Our history

The School is named in honour of internationally renowned scholar, Professor Frank Fenner. Read more about the legacy of Professor Frank Fenner and the origins of the Fenner School.

The Fenner School of Environment & Society was founded in 2007, bringing together the former Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, the School for Resources, Environment and Society, and the Departments of Forestry and Geography.

The Fenner School is named in honour of internationally renowned scholar, Professor Frank Fenner (1914–2010).

Professor Frank Fenner was one of Australia's most decorated scientists. He was a foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences. While he is best known for his role in the global eradication of smallpox, Professor Fenner was also passionate about the environment.

In 1971, when presenting a case for a centre for natural resources at ANU, Fenner wrote:

The rational utilisation of natural resources in a way which is biologically, culturally and economically acceptable to man requires the skills and understanding of integrated groups of people of different disciplines brought together with the common commitment to seek solutions to the practical problems of natural resource management.

In 1973, Professor Fenner founded the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies (CRES) at ANU, bringing together a team of experts in economics, systems analysis, hydrology, ecology and human ecology. The establishment of the Centre coincided with increased public and political interest in the environment.

Professor Fenner’s mandate was to create a policy-oriented, cross-disciplinary centre for environmental research and education.1 Fenner served as the Centre’s Director from 1973 until his retirement in 1979.

Today the Fenner School is one of the longest-standing and most influential centres for cross-disciplinary environmental research and education, housing leading experts from a diverse range of fields working together to tackle the world’s biggest environmental challenges.

The origins of the School’s distinct research and education traditions can be traced to Fenner’s vision for CRES, in particular the School’s holistic approach to research and education; the long-term nature of our research, and our enduring focus on issues relating to Indigenous peoples and the environment.2


Since the School’s formal establishment in 2007, it has been led by a number of distinguished scholars from diverse fields:

Read more about the Governance of the School.