AFWI and Albanese Government launch $100 million project

by | Mar 20, 2024

The future of sustainable forestry received a significant boost with the official launch of the Albanese Government’s $100 million Australian Forest and Wood Innovations (AFWI) program. AFWI is a collaboration between the Albanese Government and the University of Tasmania, committed to advancing research and innovation in Australian forest and wood products.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt, said the University of Tasmania AFWI Headquarters in Launceston would support a local AFWI research centre, with further centres planned for the University of the Sunshine Coast and the University of Melbourne.

“Establishing AFWI was an election commitment which we are proud to deliver and forms part of our record $300 million investment in the Australian forestry and forest product sector,” Minister Watt said.

“This program will support sustainable forestry, while also helping to deliver a future made in Australia. It is an exciting time for forestry research as we work towards unlocking the full potential of wood as the ultimate renewable material and growing our forests and forestry industry.”

Minister Watt said the three centres will conduct research to enhance production forests and the wood products sourced from them – managing and sustainably expanding Australian forestry resources, transforming wood residues into renewable products and energy solutions – all while helping to address the threat of climate change.

“AFWI will draw on the best researchers and facilities across the nation to ensure Australia’s forest and wood products industries remain on the front foot, supporting applied research, development, and innovation,” Minister watt said.

“We saw demand for forest products significantly increase during the Covid-19 pandemic – increasing production in our sustainably managed plantation estate and product recovery from our sawmills and wood and fibre processing plants will see us better positioned to meet demand into the future.”

The AFWI Board is chaired by Mr Bob Gordon and includes nine other members from the Commonwealth with industry and forestry research experience, an understanding of workers’ needs, and First Nations perspectives. They include Diana Gibbs, Christine Briggs, Heidi Dungey, Brian Farmer, Michael O’Connor, Rachael Cavanagh, Andrew Leighton, Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra and Andrew Wilson.

AFWI aims to create opportunities for innovation and support the development of researchers, building on the work of the existing National Institute for Forest Products Innovation centres in the region.

Minister Watt said AFWI would also shortly be announcing the opening of the first of four $5 million annual national open calls for forestry research projects. The annual national open calls will be open to applications from all Australian-based researchers supporting the forest industry, and not be limited to the research centres established by AFWI.

The University of Tasmania’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rufus Black, said the university was excited to bring world-leading research to answer questions that will help accelerate the role of forestry and wood products in meeting the challenge of climate change and building a circular economy.

“AFWI will provide the skills and knowledge to support sustainable production of wood products, protect biodiversity and multiple forest values, and ensure the national sector is at the forefront of innovation and climate action.”

“We are the number one university in the world for climate action according to the Times Higher Education impact rankings and we are committing to supporting the transition to a low-emissions global economy we need to make – wood must play a big part in that future,” Professor Black said.

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