into the Queensland fine arts scene.

– Mr Lawton said support for Indigenous youth is vital, and encourages other young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to submit.

UN Environment Programme and Partners Launch Sustainable Diving Guide to Protect Marine Assets

Guidance material on how recreational diving can protect fragile marine biodiversity threatened by growing coastal tourism and support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was launched at Asia’s largest and oldest dive expo by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners.

The Green Fins Toolbox, developed through a public-private partnership initiative working with diving and snorkeling businesses, communities and governments in Southeast and South Asia, was unveiled during Asia Dive Expo (ADEX), held at the SuntecSingapore Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The growing popularity and accessibility of scuba diving and snorkeling is bringing more people onto coral reefs. The diving industry adds over one million new divers every year, putting additional pressure on fragile coastal ecologies, in particular coral reefs, which host abundant marine life and are an enormous draw for tourists.

While helping to drive economic growth, intensive scuba diving can directly damage corals, making them susceptible to other stresses as well as reduce live coral cover. Poorly managed beach and reef tourism constitutes an environmental threat and undermines the industry’s primary asset, the coral reef.

“GreenFins provides guidance based on solid coral reef and diving industry know-how,” said Isabelle Louis, acting UNEP Regional Director and Representative. “It helps small and medium sized businesses show conservation leadership and turn environmental risks into opportunity, ensuring a sustainable industry that protects marine ecosystems, creates long-term livelihoods, and contributes to implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.”

Designedfor the marine tourism industry, as well as local and national marine resource managers, the toolbox also includes a two-minute video on sustainable diving titled “Green Fins for a Blue Planet”, produced by UNEP in partnership with syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey. Using clear and simple language, the video shows how divers, dive centre operators and owners, and governments can influence both the environmental and economic sustainability of the industry.

“Thepublic is embracing dive tourism in a big way, and that’s great,” said Mr. Toomey. “However, now that we are taking to the water in such big numbers, there needs to be a set of guidelines that we can teach and follow as a dive community, if we’re going to protect our delicate coral reefs for future generations.”

Thetoolbox and video draw on the lessons of the Green Fins Initiative established by UNEP and the Reef-World Foundation. Green Fins isworking with over 400 diving and snorkelling operators, who are continuously improving their business practices to reduce the negativeenvironmental impacts.

“GreenFins is a catalyst for change,” said Chloe Harvey, Reef-World Programmes Manager. “Itbrings people from different sectors together, empowering them with tools and knowledge to take collective action and make lasting changes to the way they conduct business.”

TheGreen Fins Toolbox will be used for implementing and geographically expanding Green Fins as well as strengthening collaboration with key industry partners on environmental mainstreaming.

The Green Fins initiative provides outreach and capacity building to dive centres and their customers, and also supports governments in developing and implementing regulations. The initiative also involves regular assessment of industry performance against a 15-point code of conduct and supports improved industry practices and the development of regulatory frameworks.

Originally established in Thailand in 2004, Green Fins is now active in six countries in Asia and is being expanded to other regions.

The Two Minuteson Oceans video series produced with Mr. Toomey, the creator of the Sherman’s Lagoon cartoon strip, began in 2011 through a partnership between UNEP’s Regional Office for North America and Mr. Toomey.

The Two Minutes on Oceans with Jim Toomey series now includes eight short videos, which provide the general public with scientific information about urgent issues facing our oceans today, as well as recommended actions to address them. They use animation and humor to illustrate the importance of oceans to human well-being and the environment. They areaccessible online for no cost and have been broadcast around the world.

China is partnering with ISCA to develop an infrastructure sustainability rating scheme for China

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) has signed a collaboration agreement at the Australia Week in China signing ceremony witnessed by the Federal Minister for Trade and Investment, the Honorable Steven Ciobo and Special Envoy Andrew Robb, with a newly created Chinese alliance to create the Green Infrastructure Finance Accreditation (GIFA) scheme for the Chinese infrastructure industry. The GIFA scheme will be based on ISCA’s Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating scheme currently used in Australia and New Zealand.


The GIFA alliance consists of China City Development Foundation (CCDF) a not-for profit organisation for advancing sustainability in China‘s urban development; Green World City (GWC) a global network of CEOs and experts involved in creating sustainable projects in over 120 countries and ISCA. The GIFA scheme, which will be modelled on Australia’s IS scheme, aims to support China in delivering and operating more sustainable infrastructure. Direct benefits will include reduced emissions, enhanced social acceptance and reduced project investment risk.

Mr. Sprigg, ISCA’s CEO who represented ISCA at the signing ceremony, highlights “This is a significant initiative when you consider the current and future infrastructure plans for China and highlights Australian government and private sector world leadership in the infrastructure sustainability space …” and adds, “the initiative and partnership is an example of stepping up to Prime Minister Turnbull’s innovation challenge to change Australia’s economy and aligned with the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday in Beijing regarding the $100 million joint Australia – China innovation precinct.”

It is anticipated that the formal announcement and launch of the not for profit organisation which will ultimately be leading the development and deployment of the GIFA scheme, with ISCA’s support, will be announced soon, and will likely include a number of Central Government Bureaus.

Mr. Sprigg also flagged, “ that the other reason why the Chinese GIFA alliance partners want to partner with ISCA is that it will be easier for them and others to access best practise services and products from Australia to raise the infrastructure bar in China.”

The IS rating scheme is an industry-compiled voluntary sustainability performance rating scheme which encourages enhanced practises and outcomes across social, environmental and economic impacts. The scheme can be applied from planning through to design, construction and operation of all infrastructure asset classes in all sectors linking industry, communities and commerce beyond regulatory standards. Since launching in 2012, over $68 billion in infrastructure and civil works projects or assets across Australia and New Zealand have either been certified or registered for an IS rating. The IS rating scheme with support from ISCA can be adapted for use in other jurisdictions.

The benefits include:

  • Reduced project and whole of life asset risk
  • Enabling and accelerating applied innovation for infrastructure market adoption
  • Improved community involvement and support for projects
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduced environmental impacts (air, water, noise etc.)
  • Enhanced biodiversity outcomes
  • Resource efficiency and project and whole-of-life asset cost savings
  • Enhanced urban and landscape design for infrastructure

“We are looking forward to a long term collaborative partnership with China through this initiative, which we hope will facilitate institutional and grass roots environmental and social benefits as well as commercial opportunities for our members…” said Mr. Sprigg in closing.