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Changing the face of education


Media Team
30 October 2020
Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles

Today we celebrate World Teacher's Day Queensland by profiling our Dean of Education, Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles. #thankqldteachers

While a coal mining town might seem an unlikely breeding ground for an ecological philosopher, researcher and activist; for Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles growing up in Tieri offered ample opportunities to explore and play in the surrounding bushland. This instilled in her a sense of freedom and independence.  

When she later became a primary school teacher in the Queensland education system, Amy found those same freedoms – freedoms born from ecological and creative education and play – were severely lacking. She felt completely disenfranchised. Rather than simply accepting ‘the way things are’, she decided to find out why and undertook a PhD at Central Queensland University, researching teachers ecological literacy. 

Now the Dean and Head of Southern Cross University’s Faculty of Education, Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles was one of the youngest women in Australia to be made a full professor at the age of 37. She is also the Research Leader of the Sustainability, Environment and the Arts in Education’ (SEAE) Research Cluster at Southern Cross. As the name implies, the SEAE Cluster represents a large collective of researchers working across the areas of sustainability, the environment and the arts in education. 

Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles has completed over 40 research projects and believes firmly that environmental, Indigenous and creative education are at the forefront in transforming human-environment relationships.  

“We have two substantial international research groups including the SEAE Research cluster and TeachLab which is headed up by Professor David Lynch”, said Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles 

“The SEAE research cluster is at the cutting-edge of climate change education, nature play, the Anthropocene and posthuman philosophy. Really getting down to that fundamental question of ‘What is education for?’ and pushing and disrupting thought in that way.” 

Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles believes that as long as children are taught that they are superior to other animals we will continue to see global calamities such as climate change worsen, and that there is much to be learnt from Indigenous philosophies and practices.  

“Humans must relate differently. It’s really a matter survival now. Relating differently with other species and living more harmoniously with the earth, she said.  

Among other projects, Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles is currently working on a Climate Change app  this forms part of the Climate Change and Me (CC+Me) international research program.  

“We’re now working with a young group of passionate coders and hackers on a Climate Change and Me app. An activism app for and by children and young people.”  

“Another project I’m leading with colleagues from RMIT and Swinburne, is on nature play and trying to understand what early years teachers’ conceptions are of nature and nature play, as well as children’s, and thinking about what types of pedagogies can best support nature play in building young children’s scientific conceptions.” 

Professor Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, with Professor Lexi Lasczik, is also working with children on mapping Australia's Gondwana subtropical rainforests using a/r/tography as part of a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SHRCC).  

Amy has been recognised nationally and internationally for teaching and research excellence. She has received an OLT (Office of Learning and Teaching) Citation and OLT Teacher Excellence Award. She was recently been honoured as a Fellow of the Australian Association for Environmental Education for a “demonstrable outstanding contribution” to environmental education and research in Australia and internationally. 

Our mission is that the Faculty of Education is a diverse, passionate community who seeks to disrupt and transform thought in, with and through research, teaching, learning and service for the purpose of leading and empowering profound educational change now and for a sustainable future.” 

Find Amy on Twitter or LinkedIn

Learn more about studying and researching Education at Southern Cross University