Emeritus Professor Valerie A. Brown AO


Emeritus Professor Valerie A. Brown is an internationally recognised leader in the field of collective thinking.

6a Val Brown portrait for bioQualifications

• BSc Ecology (University of Queensland)
• MEd Integrated Studies (Endicott College, USA)
• PhD (Human Sciences) (Australian National University)
• Executive Management Program (Australian Public Service).

Research interests

During her career, Valerie has published 13 books  and more than 110 refereed articles in the following areas:

• Collective thinking
• Collective learning
• Collective action
• Transformational change
• Mentoring whole-of-community change
• Public and community health
• Environmental management.

In 2011, Tackling Wicked Problems, a book she coedited with John A. Harris and Jacqueline Y. Russell, won the Society for Human Ecology’s Gerald L. Young Book Award .

As a researcher, writer, educator and policy-maker, Valerie has always supplemented her academic work with a wide range of practical initiatives that have seen collective thinking lead to whole-of-community change. This has involved establishing new pathways of collective learning both within and across academic, business, community, government and industry sectors.

Valerie’s work has also had a considerable impact internationally. More than 300 collective learning workshops have been run in Australia, Europe, China, Malaysia, Fiji and China. Collective learning projects have been set up in Bali, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Vanuatu and the United Kingdom.

In 1999, Valerie was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, for her work in ‘policy development, education, research and advocacy for sustainable development’.

During the course of her career, Valerie has supervised nearly 100 PhD theses. She specialises in supervising students working on collective responses to complex socio-environmental issues in public health, environmental management, Indigenous and community-based natural resources management, and urban planning.

Academic and other key appointments

Valerie is currently a Visiting Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University, where she has been Director of the Local Sustainability Project since 2002. She was inaugural Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Western Sydney in 1995–2002. In 1984–1992, she was a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and, in 1984–1988, was a member of the CSIRO Council.


• Listed in top 10 most influential writers on sustainable development in 2010
• Invited to attend Australia’s 2020 Summit (19–20 April 2008), an initiative led by the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd
• Appointed Emeritus Professor of Environmental Health, University of Western Sydney, 2002
• Appointed Officer of the Order of Australia, ‘for policy development, education, research and advocacy for sustainable development’ (1999)
• Appointed scholar-in-residence, the Bellagio Center, the Rockefeller Foundation (1999).

Other leadership positions

Academic and government

• Foundation Director, National Local Government Environment Research Network (1990–1995)
• Project Manager, Community Health Program, Tribhuvan University, Nepal (1989)
• Inaugural Director, Health Advancement Services, ACT Department of Health, Canberra (1984–1989)
• Founding Coordinator, Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Education, University of Canberra (1979–1984).


• Board Member, ACT Palliative Care Association (2007–2013)
• Chair, Health Promotion and Environmental Health Committees, Public Health Association of Australia and New Zealand
• National Environmental Health Association (1995–2001)
• Board Member, Nature and Society Forum (1995–2001)
• Member, National State of the Environment Report Standing Committee
• ACT Environment and Sustainability Report (1996–1999) [Position?]
• Committee Member, National Community Health Association (1988–1994)
• Chair, Greenpeace Australia (1989–1991)
• Member, Public Health Committee of the National Medical and Research Council (NHMRC) (1984–1992)
• National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (1984–1992)
• Chair, Communication and Public Affairs Standing Committee, CSIRO (1986–1988)
• Member, CSIRO Council (1984–1988).

Research Affiliations – Universities

• Australian National University (Canberra, Australia)
• Charles Sturt University (Bathurst, Albury and Wagga Wagga, Australia)
• Griffith University (Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Australia)
• Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Hong Kong)
• La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia)
• Tribuhvan University (Khatmandu, Nepal)
• University of Canberra (Canberra, Australia)
• University of London (London, United Kingdom)
• University of Newcastle (Newcastle, Australia)
• University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia)
• University of the South Pacific (Suva, Fiji)
• University of Technology (Sydney, Australia)
• University of Western Sydney (Sydney, Australia).

Research Affiliations – Australian Commonwealth Government Departments

• Attorney General’s Department
• Department of Aboriginal Affairs (formerly Indigenous Affairs)
• Department of Education
• Department of the Environment (Resource Assessment Commission)
• Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
• Department of Health
• Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (formerly Local Government)
• Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
• Australian Taxation Office.


• BSc Ecology (University of Queensland)
• MEd Integrated Studies (Endicott College, USA)
• PhD (Human Sciences) (Australian National University)
• Executive Management Program (Australian Public Service).