Working for regenerative economies, communities and landscapes.

We acknowledge that we live and work on unceded country.
The Castlemaine Institute commits 1% of total revenue to Pay The Rent. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.

About the Castlemaine Institute

The Castlemaine Institute is a research and learning hub for people working on bold transformations in economies, communities and landscapes. We are nested within the foothills of Mount Alexander (Lianuk) on Djaara country in Victoria's Central Goldfields region. Our work addresses many of the themes that impact Australia’s capacity to thrive into the future, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, health and wellbeing, democracy and civil society, housing and land use, biodiversity conservation, arts and culture, and economic diversity and resilience.

Our Story

Conversations around the Castlemaine Institute gained momentum in 2018, with the organisation forming officially in late 2019. Those involved have been driven to harness the immense talent and opportunity that exists in our region to find a new way of living regeneratively, drawing on our local culture and history, incredible wealth of expertise, established industries, strong institutions, and with respect to the custodianship of the land by traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung. We are all eager to be part of creating the solutions to regional prosperity that shift our region beyond the current paradigm of economic stagnation, climate emergency and ecological crisis, growing inequality, and democratic disengagement.

The Team

Our team applies transdisciplinary depth to complex problems, drawing on and developing local wisdom through our work. We are actively growing our network of co-workers and associates as we embark on a journey of regenerative development for our region and beyond.

Warwick Smith - Co-founder
Economics, Industry and Environment
Warwick is an economist, writer and policy analyst. His current professional interests include employment, inclusive and sustainable economic development, democracy, and climate change. He also has a background in evolutionary and conservation biology.A regular speaker at conferences and in the media, he also publishes opinion pieces in outlets such as The Guardian, the ABC, The Age and The Conversation.Warwick is also an Honorary Fellow at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.BSc (Hons), BA (philosophy and economics).Connect with Warwick on LinkedIn or Twitter @RecoEco. Blog.

Lexi Randall-L'Estrange
Co-founder - Industry and Innovation
Lexi is a Founder and Director across the domains of health, technology and social innovation. She has worked in commercial and social purpose sectors in SMEs, non-profits, social enterprise and start-ups. She thrives in disrupted industries and high-change environments, drawing on core skills in commercial & social entrepreneurship, product and service design, business and impact modelling, and community and stakeholder engagement to deliver sustainable and creative solutions.Lexi is a Director of Projects and Operations at Research Path and is Chair of CHIRP Community Health.BEnviroEng (Hons), MBA, GAICDConnect with Lexi on LinkedIn or Twitter @LexiRL

Jodi Newcombe - Co-founder
Economics, Climate, Communities and Creative Industries
Jodi is an environmental economist, creative producer and community organiser. Her areas of interest are cultural responses to climate change, new economic systems that work for people and environment, and co-design approaches for planning and innovation.Jodi has enjoyed a 20 year career consulting to government, NGOs and business across Europe and Australia on natural resource management, decision-making and policy design. She is founding director of Carbon Arts, a business trialling creative sector-led approaches to addressing climate change with Australian and international artists since 2011.Jodi recently served as climate change coordinator for Mount Alexander Shire where she oversaw the delivery of the Council's Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality and helped steward the emergence of the Wararack Initiatives, the Shire's community-led platform for climate action.BChemEng (Hons), MScEnvEconConnect with Jodi on LinkedIn or Twitter @carbon_arts

Cassia Read (PhD) - Co-founder
Ecology, education and resilient landscapes
Cassia is an ecologist, educator and a future-oriented designer of innovative planting systems. All her work centres on creating win-win landscapes that support both the wellbeing of people and conservation of biodiversity.Her areas of expertise include community ecology, landscape restoration, planting design, climate adaptation, citizen science and education for ecological literacy.An innovative and cross-disciplinary researcher and educator, Cassia has broad experience in the university, government, ngo and private sectors. Drawing on a breadth of skills in the sciences and arts she seeds and nurtures projects that develop ecological literacy and strengthen the regenerative capacity of communities and local landscapes. She has a deep knowledge of plant communities, from desert to the coast, conducting research and fieldwork in ecosystems across south eastern Australia.Cassia is a lecturer in ecology at La Trobe, Bendigo, runs the successful planting-design business Emerging Landscapes, and is co-founder of Climate Flags, a grassroots, community project.

Alison Whitten - Alison is a planner and strategist with a background in urban planning, international development and management consulting. Her professional experience cuts across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in Australia, the U.S., Sub-Saharan Africa and China. She currently works in resilience-building in local government, with a focus on establishing collaborative partnerships and empowering communities to address long-term, systemic challenges.Alison has a long-time interest in innovative housing models that bring together social, health and environmental benefits. She also has research and practical experience in agriculture and sustainable food systems, including working on farms in the U.S. and Eswatini.BSc Systems Engineering, MUP.Connect with Alison on LinkedIn

Ada Nano
Ada (Theresa) Nano is an ecologist with 30 years’ experience working on biodiversity survey and research programs across eastern and central Australia. Her main expertise
lies in fauna ecology, with a particular focus on small mammals and birds, but she also possesses well-honed skills in flora inventory and threatened plant research and monitoring.
Ada’s expertise encompasses cross-cultural ecological research with Aboriginal experts, ‘two-way’ environmental education in Aboriginal schools and citizen science. She is currently working with Warlpiri people to develop an educational model to support the skills and knowledge associated with expert tracking. Ada is co-founder of the Wilderhoods project.

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Our Work

Since the Institute's inception in late 2019, our team has delivered a range of diverse projects for clients from local government to campaign organisation, GetUp. We are in the process of developing new projects all the time. Below is a selection of completed and ongoing projects.

The "Cool It" project

In 2019 the Institute was commissioned by the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance to assist councils across of the Loddon Mallee region to select and plant trees that are most resilient to a changing climate. Authors assessed over 400 street trees for their likely tolerance to future climate across three different zones: Central Highlands, Mallee and Loddon Campaspe. We undertook extensive climate modelling of a selection of these species, including 50 species currently used, and 50 new experimental species. The report and associated Species Selection Matrix contains recommendations of which tree species will be most climate resilient in each region.Click here to download the full report by Cassia Read and Meredith Cosgrove


Wilderhoods is a community-led project that aims to create networks of urban habitat and connect people with nature and neighbours, cultivating resilient urban landscapes and communities that will thrive in a changing climate. Through a regenerative process, Wilderhoods enables knowledge-sharing and supports neighbourhoods to co-design, grow and nurture vibrant local environments. Wilderhoods builds neighbourhood resilience by empowering those who are best placed to act – starting in the most important place, their backyards and neighbourhood. Our vision is to develop a framework and resources that will enable the project to be adopted by communities across Australia.The Wilderhoods project has been developed by a Castlemaine Institute team, including Dr Cassia Read and Ada Nano (Senior Ecologists) and Jodi Newcombe (Executive Director and Regenerative Practitioner). We have presented Wilderhoods concepts and principles to numerous communities in Central Victoria, including workshops supported by Mount Alexander Shire Council and presentations to Castlemaine and District Garden Club, Maldon Neighbourhood Centre, West End Resilience Group (Castlemaine) and Hepburn Gardens for Wildlife.We are currently piloting the project in the 'West End,’ made possible with funding from the Victorian Government (ADAPT Loddon Mallee Program). Our pilot is testing the “Wilderhoods regenerative framework” and developing a community resource for designing climate-resilient habitat in urban environments.

The Price of Capitalism

This paper, by economist Warwick Smith, is one of three commissioned by Getup to explore the big themes of capitalism, democracy and the future of work. Here Smith examines what capitalism is and asks if it is the cause of our existential problems, a consequence of them, or the answer to them. Can the problems in our society be addressed by tweaking capitalism, substantially reforming it, or do we need to abandon it altogether for another system of economic organisation?To download click here.

Castlemaine Currency

The Castlemaine Currency project explores an innovative response to the notions of a localised circular economy. As a collaborative, artistic investigation with renowned local artists and the Institute the project aims to produce a tangible, tactile and tradable currency incorporating local clay, which is then used to trial actual exchanges as well as spark conversation.

The Warrarrack Economy

This paper was prepared by invitation from the Mount Alexander Shire’s Community Climate Transition Planning project. It paints a bold and thriving future scenario for the Shire weaving various "Warrarrack" initiatives into a successful circular economy by 2040.Castlemaine Institute is one of a number of leading local organisations that are partnering with Council to co-design the community's climate response.To download The Warrarrack Economy by Warwick Smith click here.