Finalists for the 2021 Premier's Sustainability Awards have been announced with community hubs, sustainable resilient housing and specialist STEM centres standing out as inspiring examples of sustainable projects in Victoria.

Now in their 19th year, the awards recognise Victorians who demonstrate sustainable leadership and innovation in the state. This year’s award categories were revamped to reflect the current focus of sustainability activity in Victoria and align with global best practice. The six categories are: Clean, affordable and secure energy; Climate action; Healthy environment; Social and economic justice; Sustainable places; and Waste reduction and the circular economy.

Finalists in the Sustainable Places category include:

ONE20 Group Architects: Epoch Institute

The Epoch office was launched in 2020 with a mission to inspire and educate businesses and communities to adopt environmentally conscious values so that both people and nature can thrive into the future. With construction waste contributing to 46% of landfill in Australia, Epoch was motivated to eliminate waste across all lines of the construction chain. By upcycling and recycling materials, in combination with sustainable on-site behaviours and tree planting, this project completely offset its carbon footprint.

Our Future Cities: Reimagining Box Hill

The Our Future Cities program brought together over 170 young and aspiring sustainability practitioners from diverse backgrounds, universities and disciplines to participate in an interdisciplinary design sprint. Created by Reimagining Box Hill, the program encouraged participants to explore new insights and develop new skills in city-shaping. Supported by 70 different industry mentors, teams were required to harness the UNSDG framework, drawing on relevant targets in considering how to achieve localised sustainable development outcomes for Box Hill.

Yarra Valley ECOSS

Yarra Valley ECOSS has created a vibrant community hub that demonstrates sustainable living and supports ethical businesses and not-for-profit (NFP) groups, in an inclusive environment. The Hub involves partnerships on several levels, from councils and businesses to community and not-for-profit organisations. Through these, Yarra Valley ECOSS aims to showcase alternative living options via creative onsite projects including Crops for Community, The Valley Market, and Work for the Dole Program. These are undertaken by volunteers, most of whom are living with a disability and visiting schools.

Cardinia Shire Council: Deep Creek Reserve

Cardinia Shire Council, together with the Cardinia Environment Coalition (CEC) and Deep Creek Golf Club, has converted 48 hectares of former farmland into a community park, transforming the space into a regional environmental precinct. Partnerships with industry groups and associations have allowed the Council to establish the first specialist STEM-based centre in the east of Victoria, successfully running high quality, curriculum-based environmental education excursions for primary school students at Deep Creek.

Rail Projects Victoria: The Ballarat Line Upgrade

Rail Projects Victoria took a sustainable approach to complete the Ballarat Line Upgrade, reducing greenhouse gas emissions during construction while creating resilient and liveable infrastructure. As the first to be completed as part of the $4 billion Regional Rail Revival program, the line upgrade saw greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 38%, well above the 25% target. Through partnerships with Aboriginal artists, cultural heritage values were integrated into the design.

The Cape

The Cape set out to demonstrate that sustainable, resilient housing can be beautiful, affordable, and economically viable. They applied best practice sustainable urban design to transform a previously cleared cattle farm into a thriving biodiversity site. The Cape models sustainable food and transport, with a community farm accommodating several hundred members, and kilometres of cycling and walking trails to encourage active lifestyles. The Cape mandates homes are built with energy and water-efficient design, rainwater harvesting, solar energy, energy monitoring, and household electric vehicle charging as standard.

Interim CEO Sustainability Victoria, Claire Ferres Miles said: “Sustainability Victoria is proud to celebrate the trailblazers who are contributing to our state's circular economy transformation and leading the way to net zero emissions.

“The quality of applications this year was excellent, and it is clear there are so many individuals, communities and organisations across Victoria that are committed to encouraging long-term sustainability.”

Full list of 2021 Premier's Sustainability Awards finalists