22 November 2019

Environment awards recognise students who dig sustainability

| Michael Weaver
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Dickson College students with their trees ready for planting as part of the sustainability project that has been highly commended by the ACT Government. Photos: Michael Weaver, Region Media.

As final year school students are making plans for their future, a group from Dickson College have planted the first lot of trees that ensure their own future is a bit greener.

Last week, about 20 students from the school’s Sustainability Waste Action Group planted the trees to encourage the community to be more sustainable.

The student-led group is one of many recognised for their environmental stewardship at this week’s Actsmart Schools Awards.

While Merici College won the 2019 Sustainable School of the Year Award, Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury said it was a tough year for the judges as there were so many great leaders and initiatives happening in schools across Canberra.

“These awards celebrate the outstanding contributions made by ACT schools to reduce their environmental impact and embrace new ways to improve their sustainability,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said the awards highlight how Canberra’s schools were making a contribution to the sustainability of Canberra.

“It is great to see sustainability being integrated into school values and learning. Schools and students are working hard to make real differences for their school but also for the wider Canberra community. The initiatives and achievements they’ve made will last long after they’ve left school,” Ms Berry said.

For the students at Dickson College, they have created a roster over summer so their newly planted trees continue to put down roots long after the students have left school.

Jake Cardillo and Amelia Cox plant a banksia as part of their project.

Sustainability Waste Action Group (SWAG) member Jake Cardillo said planting the first 25 trees has also renewed the way they look at their environment.

“It’s great to inspire this kind of mindset in the school community because how we are going to make a difference is by targeting people our age, so that they grow up with this knowledge of how to plant trees and the right types of trees to plant,” said Jake.

“The great thing is that this has all been very student-driven. We’ve contacted everyone we needed to and arranged everything. It’s been a really encouraging thing to do.”

Fellow SWAGger Amelia Cox also took great pride in their hands-on lesson from ACT City Services staff who have supported the students to achieve their sustainability outcomes. Amelia said the issue of protecting their environment is more important to them than anything else.

“What we are doing might seem like a small-scale thing, but it’s big-scale issue in the long term,” Amelia said. “If everyone does their own little bits, it will contribute in the long run.”

Jake said they see links between sustainability issues they have learnt about and its effects on the biodiversity of the planet.

“It’s terrifying to think that all this work we’re towards our grades could be for nothing if the environment is just crumbling around us. If biodiversity crumbles, then the world is going to crumble too. It really is a long-term problem that pretty much rates above all else,” Jake said.

The group planted two species of gum tree (yellow gum and brittle gum), as well as habitat species that attract pollinators such as the coastal banksia tree.

Their project is also part of the ACT Government’s tree scaping program where 500,000 trees will be planted across the ACT.

Both Amelia and Jake say the project has inspired them to work with trees after they finish school.

“I would like to get into making policy because I find it really interesting as to why the Australian Government isn’t doing more to protect our environment,” said Amelia.

Jake said schools around Australia should be encouraged to do whatever they can to help.

“Go out and start talking about sustainability around your school and start a group, because the amount of things you can accomplish in a year is just massive. You can pave the way for a legacy that does a lot of good for the environment.”

The award recipients from the Actsmart Schools Awards are:

  • Sustainable School of the Year – Merici College
  • Leadership – Primary student – Alexander Roll, Arawang Primary School
  • Leadership – Secondary/College student – Thu Vu, Daramalan College
  • Leadership – Teacher/Staff – Primary – Rebecca Legge, Fadden Primary School
  • Leadership – Teacher/Staff – Secondary – Tarun Whan, Caroline Chisolm School
  • Leadership – Student Team – Primary – Aranda Primary School – G-Force
  • Leadership – Student Team – Secondary/College – Caroline Chisholm School – Sustainability Squad
  • Sustainable Project – Red Hill Primary School – Indigenous Night Day Garden

Highly commended:

  • Sustainable School of the Year – Hawker College
  • Leadership – Primary Student – Rebecca Price, Brindabella Christian College
  • Leadership – Secondary Student – Juliette Straughair, St Clare’s College
  • Leadership – Teacher/Staff – Primary – Aaron Fox, Sacred Heart Primary School
  • Leadership – Teacher/Staff – Secondary – Fiona Buining, Merici College
  • Leadership – Student Team – Primary – Bonython Primary School, Sustainability Student Leadership Team
  • Leadership – Student Team – Secondary – Dickson College, Sustainability and Waste Action Group
  • Sustainable Project – Fadden Primary School – Upcycling Passion Projects.

For more information, visit the Actsmart website, or view the video below.

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Capital Retro9:58 pm 24 Nov 19

In the course of a drought is not a good time to be planting young trees.

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