The Threads and Opportunities Symposium is a step in closing the gap for Australia’s fashion industry, bringing together researchers, scientists, brands and retailers, students and government to value fibres and textiles as resources and reduce waste.

A collaborative symposium was held for the first time in May, with the goal to help accelerate Australia’s science and innovation towards a sustainable circular fibre.

Symposium co-chairs Dr Colleen MacMillan, a senior research scientist and cotton fibre team leader from CSIRO, and Dr Alice Payne, a fashion, textile and circular fashion researcher from QUT, said the symposium brought together a cross-disciplinary group of researchers to help tackle an important problem.

“We realised there is brilliant work happening in Australia surrounding fibres and textiles as resources and to reduce waste through the value chain, but our amazing brains-trust were not connected,” Dr MacMillan.

“It also brought in the next generation of STEM who are students passionate about addressing an issue that is really resonating with today’s younger consumer – fibre and textile waste.”

School students from across Australia have developed ideas to close the fashion circularity gap following the inaugural Threads and Opportunities Symposium.

Leading up to the symposium, high school and tertiary students were invited to explore circular textile solutions with a focus on four key areas: redesigning fibres, lessons from first nations people, tracking fibre lifecycles and fibre waste.

The circular fibres pitchathon, part of the symposium was led by two early career researchers – Dr Xiaoqing Li from CSIRO and Dr Madeline Taylor from QUT.

Students created a three-minute video as part of their application that responded to a brief from the four different sessions of the symposium.

The Winners

  • Cristina Munoz, a student from Australian National University, ACT, was an equal first recipient for her project called Saving Uniforms and Repairing the System. Watch the video here
  • Also in equal first was Stephanie Cui, a year 12 student from Meriden School, NSW, for her project The Mozzie Cure. Watch the video here
  • Ananya Khatry and Sasvi Amarakoon, students from Presbyterian Ladies' College, teamed up and came third for their project called Fibre and Waste: How we can fix it. Watch the video here
  • Zoe Head, a year 9 student from the Young Indigenous STEM Academy came fourth with her project Textile Waste. Watch her video here.

“When we looked at all the winning entries, the students had done a fantastic job of interweaving all the themes throughout their presentations,” Dr MacMillan said.

Students from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland participated in the Circular Fibres Pitchathon, with winning students ranging from grade 9 to 12.

Entries were assessed by an expert panel including staff from Cotton Research and Development Corporation, CSIRO and Early Career Researchers from five different institutions.

Students had scientific and social human interaction focuses, which Dr Payne said spoke to the nature of circular fashion as it required many different solutions.

“The student’s presentations were mind blowing. It opened my eyes to some brilliant ideas, and it just goes to show brilliant ideas can come from all types of brains,” Dr Payne said.

Stephanie Cui, a year 12 student from Meriden School, NSW, won the redesigning fibres category for her innovative way of adding a mosquito repellent to natural fibres.

The 17-year-old pitched her video The Mozzie Cure that used eucalyptus oil as a natural repellent woven through garments to help deter insects that carry infectious disease.

Her focus was redesigning fibres by using natural insect repellent from the lemon eucalyptus, to help decrease disease and death caused by mosquitos and similar insects.

“During my research I found existing repelling ingredients paired with textile products can cause dermatitis on skin and are harmful to aquatic life,” Stephanie said.

“I turned to natural resources that are environmentally friendly and have no recorded side effects, which were initially discovered by our indigenous population.”

The Symposium and Pitchathon was a partnership with Cotton Research and Development Corporation, CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform and CSIRO Agriculture and Food.

Cotton Australia and the Australian Wool Innovation (The Woolmark Company) were also sponsors of the event.

Anyone wanting to learn more about textile circularity or view the symposium plenary sessions can register on the website at a discounted rate to watch the plenary session- recordings - Click here to visit the symposium website.

To read the full report about the Threads and Opportunities Symposium, click her and to participate in the Threads and Opportunities group on LinkedIn click here.


Cotton Australia has formed a number of authentic partnerships with retailers, brands, manufacturers and supply chain partners who share the industry's values. If your organisation believes in reducing environmental footprint, the fair and safe treatment of workers, quality product and supply chain traceability - then we may be in business.

Get Involved