Melbourne & Sunshine Coast Uni’s Join UTas in $100m Timber Research

New forestry research centres to improve sustainability outcomes

Fri 01 Mar 24


The University of Sunshine Coast and the University of Melbourne have been invited to form Australian Forest and Wood Innovations (AFWI) research centres, joining the University of Tasmania as one of three Institutes now involved in the $100m Commonwealth-funded program.

It comes after Wood Central reported on Monday that former Forestry Australia President Bob Gordon has been appointed chair of the AFWI board, with the new group committed to advancing research and innovation to support Australia’s forest and wood product industries.

According to Australian Agriculture and Forestry Minister Murray Watt, the research from the centres “will help to support our Australian forest and wood product industries, as well as our journey to generate greater value from our sustainable forestry industries; forests are fantastic carbon stores, after all.”

“The investment in AFWI will support innovation and research that will change how we use wood to benefit our community into the future,” Minister Watt said.

The Australian Government is investing in forestry and forest products industries to supercharge its green economy – footage courtesy of @AGDAFF.

The research centres will now access $24.5 million in funding as part of the AFWI grant agreement with the University of Tasmania – with the University of the Sunshine Coast already home to the National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life.

“The three research centres will help us to enhance our wood products and systems, manage and sustainably expand our Australian forestry resources, transform wood residues into renewable products and energy solutions – all while helping to address the threat of climate change,” Minister Watt said today.

“Innovation is key to progress and efficiency, and this funding will allow these centres to look at new ways to ensure our forestry industries keep sustainability at their core.” 

The announcement has been welcomed by the peak body for Australian forest products, with Richard Hyett, acting CEO of the Australian Forest Products Association, sharing that “the association is very proud of the AFWI progress after playing a key role in its inception, based on the need for more varied and advanced forest products research in Australia.”

“I’m confident these new centres will offer groundbreaking research into how we can maximise value from the resource, boost the credentials and uses of timber and fibre as a climate solution and boost the innovation agenda across the industry.”

The importance of research has never been more acute, with Australia’s Shadow Housing Minister, Michael Sukkar, addressing the importance of value-added timber manufacturing to address the company’s “ticking housing time bomb” on Wednesday night.

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Australia’s total plantation area continues to decline and is currently at its smallest area since 2003-04 due to the ongoing conversion of hardwood plantations to other land uses. (Photo Credit: ABARES)

Last year, former AFPA Acting CEO Natasa Sikman said the continued decline in plantations, now at a 20-year low, “is extremely concerning and a reminder that collectively, industry, federal and state governments and other decision and policymakers must work together to get more timber tree planted in the ground.”

The University of Melbourne Research Centre will be located at the Burnley Campus in Richmond, Victoria, and the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Research Centre at the Sunshine Coast Campus in Sippy Downs, Queensland.


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