Painting a picture for the future of mining in Australia

Aleta Lederwasch. Picture by Alexandra BerrimanAleta Lederwasch. Picture by Alexandra Berriman

In summary:

  • A UTS researcher is using art as a way to encourage creative thinking on a sustainable future for the Australian mining industry
  • Aleta Lederwasch says visualising various scenarios has allowed stakeholders engaged in developing a vision and strategy for the future to share, listen and respond to different perspectives

An innovative method of using art to facilitate long-term decision-making has been developed by UTS researcher Aleta Lederwasch.

The method was recently applied at the Vision 2040: Innovation in Minerals and Mining Forum where stakeholders in Australia's mining and minerals industry worked together to develop a vision and strategy to deliver long-term national benefit from Australia's minerals.

Through exploring and analysing artworks that depict four plausible future scenarios of Australia's mining industry, the method encouraged new perspectives and innovative thinking on what the minerals industry could look like in a sustainable Australia.

"We used this methodology in a workshop late last year and found that it increased people's willingness to share, listen and respond to different perspectives," said Aleta, a research consultant with the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF). "This helped create a collaborative and creative environment that was valuable for the development of a shared vision and strategy for Australia's minerals future.

A detail of Green Trade Alliance by Aleta LederwaschA detail of Green Trade Alliance by Aleta Lederwasch. It depicts a scenario of expanding downstream processing and production of finished goods, adoption of reuse and recycling processes and mining contributing to Australia's increase in renewable energy use and exportation

"Much research went into developing the content of the scenarios and I then, as the artist, pulled out what I considered to be the key defining elements and then played around with a few images that I thought could represent these – so the works are largely metaphoric and symbolic. I selected little recycled gates as my 'canvases' in an attempt to encourage ideas for creative use of resources."

The final vision and strategy will be launched in Perth at the end of this month at the end of a consultation process giving industry and other mining stakeholders, including NGOs, an opportunity to provide input.

"Ultimately the shared vision will map out a future where the minerals industry is delivering a positive net benefit to a sustainable Australia," Aleta said. "Current elements of the vision include new business models, new governance structures, new measures of wealth and the expansion of traditional Australian mineral services – both expanding down-stream (processing, manufacturing and recycling) and adding value in innovative areas (software, knowledge services and clean energy)."

Aleta presented a paper on her method at the Arts in Society Conference in Berlin earlier this year. The research and workshop have been undertaken within the Minerals Futures Collaboration Cluster, a project uniting five university research institutions in collaboration with the CSIRO to map out a sustainable future for Australia's mineral industries.

UTS and ISF senior researcher Leah Mason said Aleta's methodology challenges people to play the role of "creator" and to understand the responsibilities that come with making decisions that impact on future generations.

"Using art to show possibilities for the long-term future enables people see and discuss issues concrete terms. By helping decision-makers access their values, imagination and creativity, we are providing a way for them to think about where they want to be in 2040."

Alexandra Berriman

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