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ABC and SCU co-production wins award


11 December 2003
The Southern Cross University team who created the multimedia ABC Radio and On-line series ‘Reimagining Utopia’ has won a Southern Cross University (SCU) Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence and Achievement in Research and Scholarship, worth $10,000.

Reimagining Utopia (RU) was broadcast on ABC Radio and published on ABC On-line in May and June this year. It was produced by SCU journalism lecturer Fiona Martin, radio production tutor Kath Duncan and researcher Nell Cook together with web designer Sean O’Shannessy.

This is the second year of the Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Excellence and Achievement, which acknowledge outstanding achievement by individuals and staff teams in key areas of strategic importance to the University.

The RU project looked at the intentional communities movement in Australia, including land-sharing and spiritual communities, eco-villages, and artist colonies across the country - from the Top End to the West Australian coast, from Melbourne's rural fringes to Queensland's mountain rainforest. The focus was life on Australia's intentional communities and the way ideas about communal living are changing. The programs were produced to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Nimbin’s Aquarius Festival.

The ABC/SCU co-production is part of the School of Arts Mapping the Rainbow Region project. Co-producer Fiona Martin said the Rainbow Region project highlighted what makes the northern rivers region culturally distinct from other parts of regional Australia.

“The SCU/ABC relationship is win/win,” Ms Martin said. “We get to tell Australians about these unique, dynamic social groups and their importance to our region, and the nation. The ABC gets to broadcast exciting, inspiring stories and host a rich, intriguing and changing website and educational resource.”

SCU Lawyers, scientists, musicians, writers, social scientists, visual artists, media producers and IT people were also involved in the project - a snaphot of the diversity of perspectives both within SCU and outside the university.

“The project gives real weight to the achievements of people derided as hippies and troublemakers,” Ms Martin said. “Communities have been integral to protecting our forests, kick-starting renewable energy research, and developing sustainable waste management solutions. We hope the RU website ( will keep expanding with people writing histories of their communities and contributing their own stories of living there.”

Long-time intentional community resident and Post-graduate support officer with SCU’s Graduate Research Centre, Kath Fisher, was one of the characters who went online after the Life Matters programs as three imaginary characters, including the trouble-making Looney, on the RU project virtual community Paradiso Falls.

“It was fun doing it and the feedback we received were that people felt that the series had taken a cultural phenomenon – the intentional communities movement – and made it visible,” Ms Fisher said. “We didn’t have to be defensive about our lifestyle choices. The rest of society revolves around a whole economic system based on private ownership, but those of us living in community share resources, and share parenting and while we are living simply, living with less, we are living with more quality of life. I wouldn’t want to live any other way.”

From Christmas Day ABC Radio National will re-broadcast part of the RU project - the six half-hour programs for Life Matters -on Thursday mornings between 9 and 10.

The 'Reimagining Utopia" team from left: Nell Cook, Shaun O'Shannessy,Kath Duncan, Fiona Martin and SCU Vice-Chancellor,Professor John Rickard at the awards ceremony.

Media: Contact Brigid Veale on 02 66593006.