Environmental Behaviour Change: Harnessing the Power of Volunteers and Grass-Roots Campaigners

Image by Brian S. Via Shutterstock ID86556997
Wednesday 27 June 2018
6.00 - 7.30pm

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Law School Foyer, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney


The assumption that helping the environment means changing our individual behaviours is a commonplace of daily life. We are all urged to ‘do our bit’, to ‘consume responsibly’ and to make small changes. The underlying assumption is that thousands of small individual actions all add up and will bring about the required level of environmental progress.

This proposition is hotly contested within academic scholarship. Its empirical truth is called into doubt by environmental scholarship emphasising the big gap between intentions and actions. Moreover, its theoretical and conceptual foundations are troubled in some branches of social theory that urge us to move beyond person-centred accounts of change in favour of approaches that recognise the critical role of the material world in changing habits.

This panel invites two successful environmental change agents — Managing Director of Clean Up Australia, Terrie-Ann Johnson, and co-founder of Manly’s Operation Straw, Harriet Spark, to discuss their work and to bring it into dialogue with these debates.

Join us as we explore the multiple social ecosystems that act in the spaces between the government and the individual.


Terrie-Ann Johnson, Managing Director of Clean Up Australia
Harriet Spark, Co-founder of Manly’s Operation Straw
Associate Professor Ruth Barcan, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies


Dr Fiona Allon, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies


Terrie-Ann Johnson joined Clean Up Australia in 2003 as Corporate Affairs Manager. Since then she has held several management positions developing and leading the delivery and evaluation of all of Clean Up Australia’s campaigns and projects including Clean Up Australia Day, Clean Up the World, Clean Water and Towards Zero Waste. In 2007 Terrie-Ann was appointed Chief Executive, responsible for strategic planning, advocacy, people management, fundraising, compliance, communication and stakeholder management, financial controls and business ethics. In 2012 she was appointed to the Board of Clean Up Australia Limited as Managing Director.

During the span of her 30 years as a professional communicator, Terrie-Ann has worked with a vast array of specialist services organisations including Rubicon Point, Perpetual Trustees, Lend Lease Corporation, MLC Limited, Business Men’s Assurance, Mercantile Mutual Insurance (Australia) Limited and The Scout Association of Australia (NSW). She has also held multiple Board and Committee Memberships including the NSW Government Sports Advisory Committee, International Association of Business Communicators, the United Grand Lodge of NSW and ACT, Surf Life Saving Australia, the Westpac Helicopter Rescue Service and most recently Clean Up Australia Limited. Terrie-Ann is a graduate of the University of Technology, NSW, Australia (Bachelor of Arts), and Charles Sturt University (Master of Arts).

Harriet Spark fell in love with the ocean while dive instructing on the Great Barrier Reef. Experiencing the beauty of the underwater world first-hand, and learning about the threats this ecosystem faces, led her to swap her fins and mask for a pencil and computer. Harriet believes in conservation through creative communication. She has worked in communications and design for some of Australia’s leading environmental organisations, including 1 Million Women and Taronga Conservation Society Australia, and has spearheaded several environmental initiatives, the most recent being Operation Straw. Harriet now runs Grumpy Turtle Design, a creative agency working businesses, companies, and organisations that are doing good for this blue planet of ours.

Ruth Barcan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies and an affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute. Her teaching and research are centred on embodiment, the senses and everyday life, with a particular interest in everyday practices of sustainability. In recent years she has studied the environmental dimensions of the revival of domestic chicken-keeping in Sydney. Her current research centres on everyday life as a space of informal environmental education. Ruth is the author of Academic Life and Labour in the New University: Hope and Other Choices (2013); Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Bodies, Therapies, Senses (2011), Nudity: A Cultural Anatomy (2004), and the co-editor of Imagining Australian Space: Cultural Studies and Spatial Inquiry (1999) and Planet Diana: Cultural Studies and Global Mourning (1997).