Guest lecture with Professor Leanne Wiseman

In preparation for our upcoming external QCAA Design exams, our Design students had the remarkable opportunity to extend their sustainable design theory and knowledge via an online Q&A with Professor Leanne Wiseman from Griffith University.

Professor Wiseman introduced students to the international Right to Repair movement and explained how being able to repair our devices (i.e. being given access to spare parts and repair information) is helping to keep our smart goods and devices in use for longer, which in turn, will help us to reduce e-waste.

More broadly, Professor Wiseman spoke about how intellectual property laws, particularly copyright laws, impose barriers to repair, especially in those of our smart devices and appliances that have embedded digital software. These barriers, in addition to poor product design and design for premature obsolescence, have a detrimental impact on how long we can keep our smart goods in working order. An inability to repair and reuse our consumer goods means that we often have no choice but to dispose of goods too early, creating more and more landfill full of e-waste.

This inability to repair also extends to most modern machines that have software embedded in them, including our smart cars, agricultural machinery such as GPS-controlled tractors, and the highly technical medical devices in our hospitals and those that support Australians with disabilities. The inability to easily access repair or service information, spare parts, and good circular design of products is having a significant impact on not only the Australian economy, but also our environmental future. Good circular design to end waste is possible, an excellent example is the Fairphone, which is the first fully repairable smartphone that can be easily repaired and has reasonable spare parts and information.

Professor Wiseman also provided future insight envisioned for Australia to introduce Right to Repair laws. The Right to Repair laws would provide a greater choice of independent repairers, better access to service and repair informationand , access to essential parts, and encourage the growth of the circular economy. Educating consumers about their right to seek a replacement, rather than a refund, under our consumer laws and encouraging manufacturers to produce more durable goods, is integral to the Right to Repair movement. In 2021, France introduced a Repairability Label which will appear on white goods and appliances that will show consumers how repairable a product is. The European Union is considering something similar, and the Australian Government is also interested in introducing a repairability/durability label as well.

The Technologies Faculty is sincerely grateful to have Professor Wiseman’s support of our senior students’ education and our teaching staff. Our Faculty is always enthusiastic to connect with industry and showcase contemporary practice. If you work in a design field and would like to provide our students with similar experiences, please feel free to contact me via email.

Mr Brendon Thomas
Director of Technologies

Professor Wiseman outside the Apple store in Brussels peacefully protesting with their Right to Repair campaign during the international FixFest in Brussels