Archives trace history of environmental action in New England

Published 28 January 2011

archivesThe Dixson Library at the University of New England has acquired the archives of the Armidale Environment Centre (AEC) at a time when the University is launching new courses in environmental advocacy and sustainability.

Dr Marty Branagan, the convener of UNE’s new Master of Environmental Advocacy degree program, said the archives would be an important resource for students conducting research on historical aspects of the environmental and sustainability movements. A new Bachelor of Sustainability degree program also begins at UNE this year.

Dr Branagan used the archives himself when researching non-violent strategies in environmental, peace, and social justice activism for his PhD degree from UNE. “With UNE offering new degrees in environmentalism and sustainability, and feedback on the degree programs suggesting the importance of history, the archives will take on new importance,” he said.

The archives go back to the 1970s, when UNE students were involved in the movement to protect rainforests around Terania Creek in northern NSW, and they also document the involvement of Armidale-based people in forest-protection actions in Tasmania, the Daintree, Kakadu, and elsewhere.

The Armidale Environment Centre grew out of the Armidale branch of The Wilderness Society (TWS), which opened in 1987. “This branch was influential in securing wilderness declarations over large areas of relatively unspoilt bushland,” Dr Branagan said. “It also organised anti-logging blockades in the Washspool area, and ran a shop in various locations in Armidale. As the branch grew in the 1990s into the AEC, incorporating the North East Forest Alliance and later Friends of the Earth, it became an important centre for blockades in Chaelundi, the Styx River, Mummel Gulf, the Mistake State Forest, and Wild Cattle Creek. Many of those areas are now preserved in perpetuity for the public to enjoy as National Parks, as well as being carbon sinks and biodiversity stores.”

“The high cost of rents was always a problem for TWS and the AEC,” Dr Branagan said. “Volunteers were forced to spend much of their time and energy in fundraising, and the AEC finally closed in 2002 after 15 years of intense activity.”

The archives reveal the AEC’s involvement in forest protection campaigns and other local issues – including the lowering of Armidale’s speed limit – as well as global issues such as genetically modified foods, land degradation, recycling, pollution, militarism, and the nuclear industry. They are held in the New England Collection Room of the Dixson Library, and access to them is available to members of the University and the wider community by appointment through the Library’s Service Desk (phone 02 6773 2458).

UNE’s Master of Environmental Advocacy degree program, beginning this year, is aimed at staff and volunteers of environmental organisations, businesses and international non-government organisations, as well as teachers, sustainability officers, and citizens concerned about environmental issues.

The new Bachelor of Sustainability degree program, also beginning at UNE this year, is a unique course designed to equip graduates with the ability to understand the complexities of the environmental and social problems that beset our society, as well as the problem-solving abilities needed to build a sustainable future.

UNE is a signatory to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education, and a recent major review of the University’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program incorporates elements aimed at building the capabilities of students to be generators of sustainable value for business – and society generally – and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy.

For information on these degree programs phone 1800 818 865.

Clicking on the image displayed here reveals a photograph of Dr Marty Branagan and UNE’s Collection Services Librarian, Robyn Warwick, looking through some of the archives.