Associate Professor Louise Crabtree-Hayes, Professor Juan Salazar and Dr Neil Perry bring together regional New South Wales university engagements into a unique program that seeks to reimagine and enable post-industrial life with local communities and councils. This involves a range of research and engagement activities underway through Maldhan Ngurr Ngurra – the Lithgow Transformation Hub – and a similar suite focused on planetary health in the Blue Mountains. Activities in both locations involve partners across government, industry, community, creative, and educational sectors, and include the film Nature Calls the Shots (37 min) on permaculture pioneer Robyn Francis was also produced under the Sister Hub banner.

SISTER-Hub works to:

  • Co-develop frameworks to implement partnerships and research translation and to activate collaborative ways to create long-term sustainable value to communities, business, and government.
  • Instigate communities of practice across sectors and disciplines through projects, events and workshops.
  • Act as a cost-effective research development platform to improve competitive advantage in securing government funding for collaborative partnerships. Offer industry partners access to world-class research expertise through tax benefits. Leverage local and national investment in targeted urban sustainability sectors, including industry and other research end-users.
  • Establish a digital repository of resources to provide cutting edge social analysis and share existing and emerging knowledge in response to current advances on the local and global environment and sustainability issues.

Sister-Hub is aligned with Western Sydney University’s Research Theme Champions Initiative and its research focus is on three clusters:

  • Climate Adaptation - improve liveability in climate-ready cities. Optimise strategies and practices to ‘future-proof’ our cities in contexts of extreme climates, with a focus on urban heat mitigation.
  • Regenerative Systems - integrate environmental ethics, science, urban design, and Indigenous knowledges to rethink regenerative systems in urban and agricultural landscapes, with a focus on water management, sustainable food production and biodiversity conservation.
  • Planetary Health - safeguard the health and well-being of people and place, through positive stewardship of the region's unique natural system. Act in more integrative ways to respond effectively to existing and emerging environmental health challenges.


  • Climate Adaptation Summit / April 2021: Future Earth Australia (FEA) established with its members, and in partnership with the University of Sydney and Western Sydney University, a working group to explore and frame the coming decade of adaptation science, innovation and action. This working group is organizing a National Adaptation Summit, occurring 19–22 April 2021.
  • Enabling Planetary Health in the Blue Mountains Webinar / October 2020
  • This event took place on 21 October 2020 as part of Western Sydney University Research Week 2020:  Connect Today for Resilience Tomorrow (19-23 October 2020).  In this panel, researchers from Western Sydney University and Monash University were joined by the Mayor and the CEO of Blue Mountains City Council to discuss the discipline of planetary health and its role in responses to crises such as the 2019-2020 bushfires and COVID-19. Looking at why social and economic models must recognise and strengthen the interdependencies between planetary and human health, the panellists presented on the importance of building engaged partnerships between universities and local government for enabling planetary health in the Blue Mountains as a way to ‘bounce forward’ into more resilient and healthy economies, communities, and places. This conversation coincided with the 20-year anniversary of the region's UNESCO World Heritage listing in November 2020.

    Speakers included: Professor Juan Francisco Salazar (Western Sydney University), Professor Deborah Sweeney (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Enterprise and International, WSU), Professor Tony Capon (Director Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University), Dr. Tayanah O’Donnell (Director of Future Earth Australia, Australian Academy of Science), Cr Mark Greenhill OAM (Mayor of Blue Mountains City), Dr. Rosemary Dillon (CEO Blue Mountains City Council), Associate Professor Louise Crabtree (Institute for Culture and Society), Dr. Leo Robba (School of Humanities and Communication Arts, WSU), Professor Nicky Morrison (School of Social Sciences, WSU Urban Living Research Theme Champion).


FEA Securing Australia’s Future: Reimagining Climate Adaptation (opens in a new window) [PDF 205KB]

This working group is developing a range of materials in support of a National Adaptation Summit, occurring 19–23 April 2021, including this community consultation process. FEA facilitated virtual workshops across the country, inviting a carefully selected group of experts and ensuring diversity of attendees and cross-sectoral representation.

Urban Heat – Origin, Impacts and Predictions

Adaptation Gap Report 2020 (United Nations Environment Program, 2021)

This report highlights the importance of nature-based solutions in urban planning and heat mitigation. Although it identifies that initiatives to adapt to climate change are increasing worldwide, it concludes that there is still little evidence of climate risk reduction.

The Risks to Australia of a 3°C Warmer World (Australian Academy of Science, 2021)

A stark look at what Australian cities will face if ‘Business As Usual’ continues. Heat and flood risks are highlighted.

Hitting Home: The Compounding Costs of Climate Inaction (Climate Council, 2020)

The report explains why no developed country has more to lose from climate-induced disasters, than Australia. It provides a very valuable summary about the impacts of extreme in Australia, using Western Sydney as case study.

Climate of the Nation 2020 (The Australia Institute, 2020)

A summary of views and concerns Australians have around climate change, bushfires and energy. It shows increasing support for Australia to lead climate change adaptation and decarbonisation of its economy.

Urban Systems Transformation - Greater Western Sydney (2018) (opens in a new window) [PDF 18MB]

This document summarises discussions grouped under the following workshop themes: urban visioning initiatives and pathways; collaborative governance and decision-making; stakeholder and community engagement; and coproduced knowledge development, usage and learning.

Heat Watch – Extreme Heat in Western Sydney (Australia Institute, 2018)

Using information from the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, the report portraits Western Sydney-specific climate trends and outlooks. Individual local government areas are assessed, including Bankstown, Camden, Parramatta, Penrith and Richmond.

Urban Heat – Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies

Urban Heat Planning Toolkit (WSROC, 2021)

Using the concept of Resilience to develop a comprehensive approach to urban heat mitigation and adaptation. The Toolkit also explains how the approach can be embedded into LEPs, DCPs and BASIX to improve triple bottom line outcomes.

The Impact of Surface Cover and Tree Canopy on Air Temperatures in Western Sydney (Western Sydney University & Campbelltown City Council, 2020)

An evidence-based analysis that documents the impacts of hard surfaces, open space and tree canopy on microclimate in urban and peri-urban landscapes of Western Sydney.

Cooling Common Spaces in Diversifying Urban Environments (Landcom, 2020)

A collaborative approach of Western Sydney University and Landcom has produced this resource. It focusses on the importance of designing common places well to provide urban cooling. You may also want to check out the Pattern Deck that was developed by the project team.

Sustainable Cities and Regions (Future Earth Australia & Australian Academy of Science, 2019)

By identifying barries and enablers for sustainable urban transformation, this report develops four strategies that will unleash Australia’s potential to plan and build future-proof cities.

Guide to Urban Cooling Strategies (CRC Low Carbon Living, 2017)

A comprehensive guide to principles, techniques and technologies that are available now to reduce the impact of urban heat.

Urban Green Infrastructure Planning

Connected Liverpool 2040 (Liverpool City Council, 2020)

This document lists 16 planning priorities for sustainable, climate-adapted urban development. It names actions taken by a Western Sydney local government to provide better community outcomes.

Draft Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (NSW Government, 2020)

This draft document from a state government organisation is the result of a comprehensive approach to include natural and cultural values in the development of a large part of Western Sydney. Focus is on conservation of biodiversity and identification of impacts from urban development.

Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City (Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, 2019)

An example how integration of all natural assets (‘living infrastructure’) into urban planning aims to future-proof a city. Fifteen Actions are provided of how to reach this goal.


  • Reimagining Climate Adaptation. SISTERHub joined Future Earth Australia (FEA) in the coordination of a series of national roundtables on climate change adaptation. As part of this community consultation process, FEA facilitated virtual workshops across the country, inviting a carefully selected group of experts and ensuring diversity of attendees and cross-sectoral representation. The synthesis document, Securing Australia’s Future: Reimagining Climate Adaptation: Setting a reimagined adaptation agenda for the National Climate Change Adaptation Summit 2021 is available in Resources.
  • SISTERHub conducted a Climate Adaptation Survey with 6,088 respondents across Greater Metropolitan Sydney and the Blue Mountains (December 2020). Summary of results.



The film Nature Calls the Shots (opens in a new window) premiered in November online at the 2ndinternational LIVIANA Conference convened by the Community Economies Research Network.

Nature Calls the Shots is a 37-minute observational documentary film produced and directed by Juan Francisco Salazar that offers a glimpse into the life and work of pioneer permaculture designer and educator Robyn Francis, and the story of Djanbung Gardens in the community of Nimbin, northern New South Wales, Australia. Documenting a unique microcosm of an exceptional permaculture community on Australia’s north- east coast, Nature Calls the Shots presents Robyn Francis’ herstory as an activist for environmental regeneration and novel community economies, who transformed a small piece of land from a degraded cow pasture in the 1990’s into to permaculture paradise. This local yet universal story of hope shows that positive change is possible where regenerative and holistic farming and agricultural practices and bioregional design can lead to planetary health, just livelihoods and empowered local rural communities. The film was produced following best practices in sustainable filmmaking and green screens protocols. The film’s director Juan Francisco Salazar spent two weeks sleeping in a small tent during the rainy season, while undertaking the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Djanbung Gardens, Permaculture College Australia, in March 2021. The film was co-produced by the team behind the film The Bamboo Bridge (2019), a collaboration with economic feminist geographer Katherine Gibson and artist and editor Rowena Crowe who edited the film in Wollongong, south of Sydney, during a four-month Covid-19 lockdown in 2021. The film was partially funded by the production team with support from the SISTER-Hub initiative at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University.

Web Sites

Greener Places (Government Architect NSW)

Provides a green infrastructure design framework

Resilient Sydney (City of Sydney)

Provides the first Resilience Strategy for the Greater Sydney region

Greener Spaces Better Places (Horticulture Innovation Australia)

Resources that describe (1) the dynamics of tree canopy cover across all Australia’s towns and cities and (2) guidelines for canopy expansion based on local climates

Most Sydneysiders still want government to lead on climate change adaptation

A new survey by Western Sydney University of more than 6,000 Greater Metropolitan Sydney residents has found most residents are looking to government to lead on climate change issues. The survey from the University’s Institute for Culture and Society found broad support for government led action following multiple environmental crises from the drought to bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey partners included the Future Earth Australia and Sydney Environment more

Climate Adaptation Synthesis released in preparation for 2021 Summit

Future Earth Australia (FEA) established with its members, and in partnership with the University of Sydney and Western Sydney University, a working group to explore and frame the coming decade of adaptation science, innovation and more

Planetary Health

At this critical moment in global history, Blue Mountains City Council embraces its responsibility to not only ensure the environmental, social and economic sustainability of our community at a local level, but to also play an more

Western Sydney University to explore Planetary Health excellence in local area

Western Sydney University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute to explore the establishment of a Planetary more

Council makes strategic investment in Katoomba – to create future benefits and opportunities for the City

Blue Mountains City Council has purchased the former Katoomba Golf Clubhouse site – with a view to establishing a global Planetary Health Leadership Centre with two universities, to help create future benefits and opportunities more