The Centre for Sustainability Transitions has appointed Nina Callaghan as its deputy director. Nina joins co-directors Prof Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs and Prof Mark Swilling in leading a Centre that has a strong and growing reputation for worldclass research and postgraduate teaching in the area of sustainability transitions.
Nina joined the CST in 2019 after a transformative experience in the Centre’s PGDip programme.
“I came to the PGDip as an NGO leader and a family maker looking for a language to describe and explain the growing complexities of our world. Well, I found it, along with an entire community of people at the CST - dreamers, critical realists, practitioners and activist academics who reflected a deep sincerity and passion for change. I wanted to be part of that and joined the Centre as a researcher.”
Her first research task was co-editing the book, Anatomy of State Capture (2021), with Prof Swilling and colleague, Robyn Foley. She describes it as a “lesson in the dark arts of governance” that germinated the seed for her MPhil that sought to build theory for relational governance and the capabilities required to steer through transition and towards justice.
“We cannot be content with living in the shadow of state capture without some signposts of a more generative, inclusive governance practice. How do we create public value with the public, keeping each other accountable to the development and transformation imperatives of our country – indeed our world? What skills and qualities do we need to cultivate for the change making we need?” These are the questions that has Nina signing up for a PhD in 2024.
“I have respect for the strong academic legacy at CST, and also appreciate that the CST values application, practice and other competencies. While I feel ambitious about further studies, I also feel confident about the life experience I have gained and that I may serve just as well, being who I already am.”
Nina describes her role as deputy director as supporting people to flourish, so that the CST can truly live its values of fairness, justice, conviviality and making a meaningful difference.
“Even though the CST has a long and celebrated history of research and teaching, our operational systems need attention, so I’m rolling up my sleeves for that grunt work too. Incomplete and unrefined operational systems create lots of invisible work that often lands heavily with the administrative and leadership teams. These people are the backbone of every institution, so I’m motivated to attend the ordinary and tedious details as part of my role.”
Nina is the first woman of colour to assume a leadership position at the Centre and it is a moment of transformation that is not lost on her.
“I celebrate this fact. This appointment does not ride on the currency of race alone – it helps though. It helps me, it helps the CST, our students and the University to have a black leader in a largely untransformed environment. I know I have also put myself forward and have been recognised for what I may offer, which is sound and courageous judgement, empathy and robust participation in research, teaching, and institutional life. Doing that as a black woman here at SU matters to me and those who have come before and opened the way. I’m pitching up for that.”
Nina is also the chair of the Transformation Committee for the Faculty of Economic and Management Science at SU.
Gardening, composting, and caring for a flock of chickens is what brings her joy after work hours. She is also serious about being a governance actor, serving on the board of trustees for two non-governmental organisations.
“I am still connected to my previous workplace through service on the board of The Radio Workshop. It’s where my love for youth and broadcasting finds a home. I am also passionate about the arts and sometimes dabble in performance with the Mothertongue Project, an arts NGO where I’ve found resonant community. I have to ‘move my meaning’ whether that be in the garden, with animals, on stage or hiking with my family. It is where my passions for sustainability come alive.”
Nina was the associate director at The Radio Workshop for eight years, and before that worked as a journalist at ENCA.