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Farewelling Michelle St Anne

SEI celebrates the incredible work of Michelle St Anne, SEI’s Deputy Director and Operations Manager – Programming, Impact and Engagement, as she departs the Institute.

This month, we farewell Michelle St Anne, SEI’s Deputy Director and Operations Manager – Programming, Impact and Engagement, who is no longer working at the Institute. Here, we acknowledge Michelle’s incredible contribution to the mission and ongoing work of the Institute over the past eight years.

Michelle has nurtured the growth and scope of SEI from its early days, initially as a research and administrative assistant to SEI founders, Professor Iain McCalman and Professor David Schlosberg. Since then, her outstanding work and responsibilities expanded rapidly, and she was appointed Deputy Director and Operations Manager in 2017. In this role, she oversaw  SEI operations and engagement, including SEI’s notable public program.

Michelle played a fundamental role in fostering a truly multidisciplinary research community and in helping to build and support a global network of environmental researchers at SEI. She also managed, and deeply cared for, the Institute’s administrative and academic staff, and supported  SEI’s Honours, Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellows. She led a truly collaborative work culture and was an incredible mentor to the administrative team in particular, prioritising and supporting their career development.

As the head of programming, Michelle delivered hundreds of events, reaching thousands of people, both inside and outside of the Academy. This included support to deliver two major conferences (Global Ecologies – Local Impacts Conference and Environmental Justice 2017), as well as countless other internal and public-facing events, bringing together scholars, artists, practitioners and the broader community, and featuring leaders in the environmental space such as climate scientist Michael Mann, father of environmental justice Robert Bullard, and expert on the politics of climate change, Kari Norgaard. She also developed many rich and generative relationships, with partners both inside and outside the University. She was a key instigator in SEI’s ongoing partnership with Greenpeace Australia Pacific, which to date has involved a successful campaign to stop drilling in the Great Australian Bight and launching a groundbreaking report on climate change and the Pacific.

Michelle St Anne speaking alongside author and journalist Jess Hill at the 2021 ‘Wilful Ignorance’ panel, as part of the SItes of Violence project.

Michelle spearheaded SEI’s engagement with the arts and creative industries, using her own background as a theatre practitioner to aid the Institute’s exploration of the intersection of artistic and academic knowledge. This included the Making Space Series (2019), which looked at what it means to be an interdisciplinary collaborator in the Anthropocene; The ‘Anastasia’ Project (2017), a project exploring the theatrical communication of academic research on shock climate events; and, most recently, Sites of Violence (2021), merging artistic and academic understandings of human and non-human experiences of violence.

A Requiem for Anastasia. Image by Nathaniel Fay

As part of these projects, and in wearing her ‘artistic hat’ as Artistic Director at The Living Room Theatre, Michelle produced a number of artistic works and workshops, using theatrical methodologies to explore academic knowledge around waste, heat, climate change, climate disasters and violence. Examples of this impactful and dynamic work include the Composing Self Workshops (2019); her filmic collaboration with Julie Vulcan, ‘Dark Interludes’ (2021); and many theatrical works, several which were performed on campus at the University, including She Only Barks at Night (2015) and Black Crows Invaded Our Country (2017). These projects included SEI work with a wide range of researchers and practitioners from The Conservatorium, Architecture, Engineering, Sydney College of the Arts, The Veterinary School, Health Sciences and the Law School, furthering the Institute’s mission to engage the public and impact the way we understand and respond to environmental issues.

She Only Barks at Night. Image by Nathaniel Fay

While Michelle leaves the Institute, she remains an Honorary Associate of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies and the Conservatorium of Music, and a member of the Institute of Criminology. She also continues to dedicate her time to her passion, creating multi-modal artistic works, as the Artistic Director of the Living Room Theatre.

We wish Michelle all the best and thank her for her extraordinary eight-year contribution to the Institute. A contribution defined by intellect, humour, creativity, community-building and care.