Blue Futures

Blue Futures

Blue Futures positions the NSW South Coast as a national leader in the development of blue economies, drawing on ocean and coastal resources for economic development, in an ecologically and economically sustainable way.

How can ocean based sustainable development be achieved in the context of coastal change?

This is the research question that underpins the Blue Futures keystone project, which gained funding through the UOW Global Challenges program in late 2019. This two-year research program specifically focuses on Blue Economy opportunities on the NSW South Coast. It builds on the previous Global Challenge research project Launching a Blue Economy. After the horrific summer of 2019/20, the Blue Futures program will also be exploring how coastal and marine industries can contribute to the recovery of South Coast communities devastated by fire.

The program consists of three intersecting and interrelated research streams, as well as two cross cutting strategies.

The anticipating and imagining stream traces the different kinds of relationships (social, cultural, artistic, and scientific) that exist within coastal and ocean environments. We aim to see if these existing relationships contain evidence for how people feel about a blue future, and devise ways for communities to engage actively with impending coastal environmental changes.

The governing and guiding stream explores practical and tangible ways in which academia, Government and industry can work together to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We will trial different approaches to integrated ocean and coastal management in a way that foregrounds community wellbeing and addresses or responds to coastal change, whilst also creating and supporting economic opportunity.

The developing and enabling stream explores how innovation and technology can create new economic opportunity from the oceans and address the threats to ocean health. We will also focus on strengthening linkages across local maritime industries and the UOW.

Indigenous Blue Futures is a cross-cutting strategy. We will trial a community-based model of sustainable development which places Indigenous knowledge and aspirations at the heart of planning processes. The Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council (ILALC) will take a lead role in project design and overall project guidance of this strategy, which will also feed into all other aspects of the project.   

Finally the capacity development cross-cutting strategy will cultivate a Blue Futures capacity development and training program, including professional short courses and masters subjects.


Our team

Leadership team

The project is managed through a shared leadership structure consisting of Michelle Voyer (BAL), Robin Warner (BAL), Paul Knight (ILALC External), Joshua Lobb (ASSH), Hugh Forehead (EIS) and Chris Brennan-Horley (ASSH).

Core research team

Research assistants

Vincent Bicego, Chris Kuster, Kirti Lal, Anna Lewis, Catherine Moyle, Jennifer Saunders, Candice Visser

External partners


This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth   Goal 10: Reduced inequalities   Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.   Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production   Goal 14: Life Below Water   Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals