Dr. Matthew Parnell

Practice + Research + Education

Photo on 17-9-20 at 4.04 pm

I am a sustainability practitioner and academic with over forty years’ professional experience in industry, government, community and academic sectors, including twenty years of accumulated experience across University of New South Wales; University of Tasmania; Southern Cross University; and Swinburne University of Technology.

I have a built environment background, and graduated with a PhD in Sustainable Development from Murdoch University in 2012, under supervisors Professor Peter Newman AO and Associate Professor Brad Pettit. The research program investigated sustainability culture and its implications for sustainability practice and was situated in complexity and socio-technical systems theories, social change and behaviour change theory, technacy theory, and ekistics (science of human settlements) theory. My current work is devoted to applying and developing the learning arising from my doctoral research and subsequent sustainability practice, teaching and research.

I have experience at management level in commercial, academic and non-government sectors and I have worked on sustainability projects in urban, rural, regional and remote Australia with such diverse organisations as the Energy Authority of NSW (now DPIE), Leighton Contractors (now CIMIC), the Centre for Appropriate Technology and Edge Environment, amongst others. I was also principal of my own sustainability consulting practice, Greensynergy Consulting, working on successful sustainability projects across Australia from 2005 to 2016.

My significant work in the last few years included my role at Swinburne University where I was Senior Lecturer in Design Management and Strategy in the School of Design; and Course Director of the Master of Design Strategy and Innovation program. I also convened and delivered sustainability and eco-design education in the Master of Design program and the Bachelor of Design (Interior Architecture). I was the Theme Leader – Circular Economy in the Smart Cities Research Institute. Key research and development projects at Swinburne included the design and delivery of the Virtual Hub for Climate Change Innovation and leading the Waste-to-Opportunity Initiative in Medellin, Colombia.

In 2021, I was Head of Circular Economy and Lifecycle Thinking at Edge Environment where I lead a team of ten sustainability consultants working across waste and resource recovery, life cycle assessment and circular economy strategy.

I now operate as a freelance sustainability professional, educator, facilitator and catalyst.

My approach to sustainability practice is centred on activating, implementing, embedding and sustaining change and creating strong supporting sustainability cultures. I practice as a facilitation and learning activator across a services ecosystem, rather than as a transactional consultant. I apply a Living Systems Practice methodology – an open, flexible, responsive and adaptable approach integrating complex adaptive systems thinking; emergence-based practice patterns; strategic design; participatory research and design; storytelling, narrative and anecdotal methods; experiential learning; and reflective practice.

My practice contexts are sustainable business and organisations; sustainable cities and communities (including remote Indigenous communities); sustainable circular economy; and ecodesign in the built and manufactured environment.

Views expressed on this website are my own and do not represent Swinburne University of Technology.


Murdoch University: Doctor of Philosophy in Sustainable Development, 2012

University of NSW: Bachelor of Building, 1979

Southern Cross University: Cert. IV Assessment + Workplace Training, 2005


My purpose is to inspire and assist people, organisations and communities in their transition to sustainability.



 A more sustainable and just world.


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