History and Development of Australian Futures

There’s so much more to the history of Australian futures and foresight practice than even many of those working in the field are aware of. There’s an extraordinarily rich literature encompassing both fiction and non-fiction. There have been, and are, organisations, events and projects – some of which have been forgotten, others of which have thrived.

At a conference in Perth organised by the Centre for Australian Foresight, Anita Sykes-Keheler and Richard Slaughter quietly began work to assemble a timeline, a list of key publications and, eventually, a series of short papers written by some of those who’d been involved. While concerned not to produce an ‘official’ history per se,  the aim was, and is, to produce a kind of tapestry or informal collection of relevant material. Progress has now been made with this work and a mock-up of an eventual eBook has been completed. There’s no hurry to complete this but, in the meantime, we’ve decided to publish some of the short pieces that we have already received. More will be added over time to this fascinating work in progress. The collection begins with a valuable piece of research carried out a few years ago by Japanese futurist Ryota Ono from Aichi University. It provides a valuable overview of Australian futures / foresight work and outlines some of the connections and lines of influence that have shaped the field in this country.

Futurists in Australia – Ryota Ono

In the country where the author lives and works, few people have heard of futures studies and foresight. The exception is an extremely small number of people who remember that there was a time long ago when such a field attracted attention. But even among this group, most are not aware that futures studies as a discipline has been advanced in the wider world. Read more…

Creating and Sustaining Second Generation Institutions of Foresight – Richard Slaughter

Institutions of Foresight (IOFs) are purpose-built organisations that focus on one or another aspect of futures work. Some remain viable over decades, while others quickly disappear. The key point is that both successes and failures provide useful pointers for creating and sustaining second-generation IOFs. So this chapter draws on the experience of the Australian Commission for the Future (CFF). It considers the twelve years of its existence, attempts to summarise its achievements, and then suggests some lessons, or broad design principles, that may be useful to other such initiatives around the world. Read more…

Permaculture: History and Futures – Caroline Smith

Preferable futures take a variety of forms, but for many futurists they include futures that play to our sense of hope for a more socially just and ecologically sustainable world. Permaculture describes a set of principles and practices that actively respond to the creation of such a future. Read more…

Jan Lee Martin’s Futures Foundation – Anita Sykes-Kelleher

Jan Lee Martin was one of Australasia’s best-loved Futurists. An avid reader of the world’s great writers on philosophy, ethics, futures studies and happiness, Jan made a significant contribution to the field of Futures Studies. In 1995 she founded the Futures Foundation, edited its newsletter, Future News and, for the next 10 years, Co-Chaired the Australasian Node of the Millennium Project. Following the liquidation of the Futures Foundation in 2008 subsequent to Jan’s selling the business in 2002, Jan worked closely with a small group of futurists to establish a new Australian futures program. Read more…

The Inner Game of Futures – Jose Ramos

This essay from the Journal of Futures Studies details one person’s learning and experiences with respect to intuition and futures studies. The essay is in part an auto-ethnographic narrative that attempts to situate personal experiences in a broader cultural context. It also describes intuitions’ pivotal role in both bringing him to futures studies and guiding him within the field. Read more…

The Neville Freeman Agency 1992 – 2016 – Oliver Freeman

This brief account of the history of The Neville Freeman Agency (NFA) is divided into two sections: the first (1992 – 2002) covers its inauguration as Australian Business Network (ABN) in 1992 and a change of name in 1998 to Global Business Network Australia (GBNA), and the second, the period from 2002 to the present day, trading as NFA. Read more…

Women Shaping Australian Futures: An Annotated Timeline – Jennifer Gidley and Annie Ferguson

Over the last thirty years we have witnessed the emergence, formation and consolidation in Australia of the field of futures studies and foresight. Given its relative population size and geographic isolation from major centres of intellectual activity in Europe and North America, Australia has more than its fair share of futures researchers and practitioners (often called Futurists or Foresight Practitioners). Perhaps even more surprising to some is what the unwritten history reveals. This short piece shows that a significant number of the pioneers and shapers of Australian futures studies were women. Read more…

The Master of Strategic Foresight at Swinburne University 2001-2016 – Peter Hayward and Joseph Voros

The Master of Strategic Foresight (MSF) was first taught at Swinburne University in 2001. Richard Slaughter was the designer and educator of that original program. This paper will attempt to provide an overview of the program in the intervening sixteen years. Read more…

The Challenges of Living Scenarios for Australia in 2050 – Kristin Alford, Steven Cork, John Finnigan, Nicky Grigg, Beth Fulton, Michael Rupauch

The Australian Academy of Sciences began Australia 2015: Living Scenarios to explore how science might inform a more environmentally sustainable and socially equitable Australia. We concluded that a set of ‘living scenarios’ could support a richer national conversation, but there are many challenges in developing such scenarios. A review of horizontal, vertical and archetype scenario approaches stressed engaging in dialogue and making assumptions explicit. Our workshop invited a small group of Australians in short, intimate conversations through four scenario archetypes in order to explore a process and develop broad narratives for further exploration as living scenarios. This paper was first published in the Journal of Futures Studies 18, 3, 2014 pp 115-126. Read more…