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Big Australia

The challenge

Big Australia, reported by ABC Four Corner's Ben Knight and presented by Sarah Ferguson

"The numbers tell the story. Australia's population is growing fast. Across the country, we've added almost 400,000 people in the last year alone. The populations of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth have expanded by nearly three million extra people in the last 10 years. And we're feeling the strain.

Australia has been trying to manage the pain of population growth for decades. We've become a wealthier and healthier country. Better educated with more opportunity than the generations before. Its our challenge to do the same for this next generation. If that's going to happen - we need to talk about it now.

At MindHive, we agree with Four Corners, that we need to have a managed conversation of what is needed and what we need to do to support the population of the future.

We're interested in our Hiver's thoughts and opinions on two key questions raised in tonight's program:

  • What sort of place do we want to live in?
  • What are we determined to hang onto and what are we prepared to give up?"

 

Challenge Opened: 11:23 AM, Monday 12 March 2018
Challenge Closes: 10:00 AM, Thursday 22 March 2018
Time to go: Closed

 

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The context

Big Australia, reported by Ben Knight and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 12th March at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 13th March at 1.00pm and Wednesday 14th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEDT, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.

"You just can't go exponentially like that and not expect there not to be some sort of consequences." Bernard Salt, The Demographics Group

Australians living in our big cities are experiencing crippling commute times, over-crowded public transport, school shortages and an under supply of affordable housing.

"It's not a choice, it's forced on people. I don't think that's wonderful for our future." Dick Smith, businessman

And our population is set to get even bigger. There'll be almost 40 million of us by the middle of the century.

It's time for the nation to have a conversation about how big Australia is going to grow.

"It might be an uncomfortable conversation but it's necessary. In order for Australia to be the country we want it to be." Dr Liz Allen, demographer

On Monday night Four Corners investigates what a "Big Australia" will mean and the difficult choices that will have to be made.

"Do you have fences and turnstiles? Do you start to ration access? That's the sort of dystopia that we can see coming at us through the mist." Bob Carr, Former Foreign Minister and Former Premier of NSW.

We look at the projected rise of Australia's megacities - where some will double their current size - and ask who is planning for this?

"We've got huge changes coming... we're looking at things like infrastructure needs, education needs, health needs. These are huge issues that Australia is facing as our population grows." Innes Willox, Chief Exec, Australian Industry Group.

We investigate how we got to this point and interrogate why Australia has no national population policy.

"We've done an abysmal job. You know, there has been really no serious integrated debate around all the key factors that population growth brings to our economy and our national way of life." Innes Willox

Some are now saying we should pull down the shutters and dramatically reduce the number of migrants arriving in Australia or risk our envied way of life.

"I see disaster for the way of life that we loved in Australia." Dick Smith

Others point out that we're facing a tsunami of older Australians, who will not have people to care for them.

"The oldest baby boomer is about 68, 69. We're going to need more than 24,000 (aged care workers) every five years. We're going to need 50,000. It's not the sort of job that can be digitally disrupted." Bernard Salt, The Demographics Group

 

Challenge Opened: 11:23 AM, Monday 12 March 2018
Challenge Closes: 10:00 AM, Thursday 22 March 2018
Time to go: Closed

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Challenge Activity

Challenge Activity

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Bob Dick commented on the challenge Big Australia

There have been several suggestions for regional development rather than further increasing the size of our larger cities.  I’m not persuaded that this has to be either/or.

It’s understandable that citizens don’t wish large cities to undermine or destroy the pleasure of living there.  I live in Brisbane, and experience the way its growth is destroying some of its character.  Do large cities have to be unpleasant to live in?  I suspect not.

There is evidence I’ve seen that city size is associated with increased creativity and innovation.  Might it be that good design would allow those benefits to be achieved without suffering the disadvantage of size.

Assume cities continue to grow.  That need not prevent provincial centres also experiencing growth.  Here is Queensland (and I presume elsewhere) many provincial centres are losing citizens to the coastal strip.  I know that some would like to reverse that trend.

I’m venturing beyond my expertise here, and am willing to be corrected.  For both cities and provincial centres, though, it seems to be that it needn’t be size per se.  With good design, I assume many sizes can be beneficial.

 

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Peter Grimbeek commented on the challenge Big Australia

Previous comments have focused on the nexus between population growth and infrastructure. Here population growth is the problem and infrastructure is the solution. Infrastructure considered included fast rain-networks, the development of regional centres (would benefit from a real NBN), and questions about the management of water and land. Also, there is some emphasis on the global nature of these problems and solutions (aka, the global village).

My tack is a bit different. I would argue that our population might be growing but it is also aging, as is that in much of the first world, and also China. So, while the population might increase, the labour force is not necessarily going to be large enough nor will it be sufficiently skilled to deal with the many challenges associated with the incoming post-industrial economy.

These are not new issues. In 2008, just as the financial crisis was entering the room, one conversation was about how Australia was going to maintain a viable labour force in the face of an aging population and the increasing demand for highly skilled labour. The financial crisis slowly left the room but these two things remain with us.

One solution canvassed at the time was to develop an internationally based labour force that could do the work and then go away again. A reason for relying on such a labour force is the limit on developing the necessary skills on-shore. This limit also remains in place. For example, when driverless trucks and then cabs become part of the industrial landscape, what happens to those who can drive a vehicle day and night but cannot take on more highly skilled work?

From this dismal perspective, the challenge of the future for Australia, as elsewhere, is not only whether we will be big enough or too big for the global village but also how best to deal with those shunted aside by automation, etc., and how best to deal with an increasing number of aged people.

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Peter Grimbeek is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Lindley Edwards commented on the solution A Big Australia

Agree with other commentators and would add we need to also consider World Population growth and refugees and what is an appropriate humanitarian response by Australia.  What is missing in many of these debates is an underlying strategy which road maps where Australia is going and what we should aspire to. It also needs to consider investment, infrastructure, our best responses at collective and individual level to structural changes and the use and care of physical resources and what is the social infrastructure we wish to have and maintain. 

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David Alexander is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Megan Baker is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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David Parsons is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Elissa Doxey commented on the solution A Big Australia

 Agree, Tim - perhaps an acknowledgement of other factors that lead into (or out of) these scenarios would highlight related issues like you've mentioned, plus housing, waste management, transport infrastructure, employment, health, agriculture, etc.

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Tim Klapdor commented on the solution A Big Australia

So I understand that these scenarios are based purely on different projects of population growth - but there are some underlying factors that need to be accounted for somewhere. Aspects around environment and arable land, climate, and finite resources like water will have great bearing on any of these projections. 

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Mark Cantor is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Rosie Odsey is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Martin Deering is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Steven Clark is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Morrie Goodz is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Miranda Mortlock commented on the challenge Big Australia

So as well as looking at population data- which is very helpful especially with the scenarios. There is a need to look at the land area, the types of ecosystems and productive capacity of the land. World wide models have been reported on net productivity, and the human used portion of this productivity can be determined for various levels of development.

Factors that affect productivity include

  • Climate, and  the variability between seasons
  • Soils, type, depth, water holding capacity, fertility
  • Surface water and ground water,
  • Land may be flood prone, disease infected - humans, crops  and livestock.

Aspects of relevance to population growth are the judicious use of land and will require planning for future growth:

  • Extensively for food and fibre - dryland crops and range land;
  • Intensively for irrigated crops - horticulture and dairy, pigs etc
  • Land for settlement- buildings, schools, hospitals
  • Land for mining, waste
  • Land for culture and national parks and protection of cultural sites

We have a large area, but the productive soils may be lost with suburban sprawl or waste-recyclable land fill areas.

A good plan for Australia would be to consider our land use, fresh water availability and understand the productivity of the land across regions in association with population projections. 

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Timothy London is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Gaith Bader commented on the solution A Big Australia

To clarify what NOM is to the reader, we should add Net overseas migration (NOM) to the first mention of it.

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Corey Allen is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Corey Allen commented on the challenge Big Australia

The accelerated formation and development of community, especially in clusters both urban and suburban have been very problematic from the safety and security perspective.  How do we match the needs of an emerging community often made up of people from elsewhere with little support?  Our experience at Kelvin Grove Urban Village here in Brisbane showed that thrusting people together, regardless of how well designed the architecture, can cause the emergence of dysfunctional, disconnected people with high needs, high risk and a potentially negative trajectory.  People hurriedly grouped together without the social framework to support the development of real community can suffer.  I saw residents isolated in their homes, whilst the negative influences in the community became dominant.  This was only turned around when we reconnected people with services, with each other and made the village a safe place to live. With the need for multi-generational living, smaller homes, and capacity to handle the inevitable growth, our lesson was to ensure that the social architecture is as important as the bricks and mortar.  Plan for appropriate support services, appropriate supportive community police presence and build activities that promote community ownership before the first sod is turned.  Implement the social framework progressively as the community culture grows and help it grow in the right direction - a direction that the community members own and will sustain.  I am happy to say despite once being referred to as an urban slum, Kelvin Grove Urban Village now is a diverse and cohesive community with minimal police calls for service.  

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A new solution was published A Big Australia

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MindHive commented on the challenge Big Australia

Hi all - we're keen to move the conversation into the Solution room. There we can tease out some thinking on four scenarios for the future growth of Australia:

  • First scenario: Low immigration
  • Second scenario: Constant immigration
  • Third scenario: High immigration
  • Fourth scenario: Net immigration drops to zero.

Tonight you have been sent an invitation to join the panel - this means that you can also now edit the content - not just comment. Hoping you can join us - Tim Klapdor it would be interesting how you could frame the impact on a 'sense of community' within each of the scenarios - Tom Orren we'd get great value from you considering how technologies would be impacted and also how they could assist in the various scenarios - Gaith Bader moderation and sustainable living needs to operate across all scenarios - your practical suggestions would add great value to the richness of the scenarios - Lewe Atkinson how can we ensure the scenarios are linked to global thinking and solutions? - Miranda Mortlock could all scenarios consider the benefit from a slower, sustainable growth across some parts of our continent - roxane shadbolt which scenario has most opportunity to create a new paradigm? Elissa Doxey sprawl and the regions are critical in all scenarios - Judy Szekeres how do we ensure all aspects are fully planned and considered in each scenario - Timothy Flor and Ross Lentell infrastructure demand and planning in each scenario critical. 

If you arrive to the discussion after this comment - you're not too late to join. Just request an invite.

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Tim Klapdor commented on the challenge Big Australia

To address the two questions:

What sort of place do we want to live in?

I think one of the key components of the Australian lifestyle is a sense of community. We want to know and interact with our neighbours and support the place we live in. In many ways population poses problems with the concept around how we have traditionally done this. We were a country of small distributed communities. For a great deal of our history, especially in pre-colonial times, we have lived as distributed communities across the great space the country has to offer. We lived and connected with each other, supported each other, knew peoples names. I think most people want that, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Urban environments and the suburbs and the reliance of the car has challenged those traditions. We need to rethink community and how we maintain it in newer times. 

What are we determined to hang onto and what are we prepared to give up?

I'm probably in the minority of Australians but I think we need to reduce our footprint on the environment. We need to take less out of the environment and contribute more to it's health and wellbeing, but I think we need to stop the sprawl. The sprawl makes it incredibly difficult to maintain communities because we have to physically move greater distances - to school, work and shops. It's an extraordinary luxury if any of those things are located in proximity of where we live - which seems the opposite of how you would plan and build towns and cities let alone communities. One answer is higher density, but the other is to become more distributed. To live in smaller communities and repopulate the regions. Regional Australia supported much larger populations and have suffered huge population losses and financial imperatives drove greater centralisation of business and a services to the cities. A connected region - via an actual NBN and rail would provide a back bone that could support not only a higher population, but one that is less stressful on the capital cities. 

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Tim Klapdor is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Tom Orren is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Tom Orren commented on the challenge Big Australia

Nothing can stop the world's population from growing to its estimated peak of 10 billion or so. This is a global, not a national problem. Apart from building a wall around Australia and barring entry to everyone not already inside it, Australia cannot isolate itself form this global problem. In this context, Dick Smith's views seem particularly outdated.

Therefore, Australia will have to plan for a much bigger population.

However, we have not even begun to explore the technologies that could help us cope with a much bigger population. There is no doubt that there are technologies (some of which have yet to be developed) that could help us support 50 or even 100 million people. The only thing that needs shifting is our vision.

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Kaerlin McCormick is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Jesse Arrowsmith is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Gaith Bader commented on the challenge Big Australia

Population is a complex issue, it is not a simple open the flood gates or close them. The problem of population, if we can call it a problem, is a matter that needs to be looked at and tackled from multiple direction:

  • Moderation: 
    with almost everything, moderation is the key, opening the flood gates of migration or closing them would produce their own set of problems and cascading negative effects. The big question becomes what is the sustainable level of migration that is best for Australia? This of course depending on the rest of the factors that impact this conversation.
  • Smart and sustainable living: 
    As sustainability goes, we are not really doing a good job of it in Australia; 
    • majority of rain water still ends up being dumped in the sea.
    • We still flush our toilets with drinkable water!  
    • Houses are being build right now without appropriate minimum Energy Efficiency rating for the region they are build in.
    • Sophisticated and advanced public transport is critically under funded and is not at the centre of all of our city planning.
    • Fast public transport that links our major cities is non-existent.
    • Proper city planning for education, living, transport and work is nowhere to be found, with it all linked to the political cycle which is too short for long-term planning.
    • Recycling life-cycle is not mandated at all levels of government policies as such sophisticated recycling operations and reuse of said recycling can’t properly survive without such policies resulting in more and more landfills. 
    • Due to political indecisiveness the cost of pollution is not factored in our decisions, in private life or in business, and consequently is not being mitigated and reduced in any meaningful manner.
    • Education is starting to be seen as a cost instead of a means to advance Australia forward, resulting in a cycle of continuous cuts to education funding in schools and higher education and impacting the nations future capabilities,
    • Growing inequality in Australia impacts the long-term stability of our nation and the rules of which we live by. A strong nation is one that thinks as one and makes sure that no one is left behind or falls through the cracks and that our policies and rules does not stack the odds against a portion of the population. Successful democratic modern societies rely on the majority of the populace wanting to participate; be it in politics, paying taxes, working hard, volunteering or following the spirit of the law. The more inequality the more individualism becomes the norm, which doesn’t foster a stronger nation overall. 
    • Willing to invest and pay for a better way is not taking place. Taxes in Australia are relatively low and seem to be going even lower with time. This doesn’t help us as a nation. All projects that are more sustainable and are long-term require up front investments and money to make it happen. Currently as a nation the conversation is not being done in a constructive way to make people willing to pay for all that is needed to be done. This is resulting in short-term decisions that make things worse and necessary infrastructure, policies and regulation not materialising.
  • We live in a global village:
    We can’t pretend that we live in isolation of the rest of the world. Our decisions as a country and our policies will in one degree or another impact the rest of the world, just as decisions in the rest of the world will impact us. 
    As such, we need to start thinking more globally and support policies that lift the world up and stop thinking as us and them and start thinking as a global community. Many of our problems are now so large that no one nation can fix; be it war, global warming, pollution, etc.

Fixing all of the above, reduces the issue of population problems and migration and the like. 

Is it something easy to do? Of course not, but thinking of population as a one dimensional “we want more or less of it” only, is somewhat of a distraction and isn’t going to realistically solve anything in the long run.

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Kathleen Donohoe is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Lesley van Schoubroeck is now contributing to this challenge Big Australia

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Challenge Progress

  • Impact Reported

Impact Phase

  • Online discussion, editing & synthesis
  • Panel Selected

Consultation Phase

  • Solution drafted
  • Crowd gathered
  • Context Published
  • Challenge published

Framing & Gathering Phase

Meet the panel

Robert Humphries Director
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Glenda Caselli Manager (Corridor Management)
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Ross Lentell GM / CEO
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Lewe Atkinson Global Partner
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Bob Dick
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Lindley Edwards Group CEO
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Galina Williams Senior Lecturer in Economics
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Elissa Doxey Strategy & Management Consultant
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Timothy Flor Policy Analyst
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Gaith Bader Manager Online Services
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Tim Klapdor Online Learning Technology Leader
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Hiver

Rosemary Kennedy Associate Professor
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roxane shadbolt General Manager, strategic Programs, DMP
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Peter Grimbeek Statistics & Methods Counsellor
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Mark Wallace Regional Technical Director - Economics, Australia Asia Pacific
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Jason Schoolmeester Deputy Coordinator-General, Office of Major Projects, Infrastructure and Investment
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Robert Humphries Director
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Glenda Caselli Manager (Corridor Management)
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Ross Lentell GM / CEO
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Kaerlin McCormick Consultant
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Lewe Atkinson Global Partner
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Miranda Mortlock Dr
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Bob Dick
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Lindley Edwards Group CEO
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Steven Clark Lecturer
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Galina Williams Senior Lecturer in Economics
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Morrie Goodz Principal
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Corey Allen Inspector
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Lesley van Schoubroeck Independent public policy tragic
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Elissa Doxey Strategy & Management Consultant
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Timothy Flor Policy Analyst
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Tom Orren
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Martin Deering Executive Officer
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Mark Cantor Retired Engineer & Health Consumer Representative
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Fiona Margetts Manager (Policy Services)
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Judy Szekeres Consultant
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Gaith Bader Manager Online Services
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Jan Horton
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Kathleen Donohoe Director
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Tim Klapdor Online Learning Technology Leader
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Jesse Arrowsmith Snr Project Manager
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Timothy London Head of Product and Design, MindHive
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Rosie Odsey
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David Parsons Managing Director
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Megan Baker Communications Officer
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David Alexander
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Documents associated with this challenge

File name File type Date uploaded Size (KB)
Four Scenarios for U.S. Population Growth.pdf
.pdf
3/14/2018 167
Australia_Population_Map.png
.png
3/15/2018 84
RMIT_Melbourne_at_8_Million_Matching_Land_Supply_to_Dwelling_Demand1.pdf
.pdf
3/15/2018 8,910
 

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