A Focus on Australia/New Zealand

This past December the Australia and New Zealand Chapter, officially transitioned from an Emerging to an Established Chapter, cementing their commitment to realising the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible management education. Although they only just became an Established Chapter, the region has always had a very active PRME Signatory base, a group of schools that are not only active within the PRME network, but also actively engaged in pushing the agenda forward with a range of innovative approaches. Because of this, schools from this region are regularly featured on PRiMEtime.

The month of February will be focused on sharing examples of good practices around embedding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into management education from schools across Australia and New Zealand. To kick things off, I spoke with Belinda Gibbons, the coordinator of the Chapter as well as the coordinator of PRME activities at the University of Wollongong in Australia about both the challenges and opportunities for the region as a whole.

Tell us a bit more about the Australia/New Zealand Chapter.

Schools in this region have been active in PRME since 2008. Currently 53% of universities in Australia and 75% in NZ are PRME signatories with a growth rate of approximately 2-3 signatories per year. Amidst vast land distances between signatories (there is a five hour time difference between our Schools), PRME members communicate on bi-monthly conference calls, virtual state based gatherings and via more formal annual forums and regular emails.

The work and in particular the courses that schools in this region offer have an important impact both here and abroad because education is Australia’s largest service export and New Zealand’s second largest. Recent statistics reveal that of all Australian higher education courses completed in 2016, the field of management and commerce accounts for 19% for domestic students and 55% for our international students. New Zealand has similar high statistics with 27% of students studying management and commerce courses. Of that 1 in 5 are international students. These large numbers and percentage of diverse cultures offers us rich exploration for teaching and learning but also numerous challenges in the way to tackle all 17 SDGs in the curriculum, research and partnerships.

You officially became an Established Chapter at your most recent Regional Meeting. Tell us a bit about it.

The 5th PRME Chapter Australia & New Zealand Forum took place at Deakin University, a PRME Champion School, in Melbourne early in December 2017. The theme of the meeting was ‘Inspire, Motivate, Engage, Act’ in regards to realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Over the course of the day we went through the different elements of the theme. We started by celebrating and sharing the growth we have had as a region over the past 10 years, congratulating Latrobe Business School and Griffith Business School in Australia and University of Waikato Management School in New Zealand who were among the first to sign as PRME Signatories.  We also signed the MOU with the PRME Secretariat, officially becoming an Established Chapter. Each school had a chance to present their achievements from 2017 and hopes for 2018 and to share key resources and opportunities. We also had a number individuals join us for parts of the day including Alice Cope, the Executive Director of UN Global Compact Australia, Anne Swear who is the Head of Corporate Sustainability at ANZ, Sue Noble the CEO of Volunteering Victoria, Giselle Weybrecht who is a Special Advisor to the PRME Secretariat, Sarah Goulding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Soyuma Gupta, a current student at Deakin. The discussions were focused on how Australia is moving forward with the SDGs and how the schools that form the chapter can be part of those discussions and actions moving forward. For a full summary of the meeting click here.

What are some of the challenges that schools in this part of the world are facing and some issues that are particularly relevant in relation to the SDG?

While our research stimulates innovation and delivers solutions to economic, social and demographic challenges facing our nations we need to work closer with industry and government to support SDGs realisation. Our textbook and classroom cases can be routine in using global examples, which are informative, but the challenge is to bring an understanding of the SDGs back to illustrations from our countries, enabling our students and academics to understand just how global these goals are.

An example of this in particular pertains to human rights. In the latest Amnesty International 2016-2017 report, Australia’s commitment to human rights fails when it comes to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially children abuse and deaths in custody (SDG 10.2, 16.2). Asylum seeking processes and procedures (SDG 1.4, 10.7), disability rights (SDG 1.2, 10.2) and counter-terror measures (SDG 10.3), all of which put us on the Human Rights Watch List for the third successive year in 2016. New Zealand has similar Indigenous Maori challenges along with high rates of violence against women and girls (SDG 5.1, 5.2) and children poverty rates (SDG 1.2). Ensuring these issues are communicated and mapped across all disciplines in the management and commerce field requires raising awareness, conducting audit type processes alongside developing a mechanism for resource sharing.

What’s planned for the chapter moving forward?

The SDGs provide us with a framework for industry, civil society and government collaboration. In Australia, the Voluntary National Review (VNR) on SDG progress is underway with the report due mid-2018. It is essential that the higher education sector and in particular PRME AUSNZ contribute to this report and continue to build relationships for future research.

As an Established Chapter, we are forming a steering committee that will focus on the priority areas of student engagement activities and embedding SDGs in the curriculum, building communities of practices within Faculty and across university/universities, mapping SDGs across curriculum and research and research and cross sector collaboration.

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