David Curtis Bio

David Curtis PhD, MSc, Grad Cert Mgt (Univ of New England)

David Curtis has over 25 years of practical and theoretical experience of conservation in rural and urban areas in Australia. He has worked professionally as a manager, senior policy officer, university lecturer, environmental educator and researcher.

He recently completed an innovative 5-year research project into the role of the visual and performing arts in shaping environmental behaviour. This trans-disciplinary research drew on the disciplines of environmental education, sustainability, sociology and the arts. It found that the arts could significantly affect environmental behaviour through aiding in the communication of environmental information, creating empathy for the natural environment, and catalysing ecological sustainability.

Through his work as national Program Manager of the Bush for Greenhouse Program for Greening Australia, he gained a deep knowledge of climate change. For 10 years he was Regional Manager for Greening Australia, in Northwest New South Wales (NSW) with whom he built up a team of about 20 staff and 180 trainees who worked on projects in community education, revegetation, farm forestry, conservation on farms, dieback and property planning. Through this work he was responsible for the planting of over 1 million trees and the conservation of about 8,000 hectares of bushland on farms.

He conducted pioneering research into rural dieback and eucalypt re-establishment through natural regeneration, direct seeding and planting on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. He formed and coordinated the Armidale Tree Group, which has been responsible for the planting of over 1 million native trees on farms over the last two decades. He formed and coordinated the Armidale Environment Coalition, which worked with Armidale City Council to improve sustainability in the urban area, with regards to transport, energy, biodiversity, pollution and waste.

David has extensive experience in managing environmental projects, having initiated and managed over 70 projects (including projects in urban and rural sustainability, community arts and research) with a combined value of about $9 million. Arising from these projects, he has written about 200 publications, which include peer reviewed journal articles, books, journal articles, book chapters, conference papers and media articles.

David is an inventive teacher and skilled presenter. He has extensive experience teaching at tertiary level and in community extension and education. He has taught about sustainability, the arts and environmental behaviour, and urban, regional and rural environmental issues (including energy, greenhouse, revegetation, biodiversity, soil salinity, farm planning, dieback, conservation, and sustainable agriculture). He has presented papers and presentations at 32 national and international conferences on the environment, sociology, environmental education, and the arts and has extensive experience in community facilitation.

David has been a member of many scientific, national, state, local government, non-government and community committees. He has been responsible for developing policy and writing policy documents on native revegetation, conservation, farm forestry, carbon sinks, urban sustainability, and arts and the environment. He has been responsible for organising several major multi-arts events, some of which have had audiences of many thousand people and participation of hundreds. In addition he has commissioned several visual and performing arts pieces.

Recent publications

Curtis, D. J., N. Reid and G. Ballard. 2012. Communicating Ecology Through Art: What Scientists Think. Ecology and Society 17 (2): 3.
Curtis, D.J. 2012. Articulating a critical voice: artists who ‘rattle the cage’ for the environment. In The art of social critique: painting mirrors of social life. S.C. Bingham (Ed.). Lexington Books, Chapter 20, pp.491 [20]
Curtis, D.J. 2011. Towards a culture of landcare: the arts in community capacity building for natural resources management. J of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management 13(4): 673-696.
Curtis, D.J. 2011. Using the arts to raise awareness, and communicate environmental information in the extension context. Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 17(2), 181-194.
Curtis, D.J. 2010. Plague and the Moonflower: a regional community celebrates the environment. Music and Arts in Action, 3(1), 65-85.
Curtis, D.J. 2009. Creating inspiration: the role of the arts in creating empathy for ecological restoration. Ecological Management and Restoration 10(3), 174-184.
Curtis, D.J. 2008. The Farmer as Artist: towards an ecological aesthetic. Agroforestry News, 62, 5-7.
Curtis, D.J. 2007. Creating Inspiration: How visual and performing arts shape environmental behaviour. PhD Thesis, University of New England, 500p.
Curtis, D. 2007. Using the arts to promote Landcare. Australian Landcare Magazine, Dec. 2007, 36-37.
Curtis, D.J. 2006. Mobilising rural communities to achieve environmental sustainability using the arts. Agricultural Economics Review. 17: 15-25.
Curtis, D.J. and Curtis, F.M. 2006. Performance and environmental awareness. In The Universal Mosaic of Drama/Theatre: The IDEA 2004 Dialogues.
Curtis, D.J. 2003. The arts and restoration: a fertile partnership? Ecological Management and Restoration 4: 163-169.

Recent conference presentations

  • World Congress of IDEA 2010 Live, Living Diversity, Live! Embracing the Arts of Transformation! Belém, Brazil, 17-25 July 2010.
  • Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration International, 23-27 August, Perth, 2009.
  • Ecological Society of America Conference, Milwaukee, USA, 3-8 August, 2008.
  • National Natural Resources Management Knowledge Conference, Melbourne, 2008.
  • ArtsEco Forum, Australian Arts and Environment Network, Noosa, Qld, 2008.
  • 28th NSW Environmental Educator’s Conference, Sydney, 2007.
  • Institute of Australian Geographers Conference, Armidale, 2005.
  • IDEA conference. Ottawa, Canada, 2004.
  • XI World Congress of Rural Sociology, Trondheim, Norway, 2004.

Multi-arts event coordination

  • Cow Parade – Margaret River, WA. Coordinated Curtin University’s involvement in this international community arts event. Organised the embellishment of 4 cows with Margaret River Senior High School, Arts Ability, and University of the Third Age. Organised the installation event at Curtin University Margaret River Campus and installation of the cows in the main event launch, 2010.
  • God’s Drawing Board – the commissioning of a new ecological oratorio for the Armidale community, written by Ralph Steadman and composed by Elena Kats-Chernin, world premiere Dec. 2008, audience 1000. Producer/Artistic Director/Editor.
  • Arts program for Ecological Society of Australia conference, 2003, Armidale. Included a commissioned image, exhibitions involving 8 visual artists, 12 performances, including dance, choir, bands, comedy, street theatre and circus. Coordinator.
  • Plague and the Moonflower (2002 and 2003), ecological chorale by Ralph Steadman and Richard Harvey, performances in Armidale and Woodford Folk Festival. Total audience approx. 12,000 and 300 participants, including 2 choirs, orchestra, dancers and puppetry. Coordinator/Designer.
  • Nova-anglica: web of our endeavours, 1998, New England Regional Art Museum, audience 5,000, number of participants 2,000. Celebrated the community’s efforts to reverse land degradation