Prof Rebekah Brown

Prof Rebekah Brown

Professor Rebekah Brown is a leader in interdisciplinary sustainable development research. As a social scientist with a background in civil engineering, Rebekah pioneered the sociotechnical model that became the precursor to the water-sensitive cities approach innovated at Monash University.

As Director of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, she is harnessing the power of interdisciplinary research to understand the social and institutional transformations required to transition to liveable, resilient and sustainable cities, in both developed and developing countries.

Rebekah also leads an international research consortium awarded AUD$14 million in 2017 by the UK’s prestigious Wellcome Trust – Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE). RISE is a five year project run in partnership with the Asian Development Bank that aims provide research-based evidence that a local, water sensitive approach to revitalising informal settlements can deliver sustainable, cost-effective improvements to people’s health and the environment.

If successful, this approach could be rolled out across the region and the world, revolutionising the provision of water services to some of the world’s most needy people.

A uniquely interdisciplinary program, RISE brings together researchers from five Monash faculties and 15 other partner universities and organisations, under Rebekah’s leadership.

In 2009, Rebekah co-founded Monash Water Sensitive Cities and, several years later, helped establish the $120 million Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities.

She has published over 100 papers in leading international journals, including Nature, Science, Global Environmental Change and Water Research.

Keynote address: Enabling an Institutional Ecosystem of Effort to Improve Human and Environmental Health in Urban Informal Settlements 

Over one billion people live in urban informal settlements globally1 where polluted water and inadequate sanitation are the leading causes of preventable diseases. Rapid urbanisation exacerbates the inextricably linked challenges of sanitation, water provision, environmental degradation, and public health in these contexts, and conventional solutions are simply insufficient. 

If present circumstances are not radically changed, projections indicate that more than three billion people will live in these settlements by 2050.2 This new normal will require innovative social and institutional transformations to accelerate transitions to more liveable, resilient and sustainable cities for all.  

To help meet this challenge, Professor Rebekah Brown is leading an ambitious global research program – Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) – in 24 communities in Makassar, Indonesia and Suva, Fiji. RISE is endeavouring to assemble and mobilise an institutional ecosystem of effort to revitalise the environment and, in doing so, improve the health and well-being of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. 

Working alongside communities, governments, local leaders and partner institutions, the interdisciplinary research program aims to provide new evidence that a localised, water sensitive cities approach to water and sanitation can deliver sustainable planetary health improvements. Pioneered by Monash University and proven in developed contexts, RISE is taking this innovation and co-designing bespoke solutions for informal settlements to contribute to the global sustainable development principle of leaving no one behind.  

Presenting the conception and progress of RISE, Professor Brown will illustrate the power of interdisciplinary research and the importance of embracing innovation to enable an institutional ecosystem of effort to address grand sustainable development challenges. 

View 2018 IRS presentation here