Story by Kelvin Wicks (photo care of Dr Dominique Hes)
There’s often a catalyst, a moment of deep realisation, that leads us to question the narratives we’re surrounded by or have grown up with. For Dr Dominique Hes, there were two parallel events in 2008 that catalysed a change in worldview; the birth of her daughter Karri and hearing the news of a young 19 year old engineering student committing suicide. This young person had given up out of despair for the future of our planet and impending climate breakdown. Looking upon her baby daughter, full of potential, Dominique believed there had to be another story, there had to be hope.
As a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne for 20 years, who focused on creating sustainable built environments (e.g. The Paddock, Seacombe West, CH2 – insert hyperlinks), Dominique set up the subject Regenerating Sustainability to challenge the prevailing narrative of doom and gloom. The subject was focused on sharing the positive stories of action and development from architects, designers, and actors of positive change across the globe who are committed to designing a thriving future. As an educator, Dominique was able to influence dozens of students every year which quickly led to co-authoring ‘Designing for Hope’, a book designed to amplify her story and teachings further. Designing for Hope offers a new story, a way to shift our own mindsets and embrace our predicament with courage and love.
In 2018, I sat in the lecture room of Regenerating Sustainability as I embarked on a masters degree in energy efficient building design. I was full of mixed feelings at the time; deep frustration, anger, sadness and despair about the natural world and lack of action by our society to address the environmental crisis. I came from an environmental engineering background where “more environmentally friendly” was the catch cry of good design and problem-solving; where engineering solutions only had to limit destruction of the natural world. I was jaded by these teachings and was yearning for a different way of approaching sustainable design. Enter stage left Dr Dominique Hes to rip the proverbial rug from under my feet.
My worldview was to forever change after this subject. I began to see opportunities not problems; abundance not scarcity; a living Earth full of complex interactions, connectedness and beauty; that unless we in ourselves shift our own mindsets and worldview, we are doomed to repeat the failures of the past. By the conclusion of the subject I was full of hope.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Since then Dominique has become a wonderful mentor and continues to be. A self-proclaimed mycelium network, Dominique has a remarkable knack of connecting people who go on to create wonderful positivity in the world. Far too humble to admit herself, but Dominique deserves significant credit for sowing the seeds of the regenerative movement here in Melbourne far before it was hip. This has laid the groundwork for a younger generation of regenerative leaders and positive change makers.
In catching up with Dominique recently, I asked "where do you see the ongoing emergence of regenerative development in Melbourne"?
“It’s the young people driving the that’s not good enough, we want to go the next step and regenerate, which is about how are we of service to the future, how can we step up to our potential as humans as part of the system, saying what good can we do, using our ingenuity, our creativity, our ability to collaborate and learn.”
To learn more, we recommend tracking down Dominique's book 'Designing for Hope: Pathways to Regenerative Sustainability'