Australian Museum and climate change
Our research, people and policies demonstrating our commitment to climate change action.
The Australian Museum’s climate change statement
The Australian Museum (AM) has been involved in raising awareness and researching impacts of climate change for over a decade. In its 2010 climate change statement, the Australian Museum stated that it ‘recognises that climate change poses a serious environmental, economic and social threat to our current way of life and to the security of future generations across the globe.’
In the decade since the statement was released, the impacts of climate change have grown significantly. The AM has committed to developing a leadership role supporting climate action. Over the next three years it will accelerate its programme for sharing information and approaches for reducing climate change.
The Australian Museum commits to ensure that the work of AM researchers, educators, communicators and exhibition content developers promotes climate change understanding and engagement. Moreover, the AM also has a corporate commitment to working toward sustainable practices within the Museum’s operations and infrastructure.
The AM’s collections span both the natural and human worlds, with 21.9 million items representing the combined natural and cultural environments of not only Australia but also the Pacific and beyond. The Museum is ideally placed to demonstrate climate change impacts on biota and people through exhibitions, education programs, outreach in the wider community, and online resources.
Through the AM’s ongoing, collaborative research program with Pacific communities in Sydney and across the region we have developed a leadership role in understanding the cultural impacts of climate change. We are committed to providing a platform for Pacific voices to be heard and enable others to learn from these communities who are already on the ‘front line’. The AM is also working to raise awareness of the cultural causes of climate change – that our current relationship to the environment, and approaches to consumption, need to be addressed to enable an effective response to the climate crisis.
Through their collections and deep time knowledge, museums around the world are uniquely placed to empower public engagement. The AM is taking an active leadership position with other global leaders, placing community and the public at the centre of these discussions. The AM is committed to developing impactful initiatives, supporting the upscaling of education and engaging the public in the way that intergovernmental, professional and aid organisations are seeking.
The AM’s science plays an integral role in understanding, and potentially mitigating, the impacts of climate change on biological systems. Scientists at the Australian Museum are undertaking research that highlights the impact of climate change on species distributions and biodiversity, coral reef health (at the Lizard Island Research Station) and on coastal peoples. FrogID is a national citizen science project, helping us learn what is happening to Australia’s frogs in a rapidly changing system.
Responsibilities of museums
Museums are among the most trusted institutions globally. As scientists, educators and communicators, we take this responsibility seriously, especially to ensure the information we communicate is accurate, up to date and understandable for all audiences. The Australian Museum’s priority is to engage with the public to understand the often complex issues, to gain confidence in joining the conversation, and to take positive action.
Climate change presents an enormous challenge to the survival of our species. The Australian Museum is working to help people to understand the scope of the challenge and ways of responding effectively through our exhibitions, education programs and public engagement.
The Australian Museum is committed to raising awareness of climate change and its impacts through:
- Expanding AM education programs and public programs on climate change
- Expanding climate change related exhibitions
- Creating resources such as publications and online content
- Communicating our research and how it helps understand the impact of climate change on Australia’s biota and communities
- Reducing our carbon footprint. The Australian Museum is now Climate Active (Carbon Neutral). See our Sustainability Action Plan 2019-2021
At the Australian Museum, research scientists studying biodiversity and cultural diversity are helping to uncover the impacts of human activity on habitats and their occupants, including climate change. The Australian Museum is supporting substantial advances to foster public engagement in climate solutions through its staff and visiting fellows.
Professor Tim Flannery
Professor Timothy Fridtjof Flannery is an internationally respected scientist working on climate change. He is an Australian mammologist, palaeontologist, environmentalist, conservationist, and public scientist. Flannery was Australia’s Climate Commissioner from 2011-2013. Previously Head of Mammalian Biology at the Australian Museum (1984-1999), he re-joins the AM for 2019 to further his research into climate change and communicate the most relevant issues facing Australia and the Pacific.
Flannery has discovered 30 mammal species, and took part in uncovering the first Australian mammal fossils of the Cretaceous period.
Flannery served as the Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission, a Federal Government body providing information on climate change to the Australian public. When this was disbanded in 2013, Flannery and others formed the independent Climate Council.
Flannery was named Australian Humanist of the Year in 2005, and Australian of the Year in 2007. He has held professorships at Macquarie University and was also chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, an international group assisting the Danish government in the lead up to COP 15. Flannery is also a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and a Governor of WWF-Australia.
In addition to frequent appearances in the media, Flannery is the author of 20 books, including The Future Eaters and the internationally acclaimed The Weather Makers. He has edited 8 volumes and has contributed to over 143 scientific papers.
Dr Jenny Newell
Dr Jenny Newell is the manager of Climate Change Projects in the Division of Engagement, Exhibitions and Cultural Connection at the Australian Museum. She works on the cultural dimensions of climate change, focusing on communities in Australia and the Pacific, as well as contributing to international networks of museums engaging with climate change. She chairs the Australian Museum’s Climate Change Communication Working Party, is a member of the ICOM Working Party for Sustainability and convenes the (independent) Museums & Climate Change Network. She co-edited Curating the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change (Routledge) and Living with the Anthropocene: Love, Loss & Hope in the Face of Environmental Crisis (NewSouth, 2020).
Zehra led the development, launch and management of the Australian Museum’s strategic projects, including the Sustainability Action Plan and the Accessibility and Inclusion Action Plan (AIAP). The successful implementation of these plans has brought the AM into a position of leadership for cultural institutions in both these spaces.
Through Zehra’s work the AM is now Climate Active (carbon neutral). This involved overseeing energy upgrades and implementing waste management best practice across the AM and collaborating with various key stakeholders to position the AM as an innovative leader in these fields.
Zehra worked closely with an Advisory Panel as well as the Australian Network on Disability in the development of the AIAP, the launch of which was attended by key organisations and stakeholders.
A passionate community advocate, Zehra has volunteered over the years in the Torres Strait Islands in community projects studying the effects of sea-level rise and climate change.