This story about Substation33 featured on ABC News TV around Australia on the 17th February 2018.


An e-waste recycling project is helping Brisbane’s long-term unemployed get back on their feet. The Logan hackerspace is teaching them how to turn old electronics into planet-saving devices.

It’s hot and sweaty work pulling apart a hundred and fifty thousand kilograms of e-waste in a year but no one calls in sick.

“It’s better than staying at home being lonely”

They’re turning one man’s e-trash into another’s e-treasure.

“It’s a game changer for them in their lives – that’s what we’re about”

Fiona McAuliffe’s making solar packs out of old laptop batteries; Crystal Paulson is soldering recycled motherboards.

“Now I’m actually showing other people how to do it”.

While Nathan Shaw is designing 3D printers from dumped parts destined for landfill.

“So a lot of it comes from TVs and computer monitors”.

Substation33 is the brainchild of Tony Sharp. His volunteers are all long-term unemployed desperate for a new start.

“People can grow and change really really quickly. It’s a fast road to success if you get it right”.

The team has come up with some amazing green inventions: an electric bike powered by old laptop batteries, solar run amplifiers, and portable power banks to light up remote villages in Indonesia.

“So these are recycled paint cans recycled laptop batteries inside”.

Its biggest project is a series of real-time flood warning signs. There are already 35 operating in Logan.

“That lets you try stuff you wouldn’t normally try doing. You know – step outside your comfort zone a bit”

In the last year, 50 trainees have found jobs back in the workforce. Ten more jobs have been created in-house for those who didn’t want to leave.

“Some of the things I’m doing I never imagined I would have been able to do any of this until I came here”.

The project success has sparked a QUT study looking at computer-human interaction “understanding how makerspaces can help people from low socio-economic background, people who are marginalized, financially marginalized, do something good in their lives”.

An innovation hub doing its bit to save the planet and change lives.

Lexy Hamilton-Smith, ABC News