Supporting disadvantaged youth to successfully transition into the workplace – with BackTrack

 

Imagine you’ve grown up in a world of intergenerational unemployment; where no-one in your family has ever held a job. Imagine a world where family life is marred by domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse. Imagine then how hard it would be to stay at school with no support, and then how much harder again it must be to find and retain a job. Can a career in agriculture be a way forward?

 

 

Action4Agriculture’s newest program Action4Youth supports young people from all backgrounds and experiences to thrive in a career in agriculture and those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds face challenges well beyond the technical aspects of a career. Today we speak with Marcus Watson from BackTrack to understand the challenges involved and learn how wraparound support is required if vulnerable young people are to successfully transition into the workplace.

BackTrack is a youth organisation with three jobs: keeping kids alive, out of jail and chasing their hopes and dreams. It achieves this through a unique combination of educational, training and diversionary activities, supported employment, residential accommodation and wraparound youth work.

Marcus believes one of the foundational roles of third-party organisations such as BackTrack is to transition young people to traineeships and jobs by teaching basic employability skills, those unwritten rules of the workplace that most employers assume people will know.

“For example, I grew up with the unwritten rule that if you turned up at 8 for an 8am start, then you were already late. On time means 7.45am. But these expectations aren’t something our young people are familiar with because they haven’t experienced a real-life workplace before and often come from families experiencing intergenerational unemployment.”  Marcus says.

This means that a huge focus for BackTrack is developing a young person’s 21st century skills through immersing them in practical, hands-on training opportunities that give them a real insight into the workforce but also ensure that they are well-supported as they learn.

“Employability skills is a really big ball of string to untangle but it is one of those things that can de-rail an opportunity very quickly if it’s not done right. An employer will often let someone go based on the soft skills rather than the technical skills. We make sure that our young people can roll up their sleeves on genuine work projects, out in the paddock or the fabrication shed, and benefit from intensive coaching and support as they do it. This is how we tackle challenges that arise in real time and gradually build their confidence and awareness of employer expectations.”

As with any relationship, the one between employee and employer often revolves around conversation and communication and, again, BackTrack provides its young people with training.

“We help young people with conflict resolution, self-advocacy and negotiation, and if an employer still has concerns they should be able to reach out to a third-party (such as BackTrack) for the extra support and insight needed to continue the conversation with them. We are skilled and funded to facilitate this.”

Giving young people the frames of reference to understand and conquer 21st century skills in the workplace is a cornerstone of BackTrack’s work and ultimately means that their participants can transition into meaningful external employment when the time is right for them. With a unique understanding of the challenges faced by vulnerable young people, BackTrack can offer employees and employers alike the support they need to make these transitions as successful and sustainable as possible.

Values at work, and finding the role, industry and culture for YOU

As part of Action4Agriculture’s NCI funding ACTION4YOUTH provides 21st century skills training to our Young Farming Champion mentors, careers advisors, students (the next generation employees) and our prospective employers.

Annie Simpson from Modern People 

With a background combining psychology, business strategy, recruitment and human resources, Annie explained how our values underpin everything we do and, as values differ from person to person, how they determine individual attitudes and behaviours.

“We are constantly seeking harmony in how we believe and how we see things. Values are deeply important to the future of work, and the next generation of leaders,” Annie said

The workshop, included sessions on:

  • The power of Values and what matters most
  • Exploring leading Values frameworks in positive psychology
  • Understanding your own Values, and connecting them to your work and life
  • Values at work, and finding the role, industry and culture for YOU
  • Australia’s top values, and how our values changed through the COVID pandemic
  • 7 Traits of Change Readiness and how they show up
  • How to embrace change, and grow for the better

Annie believes understanding values is important for young people as they consider potential careers.

“People of all ages, but particularly our youth, are looking for clarity and direction. How can we look outside of social pressures, grades and qualifications to find purposeful and meaningful work? I think the workshop participants enjoyed understanding that something so deeply embedded within us can help guide us to the roles and industries that will give us fulfilment. This knowledge empowers them to know what to look for, to ask impactful questions of future employers, and to better understand their uniqueness in the world of work,” she said.

Though agriculture traditionally is thought of as a conformist industry, external influences beyond the control of the farmer and the boom-and-bust nature of the industry actually make agriculture a sector for those willing to take risks and be predictive in strategy.

“The industry requires a degree of change readiness and a tolerance for ambiguity. Values like self-direction, stimulation, and hedonism are suited to an industry like this and are often driven by personal goals and self-motivation.”

Yet agriculture’s diversity means there is a place for everyone.

“There are plenty of roles that exist to help and support others and the planet (self-transcendent values), roles that are complex, intelligent and outcomes driven (self-enhancement values), and more process-driven and governance focused roles (conservation values). Understanding your values gives you the insight and self-awareness to seek out these roles throughout the agriculture industry.”

The young people moving through the ACTION4YOUTH program have come from diverse education systems and backgrounds and training sessions such as Annie’s are critical to show that traditional pathways to careers are not the only way.

“We are each unique. Our values help us to define our own path to purposeful and fulfilling work and these workshops help us question where we are and where we are going and help us set goals for the future.”

Thanks to NCI funding ACTION4YOUTH can continue to provide participants and facilitators with training opportunities and support young people from all backgrounds and experiences to thrive in a career in agriculture.

Young Farming Champions Muster September 2022

Headline Act

What better way to headline the September Muster (when many of us are still shivering through the tail of winter) than to check in with Bryan Van Wyk as he sends his prawn fleet into warm northern waters. Bryan is a wonderful example of respecting and showcasing those we work with in fishing and agriculture.

“We currently have our fleet of 11 prawn trawlers dispersed across northern Australia over productive “prawn paddocks” ready to deploy their nets for the 2022 tiger prawn season. An incredible amount of behind-the-scenes work goes into getting a fleet like this to sea. I’m talking about a huge collaborative effort from a range of highly skilled contractors, engineers, surveyors, fleet and engineering managers, various suppliers and of course, our crews. We have 60 of the most extraordinary, dedicated, and strongest men and women from all around the world working together to produce some of the highest quality seafood Australia has to offer.

This is the tiger prawn season. Three months at sea catching what many consider to be one of the largest, most premium, and delicious wild caught prawns in the world. At the top of that list sits Skull Island prawns. Skull Island tiger prawns are renowned for their beautiful glossy red colours, versatility in high end dining rooms and sustainability. Primarily sold to Japan, it can fetch a hefty price of up to $100 per kilo retail, but Skull Island prawns are also making their presence felt in Australian domestic markets with many of the country’s best chefs instantly falling in love with the product after cooking with them. Today we raise a glass, salute the people at sea and wish them all a safe and productive 2022 Skull Island season.”

Check out this video starring Bryan talking about the career he loves.

The Team

Despite COVID complications still impacting The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas, our YFC are doing their part to bring agriculture into the classrooms. Emily May made her live radio debut with ABC Illawarra talking about the successful Paddock Pen Pals program.

“I am really passionate about this program, which connects school students in urban areas with upcoming young rural leaders, allowing them to learn about the wonderful world of agriculture.” Well done, Emily.

In the Field

Also on the ABC was Danielle Fordham, alumni officer at Tocal College, speaking with Bridget Murphy from ABC Newcastle in the lead up to the celebration of 50 years of female students at the college.

“Representing the Tocal College Alumni is deep passion of mine, as an ex-student and now staff member. I have been given the tremendous opportunity to connect and promote our fantastic community. This significant milestone is not just a special occasion for the College, but most importantly a significant milestone for ‘Women in Ag’. As a proud woman in ag, I am continually inspired by the legacies of the women who have pathed the way before me and I hope to continue their ambition in breaking barriers and promoting diversity in our community.”

Literally in the field is Lachlan White who is on the tractor preparing summer feed paddocks for his beef cattle in the Hunter. Having learnt best practice pasture management from dairy farmer Butch Smith, Lachlan, who is now a farm manager with a large pastoral company, has all the skills and resources to prepare and sow 500ha of summer millet/brassica. His steers will enjoy the summer feed, alongside paddocks of existing kikuyu.

Last week Young Farming Champion and agronomist Sam O’Rafferty hosted a group of growers and fellow work colleagues to Tasmania for a cropping tour. They visited several farms in the Midlands and North West Coast regions.

It was fantastic to see many different agricultural production systems and see some of the amazing crop yields that are being achieved.

Out of the Field

Out of the field it is show season with many of our YFC involved.

NSW Rural Achiever state finalist, Lucy Collingridge attended the 2022 Narromine Young Woman competition in July. Lucy joined NSW Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Western NSW Dugald Saunders, and 2022 The Land Sydney Royal AgShows NSW Young Woman winner Molly Wright in judging the 2022 competition. Lucy was impressed with the passion and dedication the entrants demonstrated for agriculture and their rural communities:

“all of the entrants are outstanding young women and should be so proud of their contribution to their rural communities and ag industries. It’s opportunities like the Young Woman (formally Showgirl) competition that will continue to develop women across rural NSW who are our future leaders and role models for the next generation”

Katherine Bain, representing Beaufort Show, is one of 11 finalists in the Victorian Rural Ambassador awards for 2022.  Katherine is representing young people in wool. The winner will be announced at the end of September.

Continuing her duties as the 2022 National Rural Ambassador, Dione Howard, attended the Brisbane EKKA in August.

“It was an honour to judge the Qld Rural Ambassador Award and meet ten incredible young people promoting shows, agriculture and rural life. The night show at the EKKA, a tour through Qld Parliament House and an agricultural tour coordinated by AgForce Qld were highlights of a jam-packed few days.”

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Conferences are always a good place for our YFC to meet up and often present to industry.

Katherine Bain teamed up with Katie Barnett in September when they attended the SALRC Livestock 2022 conference.

“It was an exciting two days as we listened to a range of speakers talk about the potential future of livestock from a social and technological standpoint,” Katherine says. “We also got to put our thinking hats on and work through a future scenario about what farms could look like in 15 years. My table was looking at the potential of using robotics on farm, and what the opportunities and restraints of this might be. We got to meet a wide range of people in the livestock industry, from producers to researchers. I would like to thank AWI for sponsoring me to go to this wonderful event.”

Emily May was attended the 2022 Cotton Conference on the Gold Coast in August and was particularly impressed with the session on reversing the rural brain, which included insights on how to attract city kids to agriculture from friend of the YFC Scott Graham. Presenting at the conference were YFCs Liz Lobsey (discussing raingrown cotton) and Connie Mort (discussing new herbicides) while Emma Ayliffe was presented with the ADAMA Chris Lehmann Trust ‘Young Cotton Achiever of the Year’.

Out of the field our YFC are also stepping up to take on industry and media roles.

Florance McGufficke is revelling in her new role with the Vincent Fairfax Foundation as part of the inaugural VFFF Youth Advisory Group.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity and honoured to have been selected to be a member of this amazing group and work with such an influential and passionate organisation. ‘Backing young people’ is where it needs to start and I believe this initiative is going to create numerous opportunities. I am excited to see where this journey will take me and what I can give back to the experience. Thanks to Lynne for sharing and helping me to ‘go for it’.”

 

Young Farming Champion and NSW Rural Ambassador Jess Fearnley has also been busy. As part of her position on the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) she co-hosted a scholars day before the Annual Crawford Conference.

It was rewarding to put my presentation skills and facilitation skills to the test that I learnt with YFC.

As part of the Rural Achiever program we also had the opportunity to head to visit the Royal Adelaide Show on an exchange program to see the behind the scenes of the show!

 

Following in the footsteps of YFC Dione Howard and Sam Wan before her, Emma Turner has been announced as the 2022 WoolProducers Youth Ambassador. As part of the “Raising the Bar” program Emma will gain insights into policy development and board operations at WoolProducers, the national advocacy body for Australian wool growers. Emma currently works as the District Wool Manager for Elders in Mildura.

Jo Newton has been invited to contribute a regular column for Australian Community Media.

“I’m excited by the opportunity to be a regular contributor for Australian Community Media’s publications. It’s important the voices and images we see in media reflect the diversity of people working across the agricultural sector. Not only is it important to have different perspectives represented in media, but also to help young people identify role models and be able to visualise themselves working in food and fibre production.”

Catch Jo’s new column on FarmOnline.

Prime Cuts

The FarmOnline column is a continuation of Jo’s advocacy work. In her role as a research geneticist she travelled to Rotterdam in The Netherlands to attend the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production in July where she co-chaired a session on “Young Scientist Career Development” alongside Dr Marta Godia, Dr Hugo Toledo and Dr Biaty Raymond.

“It was an honour to co-chair the first Young Scientists Session, a valuable and much needed addition to the conference agenda. Our panellists all spoke incredibly honestly and openly about their career journeys including tackling tough topics like mental health and imposter syndrome, which was very inspiring for all in attendance.”

Photo credit European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders/Farm Animal Breeding and Reproduction Technology Platform

 

Lifetime Highlights

Marlee Langfield became Marlee Gallagher in late August when she and Andrew married at The Rustic Maze and Country Garden near Cowra. Check out this beautiful shot starring their beloved dog, Ellie. Congratulations to you both Marlee and Andrew.

Photo credit to Anne Cooper Photography 

 

 

 

Agriculture – supporting A Great Place to Work culture

In their recent paper The employer of choice or a sector without a workforce? Pratley et al listed 27 barriers and challenges agriculture needs to address including:  

Many employers over a long period of time, both on-farm and off-farm, have had an expectation that it is the government’s role to provide appropriately trained labour to their industries free of charge. That is flawed thinking: other sectors seem to engage at all levels of education.

They recommend greater industry investment in education.

At Action4Agriculture we have a secret weapon – our Young Farming Champions. Everyone who meets them wants to work in agriculture

As impressive as our Young Farming Champions are at raising AWARENESS in careers in agriculture, as  McDonald, N et al. (2022), point out in their paper Career development and agriculture: we don’t need a marketing campaign the challenge is to translate AWARENESS into

… initiatives that influence people‘s career explorations, decision-making, choices and actions. Generating public awareness and knowledge about agriculture is one thing but affecting individuals career decisions is an entirely different matter. To design effective interventions to attract and retain staff requires a thorough understanding of how individuals build their careers and the different factors that influence people‘s careers decisions, choices and actions and their job satisfaction and intentions to remain in a job or industry. We need to move beyond simply campaigning for a greater public awareness of an appreciation for the types of work in agriculture.

The Action4Agriculture team are super excited to be given the opportunity through National Careers Institute funding to see what steps are required to turn AWARENESS into ATTRACTION. Visit our website here 

And we all know ATTRACTION in one thing RETENTION is another.

This is where our SUPPORT package comes in for EVERYONE involved including careers advisors, students, mentors and employers

Supporting the students ( NextGen Employees ) and careers advisors will be Liv Pennie and team from Become Education 

Our Young Farming Champions will play a pivotal role in every phase and this week we are supporting them with a workshop with Annie Simpson from Modern People 

In this workshop Annie will explore

● The power of Values & what matters most

● Exploring leading Values frameworks in positive psychology

● Understanding your own Values, and connecting them to your work and life

● Values at work, and finding the role, industry and culture for YOU

● Australia’s topic values, and values through the COVID pandemic

● 7 Traits of Change Readiness & how they show up

● How to embrace change, and grow for the better

We look forward to sharing with you the package we have put together for employers.

#CreatingABetterWorldTogether

Meet Warada – the koala who symbolises resilience and renewal.

Its getting to the pointy end of the 2022 Kreative Koalas Design a Bright Future Challenge and the Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education was excited to share their artwork with the world yesterday

Visit the students Digital Learning Journal here

This is what they had to say

Introducing ‘Warada’ our Kreative Koala.

Her name, Warada is the Darug word for Waratah and she symbolises resilience and renewal.
Please take a minute to read her amazing story of students, plants, community, resilience and renewal…..
Warada has been part of an 18 month project at the Centre, working with primary schools across the Hawkesbury. Her design began in an Aboriginal primary student leader workshop we held with schools in June 2021, exploring native plants of the Hawkesbury and their uses for food, fibre and other uses and an introduction to plant and soil sciences.
We had to cancel the following workshops due to COVID lock downs, however this gave us a new approach. We were able to engage additional students from across the Hawkesbury region in the project through our weekly learning from home challenges. Students researched plants from their local area and presented their learning in artist design, journalistic prose and educational materials. We were able to sustain this program throughout the greater lock down period. We have built a learning website that is connected to Warada which includes the input of all students.
Warada tells the story of plant communities from Bilpin to the floodplains around Londonderry and Windsor Downs. Beginning in Bilpin, at the head of our Warada, with an actual Waratah flower front and centre, and the endangered Gordon’s Wattle inside the ears, which has regrown in the area following the devastating fires when it was feared the species had been wiped out.
Our journey continues along Bells Line of Road, down Warada’s back, through Kurrajong where we have seed-pods, blossoms and leaves of the Kurrajong Tree running down one side of the road, and a Sassafras Scar Tree, from base to canopy, along the other. Across the Hawkesbury River, the road continues towards the Castlereagh, Agnes Banks and Windsor Downs nature reserves where, if you look carefully, you can find the endangered Nodding Geebung blooms and fruits, as well as an endangered yellow pea flower known as the ‘Sydney bush pea’ (Pultenaea Parviflora) and a rare tiny purple ‘Grass lily’ (Murdannia Graminea).
The front of Warada displays a burnt log with a vibrant bud bursting from its centre, mirroring Warada’s meaning. This is flanked by Australia’s beloved Flannel Flowers and Grass Trees.
Warada, and the entire project, proved itself to be about resilience and renewal. We started working with the primary school communities immediately after the bushfires and then the first flood. We worked with them online during lock-down and have connected again between 2022 flood events.
We are fortunate to have some of those students as part of our AGSTEM Yr 7 cohort this year and in 2023.
Congratulations to all the schools of the Hawkesbury and their students, who connected in some way to the Hawkesbury Plant project and the development of Warada.

Agriculture workforce attraction is a marathon not a sprint

As Pratley et al highlight in their excellent paper in 2022 Winter Australian Farm Journal

Australian agriculture is at the crossroads. It is charging
ahead towards its goal of $100 billion gross value
of production (GVP) by 2030 but is compromised in
that endeavour by its limited ability to find a suitable
workforce.

Our Young Farming Champions know its important to engage the next generation in conversations about careers in agriculture as soon as possible

Today Wool Young Farming Champion Katherine Bain had those conversations with 110 Kindergarten students at  Sydney Primary School as part of our Paddock Pen Pals program

Armed with a list of questions provided to teachers by the students, Katherine settled in to share her story of her farm in Victoria

Students wanted to know

  • How big was Katherine’s farm which she explained in comparison to football fields and netball courts
  • How many paddocks and what do all the colours mean. Katherine explained the difference between improved, perennial and native pastures

  • what sort of sheep do you have on your farm? Katherine explained that her farm was very rocky as it was on the site of a former volcano so they had two types of sheep on their farm
    1. Coopworth Sheep from NZ which are bred for their meat and highly suited to rocky terrain
    2. Merino Sheep highly valued for their wool quality

  • the students asked her what she did every day and she talked about how no two days were the same and the variety of jobs on farm. She talked about how she loved working with and learning from her dad. And how she loved being able to take her dogs to work

Meet Lenny, Zip and Carly 

There were lots and lots of questions about Zip

  • The students wanted to know about the difference between human hair and wool

Katherine is very proud that her family has dedicated an area of their farm to protecting endangered native grasslands

“On my farm specifically we do a lot of work in conserving the native grasslands that remain on the property. These grasslands are part of the 1% of the volcanic grasslands that once stretched from Melbourne to near the SA border. We are very lucky to have these grasslands remaining – so we work with botanists and biologists to work out the best ways of preserving and improving these grasslands”

And the questions and answers continued

It was fascinating to be a fly on the wall watching 50 students queue up to ask Katherine questions

  • How do sheep sleep?
  • Is it muddy at your farm?
  • How long does wool grow?
  • Why does wool keep you both cool and warm?
  • Do sheep often get lost?
  • How many steps do sheep walk in one day?
  • How much water do sheep drink in one day?
  • How much grass do sheep eat in one day?
  • Are some sheep naughty?
  • Does wool grow as fast as hair?
  • How heavy do rams get?

Over the past two months our Young Farming Champions have spoken at science conferences across the world, they have presented to students across the Asia Pacific and over the next two weeks they will be talking to kindergarten students.

To have the confidence and capacity to reach such diverse audiences they have had a minimum of two years of intensive training. As Katherine found out its equally rewarding talking to six year olds as it it sharing scientific research.

As the below graphic and statistics show having role models like Katherine engaging with the next generation are pivotal to raising awareness that there is a career for them in agriculture.

As Pratley et al highlight employment offerings on-farm show no signs of declining or levelling off. (See above graphic) Rather, they have intensified. On-farm over the period of 2015 to 2021 inclusive, the demand for management personnel, based on internet advertisements, increased by over 160%
and for non-management staff by around 77%.

The increase for on-farm staff overall increased by 53% in 2021 over that for 2020. In agribusiness, i.e. off-farm professional employment, the demand increased by 44% over the six-year period and by 70% in 2021
over 2020.

These increases seem extraordinary.

The question we ask is are we leveraging all the opportunities we have at our disposal to engage with the next generation from K to 12 and beyond?

Are we ready to see it as a marathon not a sprint?

Are we ready for best practice?

You can read Katherine’s story in Graziher magazine here 

 

Mini-Me: How Paddock Pen Pals is creating junior Young Farming Champions

Three years ago teacher Zoe Stephens and Action4Agriculture program director Lynne Strong  introduced a new way of connecting school students with young professionals working in agriculture. Called Paddock Pen Pals the program utilised online audio and web conferencing to beam Young Farming Champions (YFC) directly into the classroom.

Paddock Pen Pals was launched at Sydney’s Carlingford West Public School, a large inner-west primary school with a high percentage of English-second-language students, where 300 Year 6 students gained insights into sheep and the wool supply chain from YFCs Danila Marini, Dione Howard, Sam Wan and Chloe Dutschke.

At the time Zoe Stephens was a teacher at Carlingford West:

“Many of my students have little time outside and have never visited a farm. In order to make their learning relevant, I wanted to connect them to real farmers to share what they have learnt and see what real farms are actually doing in Australia.”

Paddock Pen Pals has been an enormous success, particularly as COVID curtailed excursions and face-to-face interactions. It has involved a range of Young Farming Champions across diverse sectors of agriculture and inspired students from a diverse range of schools. Relationships forged in 2019 continue with Carlingford West Public School participating again this year.

Our relationship with Zoe Stephens has also continued. Zoe now delivers teaching and learning programs for the City Country Alliance of Schools and has recommended Paddock Pen Pals to 60 new schools. She has even written a Paddock Pen Pals Best Practice manual for teachers just as Young Farming Champion Emily May has written a manual for fellow YFC.

Recently Action4Agriculture  program director Lynne Strong introduced Zoe to A4A’s long-term friend and fellow farm blogger Alison Rutledge. Prior to her daughters starting school, Alison created KT’s Farm Life to connect young people in the city to the paddock through the eyes of her then 4 year old daughter

Since Alison’s daughters started school Alison has been coordinating kitchen gardening at St Raphael’s Catholic School at Cowra, in central-west New South Wales.

Keen to support Zoe’s work connecting country and city schools Alison devised Paddock Pen Pals with a twist. Influenced by our Young Farming Champions she asked her own daughters – Kaitlyn (KT) now 15 and Erin now 10 to create a video showing life on their farm with their 3000 sheep, 200 cows, 13 chooks and working dogs, showing typical activities such bottle-feeding poddy lambs, hay-feeding cattle and delivering new-born calves.

You can catch Kaitlyn and Erin’s wonderful version of Paddock Pen Pals here.

Beautiful new friendships are now being developed on the back of the video as students from different schools swap letters and share stories; a lasting legacy of the Paddock Pen Pals program and the Young Farming Champions who have inspired Mini-Mes.

 

More good news for our koalas from Raymond Terrace Public School

Following on from our blog on Warrawee Care Centre and their student’s work to save koalas and support Port Stephens Koala Hospital, we have more good news to share.

Back in the 2019 edition of Kreative Koalas Raymond Terrace Public School was awarded Grand Champion Koala for their vibrantly decorated, life-sized fibreglass koala named Mitjigan Guula, which means girl koala in Worimi language. In collaboration with their Aboriginal Girl’s Group the school incorporated indigenous designs on their artwork to look at the effects of climate change on koala populations. And, in what unfortunately proved to be timely, the koala portrayed how inaction on climate change can lead to devastating bushfires.

The students donated their Grand Champion prize money and Mitjigan Guula to the Port Stephens Koala Hospital.

In 2020 Raymond Terrace Public School continued their Kreative Koala journey by investigating traditional aboriginal methods of firestick farming and modern issues around bushfires, especially in regards to the plight of the koala. In 2020 the school was awarded joint winner of best artwork.

Roll forward to 2022 and on August 11, the Port Stephens Koala Hospital was officially opened with special guest Hon. Tanya Plibersek, Federal Minister for Environment and Water – and Mya Bolte and Kytaya Bolt-Wells who were part of the 2019 Raymond Terrace Kreative Koala entry.

Mya and Kytaya now attend Hunter River High School and were invited to the opening ceremony in recognition of their work to protect koalas. They were called on stage where Port Stephens Koala Hospital Ron Land thanked them for the school’s custodianship and donations. In return, Kytaya spoke a few words of thanks.

While we here at Action4Agriculture like to share good news stories such as this, it is estimated there are only 250-300 koalas left in the Port Stephens area and that, without intervention, they could be extinct in NSW by 2050. Our Kreative Koala kids can lead us all on a journey of koala recovery.

#kreativekoalakids #youthvoices #creatingabetterworldtogether

How Warrawee Care Centre uses Kreative Koalas to save our koalas and embed lasting change

A concern for the future of koalas has inspired students at Warrawee Care Centre to use Kreative Koalas as a tool to “learn more, raise awareness and be heard”, which has allowed them to create a legacy for their school and community.

Warrawee Care Centre is an outside of school hours (OOSH) service located on the grounds of Warrawee Public School in northern Sydney, which empowers students to plan experiences alongside educators. Over the COVID-strangled years from 2020 to 2022, 100 students developed a community action plan called “Save Our Koalas”.

“Our project began with the bushfires of 2019 and an interested group of children who watched the news and learnt of the plight of the koalas across the eastern coastal areas of NSW. They came to staff keen to make a difference and have their voices heard and within a week were actioning a way to raise awareness and funds to support the koalas.”

Guided by Sustainable Development Goals 13 Climate Action and 15 Life on Land, Warrawee students set three goals of their own to learn about koalas, raise awareness and establish partnerships with koala-friendly organisations.

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In order to increase their knowledge they collaborated with a range of people and organisations. They invited local veterinarian Prue Honson to speak to them about the effects of the fires on koalas, they visited the Koala Park Sanctuary at West Pennant Hills to learn about koala habitat and they connected with the Port Stephens Koala Hospital to learn how to care for injured koalas.

Collaboration continued when Warrawee reached out to Clovelly OOSH that was also campaigning for koalas. The two centres set up a pen pal program and children shared research and posters. Another pen pal program encouraged care and awareness in families and community:

“Children developed a family pen pal program during the COVID 2021 lockdown in which we had 8 koala soft toys that visited children’s homes for the weekend. Children then researched about koalas, created a koala shelter and took a photo then added the photo and what they had learnt into a scrapbook. This allowed our SAVE THE KOALA campaign to continue and for families to be involved. Our koalas visited over 60 homes and raised awareness in many households!”

Students raised $890 by holding market stalls and selling donated koala merchandise. They researched how best to invest their funds and once again connected with the Port Stephens Koala Hospital.

 

“We now sponsor four koalas each year and when our current koalas are released we vote on which new koala to adopt. The legacy of the SAVE THE KOALA campaign lives on!”

COVID created many challenges for the students of Warrawee Care Centre. Lockdowns meant schools were closed and their Kreative Koalas project extended over two years. It also meant a cohort of students leaving the Care Centre (for high school) and leaving specific projects (such as a website) uncompleted. But despite the setbacks the staff reflected on success.

“Children learnt how valued their collective voices could be and the importance of speaking out when you are passionate about something. The plight of our koalas and the link with Port Stephens Koalas is now part of our service culture and something that children will continue to talk about for years to come. The legacy of the Kreative Koala project will live on visually through our giant painted koala, our wall displays and our sponsorship budget.

 

“Overall, the Kreative Koalas program has been a rewarding and empowering experience. When educators were ready to stop, the children kept driving the project forward. They investigated, researched and advocated for SAVE THE KOALAS and through community involvement, educator collaboration and family engagement are one step closer to helping the koalas in NSW.”

Through child-led learning, facilitated by Kreative Koalas, the students of Warrawee Care Centre have taken an idea from the ashes of the 2019 bushfires and used their voices to make a difference. They set and met goals to increase their knowledge, raise awareness in their community and create a lasting legacy with Port Stephens Koala Hospital. Warrawee students and staff represent the Kreative Koalas program at its finest.

 #KreativeKoalas #YouthVoices #EndangeredSpecies 

Are you a young person with a big idea that will help other young people in rural and regional Australia take action?

If you are a  young person with a big idea that will help other young people take action then the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation’s new granting program Backing the Future, with one-off, $50,000 grants to individuals 18+ whose work is focused on rural and regional young people might be just what you need to get your big idea to the proof of concept stage.

These grants are designed to back individuals researching, piloting or accelerating early-stage, innovative ideas aligned to one of the Foundation’s four focus areas: Caring for the Environment, Contributing to Society, Decent Work and Exploring Christian Faith and Values.

This is a unique opportunity for individuals to access funding to take their ideas to the next level. The Foundation is particularly excited to read applications from young people.

This web page provides an overview of Backing the Future and how to apply.

Applications close Wednesday 31 August 2022.

#YouthVoices #YouthAction #BackingtheFuture