Leading the way to a sustainable future

Leading the way to a sustainable future

From improving gender equity and financial literacy to creating more liveable cities and supporting an inclusive education, RMIT is tackling urgent global challenges to create a more sustainable future.

The University’s first Sustainable Development Goals Impact Report highlights the education sector’s vital role in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The document demonstrates RMIT’s genuine commitment to the SDGs agenda and global sustainability leadership by being one of the few universities in the world to  publish such a report.

Chief Operating Officer and Sustainability Committee Chairperson Dionne Higgins said she was proud of  the collective efforts across research, teaching, governance and operations to create a more sustainable world.

“We are incredibly proud of the way our people have embraced RMIT’s institution-wide approach to paving the way for positive change towards a more sustainable world,” she said.

 “The breadth of work and achievements featured in this report are testament to the outstanding work of our people and genuine commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and the global 2030 sustainable development agenda.

“This report aims not only to hold us to account about our SDGs performance to our stakeholders, but to influence the higher education sector globally and drive change.

Higgins acknowledged that RMIT’s wide range of national and global partnerships across industry sectors, and inter government agencies were key to the University’s achievements.

 “We are continuing to make great strides forward through initiatives and partnerships  across learning and teaching, governance, operations, research and leadership,” she said.

“Being ranked number one in the world for our efforts to reduce inequality within and among countries in the  2020 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings was a great reflection of our focus on making a real and positive contribution.

“A sustainable focus is also integrated into our students' educational experience to ensure they are well prepared for the future.

“It is really pleasing to see this learning reflected in so many of our students' projects from sustainable fashion to embedding a circular economy approach across science, technology and business.”

An RMIT report confirmed actively saving is one of the most important influences on financial wellbeing. An RMIT reports shows supported saving boosts financial wellbeing.

Key projects highlighted in the SDG Impact report:

Improving financial literacy

For low-income Australians, saving enough money to provide educational basics such as school uniforms for their children, or increasing their own employability through education can seem out of reach.

Improving the financial literacy of these vulnerable Australians provides the backbone to improving their financial wellbeing and educational opportunities for themselves and their families.

Collaborating with ANZ and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, RMIT has definitively shown the long-term improvement in the financial health of lower-income Australians who are involved in matched- savings programs such as Saver Plus.

The first program of its kind in Australia, Saver Plus was developed by the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing to encourage saving for educational expenses.

With more than 46,000 participants since 2003, it is the largest and longest-running savings program in the world.

Research to prevent gender-based violence

Women who spend time in mental health inpatient facilities are not being protected from gender-based violence, according to new research.

The study, ‘Preventing gender-based violence in mental health inpatient units’ shows women have experienced sexual assault, harassment and related threats from other inpatients, visitors and even staff in some facilities.

Conducted by researchers from RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies and Charles Sturt University, the study also found many services lacked appropriate policies and procedures to support women who reported such violence during their stay.

The research team points out that while some examples of women receiving supportive responses were uncovered, incidents of harassment were frequently disbelieved or not taken seriously.

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) commissioned the study.

'Yaloak South Wind Farm. Image: Pacific Hydro Australia Yaloak South Wind Farm. Image: Pacific Hydro Australia

Renewable energy deal for sustainability

RMIT has demonstrated sustainability leadership through its role in two large-scale renewable energy purchasing groups with the City of Melbourne - the Melbourne Renewable Energy Projects (MREP) 1 and 2.

In MREP 1, fourteen like-minded organisations combined their purchasing power to support the construction of a 39-turbine, 80 MW windfarm at Crowlands, near Ararat, providing 25% of the RMIT’s electricity.

RMIT led another group of Melbourne universities and businesses in MREP 2 to source wind energy produced at the Yaloak South Wind Farm near Ballan. The new deal has seen 22 RMIT buildings being powered by 100% carbon neutral electricity from January 2021. This project increased the proportion of renewable energy in the University’s grid supply to 70%. 

Making stronger concrete with sewage

Researchers have shown how a by-product of steel making can be used to both treat wastewater and make stronger concrete, in a zero-waste approach to help advance the circular economy.

Produced during the separation of molten steel from impurities, steel slag is often used as a substitute aggregate material for making concrete.

Steel slag can also be used to absorb contaminants like phosphate, magnesium, iron, calcium, silica and aluminium in the wastewater treatment process, but loses its effectiveness over time.

Engineering researchers at RMIT University examined whether slag that had been used to treat wastewater could then be recycled as an aggregate material for concrete.

The concrete made with post-treatment steel slag was about 17% stronger than concrete made with conventional aggregates, and 8% stronger than raw steel slag.

For further information about RMIT’s contribution towards the SDGs visit here.

Story: Kate Milkins

22 March 2021

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22 March 2021

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer