The Brisbane Message Stick

Essential actions from the inaugural Sustainability Research and Innovation Congress (SRI2021)  in Brisbane, Australia


SRI2021 brought us together to leave small steps behind and take leaps ahead instead – with heart and love, by taking our cues from many diverse leaders, and working from the individual to the global.

The Sustainability Research and Innovation congress is the world’s first transdisciplinary gathering in sustainability – a space of fierce advocacy for sustainability scholarship, innovation, collaboration, and action. The first congress (SRI2021) was hosted in Brisbane, Australia, as a bridge between the Global North and Global South. The hosting consortium is pleased to pass the Brisbane Message Stick on to the next host in Pretoria, South Africa, to continue action for making sustainability a reality. Mr Jim Walker, a Jagera, Iman and Goreng Goreng man, lecturer at the University of Queensland and member of the SRI2021 Local Organising Committee explains, “the Message Stick was used to convey messages throughout First Nations peoples here in Australia prior to the coming of the Europeans and even after that event, until colonial rule made it a crime to practice culture and move freely on our own lands.”
These are a form of communication carried by messengers between and within Aboriginal groups, with their designs articulating invitations, ceremonies, disputes and more.  “The Brisbane Message Stick from SRI2021 symbolically passes on learnings from one Congress to the next and offers an invitation for all peoples globally to the next event.”

The message stick tells the story of the 4 main goals set by the Sustainability and Research Innovation Congress.

The layers in this piece represent both the lessons learnt and taught at the congress and worked on through the year. 

Embrace the strength of many knowledges with the Dolphin, the meeting places and the journey of the footprints coming from the four corners of the world.

Redress systemic inequity and amplify diverse voices with the Man and Woman both holding the same space and acknowledging that the meeting places are for both the young and the old, the man and the woman and to give them space to share their knowledge. 

Prioritise an integrated approach with the use of water and movement in the piece, showing again that the centre meeting place can be both a solid foundation while surrounded by constant change and strength.

Build on our existing strengths and potentials with the use of the emu and kangaroo tracks. These animals move forward and have both speed and strength.

This message stick speaks to the core message “Act with Urgency, integrity and ambition”.

Artwork by Brenton Bowen, Guugu Yimithirr speaking man from Hope Vale

The Message of the Brisbane Message Stick

This message conveys the knowledge, learnings, and priorities voiced through widespread stakeholder input by speakers, participants, and organisers involved in SRI2021. It is a message of urgency, action, redress, and hope from SRI2021 in Brisbane to the hosts and participants of SRI2022 in Pretoria, and to the people of the world.
  1. Act with urgency, integrity, and ambition
    • Bridge boundaries and create and nurture new collaborations.
    • Exemplify integrity and improve process and practice by example.
    • Bring ambition and courage to this urgent work. 
    • Mobilise action and engender hope.
    • Focus on outcomes and pathways to positive and measurable change.

2. Embrace the strength of many knowledges

    • Recognise and embrace Indigenous Knowledge science as essential and irreplaceable sources of scientific knowledge, and integral to enabling sustainable systems, processes, and outcomes.
    • Recognise the value of local and community based knowledge for developing and contributing to sustainability research and innovation. 
    • Develop processes and build capacities for the equal partnership of traditional and Indigenous knowledges and practices with traditional western methods and practices to undertake sustainability related assessments and design improved responses.
    • Recognise the inherent intellectual property embodied in local, traditional, and Indigenous knowledges and the inadequacy of current mechanisms to define its ownership, ensure its proper attribution, and protect it from exploitation without redress.
    • Support those in the Global South to follow their own priorities and invest in communicating the learnings to the rest of the world.
    • Improve working knowledge of different types of expertise and knowledge systems, not only within the Academy but also particularly outside of it.
    • Create cultures and spaces in which diverse perspectives and objectives are welcomed, supported, and actioned.
3. Redress systemic inequity and amplify diverse voices

    • Increase the representation and participation of women in all aspects of decision making and governance, elevate the status of women’s knowledges and experiences in sustainability research and discourses, and vest women with the authority and resources to enable their rightful influence on shaping and protecting humanity’s future.
    • Ensure the framing and prioritisation of sustainability dialogues and activities emerging from the Global South are supported on equal terms to that of the Global North.
    • Create and maintain space for Indigenous experts, academics, and community members to define, frame, and prioritise issues and actions based on their world views and knowledges, and shape sustainability discourses and activities on equal terms to others.
    • Support youth leadership and capabilities in sustainability research and innovation and advocate their perspectives, interests, and inclusion in fora where they are underrepresented.

4. Prioritize an integrated transdisciplinary approach

    • Support leadership and action wherever it sits, even if it is not in a formal institution.
    • Agitate for legal and institutional settings to allow and enable ground-up action.
    • Look for opportunities to reinforce co-benefits of ecological sustainability across policy and funding areas to better embed it in decision making DNA

5. Build on our existing strengths and potentials

    • Create spaces for communication and exchange between people in different sectors, disciplines, and geographies on a consistent basis. 
    • Pay greater attention to unlocking, applying, scaling, and connecting knowledge we already have.
    • Connect existing efforts, particularly those working on similar issues but in different sectors or using different lenses.