Welcome to the Understandascope
Founded in 2005 by pioneering systems thinker and Australia’s Inaugural Environmental Educator of the Year, the late Professor Frank Fisher, it is now becoming a home for the development of Frank’s legacy in collaboration with family, friends and former colleagues. You’ll find more info on Frank, his book and the Understandascope below, along with the ongoing awards created in Frank’s name, and soon to come, special projects including a book and documentary film. Stay tuned! And if you’d like to hear about it directly, sign up to our occasional emails here.
Professor Frank Fisher was the Inaugural Australian Environmental Educator of the Year in 2007, in recognition of three decades of pioneering work. Much of that time was as Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Geography and Environmental Science at Monash University near Melbourne.
He was the first Lecturer in its pioneering Masters program in Environmental Science in 1978. That program would go on to transform a generation of graduates, with Frank at the helm for most of its 25 years.
He also developed several other initiatives in that time. This included being founder and director of the Centre for Innovation in Waste Management. The centre drove projects such as Litter As Advertising, and the pilot Pay By Weight waste collection scheme in the City of Melbourne. These projects gained extensive media coverage, and inspired new ways of thinking about and dealing with so-called 'waste'.
Frank then spent eight influential years at Swinburne University of Technology, as Convenor of Graduate Programs at the National Centre for Sustainability, and as Professor of Sustainability in the Faculty of Design.
He was also renowned for his commuter cyclist courses, geared towards improving road safety for city cyclists, and other road users. This was not just dealing with the mechanics of cycling, though they're important. The approach was based on developing more systemic understandings of efficiency, convenience, and safety. Understanding energy, people and road dynamics was at the heart of not just achieving safer roads, but better societies generally.
Frank also initiated the first inland wind farm in Victoria at Challicum Hills in 2003. With 35 turbines it was the largest wind farm in Australia when completed. And he also served on hundreds of boards, advisory groups and committees - around 20 at any given time.
Having started his adult life as an electrical engineer with multi-national energy companies, Frank was transformed by the experience of chronic illness, the kindness of others in response, and the civic and environmental movements of the 1970s. He became committed to social transformation to a more sensitive, self-aware world, and renowned as an academic that walked the talk. His life was a visible demonstration that looking after our individual wellbeing happens in the context of looking after each other, and the rest of nature.
You can find an anthology of Frank’s work in ‘Response Ability: Environment, Health & Everyday Transcendence’ (available here).
The Understandascope was founded in 2005 by Professor Frank Fisher, and housed at Monash University near Melbourne, where he had been with the Graduate School of Environmental Science for over 25 years, heading it for 15 of those years.
After two dynamic years alongside Dr David Low and Sue Edwards, Frank’s focus turned to Swinburne University of Technology, where he had been invited to help develop the new post-graduate course in sustainability at Swinburne’s National Centre for Sustainability (NCS).
In 2012, the Understandascope was officially relaunched, with colleague and good friend from the NCS, and later creator of The RegenNarration, Anthony James. They re-established the initiative as co-convenors until Frank’s passing later that year.
A number of awards, internships and scholarships have been created in honour of the Understandascope founder, the late Professor Frank Fisher. These are housed by organisations working in health, local government, energy and education, epitomising the broad scope of Frank’s involvement in the world, and the integrated nature of how he perceived these nominally distinct fields. And what an inspiring, growing array of projects and people are being recognised through these awards.
Have a browse below, and of course get involved and nominate!
The Frank Fisher Award, awarded as part of the City of Yarra’s Sustainability Awards, aims to build on Frank’s legacy by recognising individuals who have made a significant contribution to several areas of sustainability in Yarra.
It also aims to remember Frank’s constant querying of his own views and understanding, and his efforts to respond kindly yet provocatively to the range and web of understanding around him. Nominees will have engaged and inspired people around them and demonstrated qualities of mindfulness, insight, humility and civic spirit.
2018: Fiona Armstrong, founder of Climate and Health Alliance
2017: No awards process
2015: the late Glenda Lindsay, prominent gardener & community leader
2014: Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth
Read Tim Fisher's introduction of the Award in its first year here.
Frank Fisher Award, presented by cohealth
Cohealth (previously North Yarra Community Health - NYCH) established the Frank Fisher Memorial Award in 2012 to recognise members of the community who have made a significant contribution in the areas of community participation, health literacy, environmental sustainability, and empowerment of healthcare users.
Frank was a Director of NYCH, a long-term client, a local resident, an insightful thinker and leader in environmental sustainability, a spokesperson for people with disability and an activist for social justice. Frank gave much of his life’s energy working to ensure those who are vulnerable and have less of a voice are heard, especially on issues of health and wellbeing.
2018: Tenzin Lobsang Khangsar, for his work integrating human rights, health (physical and cultural), and concern for the rest of the living world.
2017: Anne Law, for her work in preventative health, connected with care for the broader living world.
2016: Kim Ling Chua, aka Mama Kim, for being a longstanding champion for the community.
2015: Deborah Kacprzak
2014: Wing Ho
2013: Lorina Lovett