Action4Agriculture’s primary school program Kreative Koalas allows us to connect with a diverse and inspirational range of environmental ambassadors, a perfect example of this is Wingecarribee Shire Council’s coordinator of Sustainability Services, Cecilia Kemp. Cecilia works with our Kreative Koala schools in the NSW Southern Highlands and is producing a suite of programs to showcase sustainability to both students and their communities.
Cecilia’s story begins in Sweden with chapters in Switzerland, Scotland and England before her eventual move to Australia in 2003, and it was the early days that influenced her to strive for a sustainable world.
“Swedish culture is strongly aligned with the natural environment and it is deeply ingrained in us and our folklore. It was normal for us to spend time out in nature but one of the things that really triggered my interest was a German teacher at my international school in Switzerland. While teaching us the German language she would always use quotes and texts from environmental sources. Her daughter worked for Greenpeace and, as an early teen, I thought that was the kind of job for me.
“I’ve always been fascinated by injustice and I think a lot of what I do is deeply rooted in that. I was the annoying kid who spoke up when she saw something wrong and said ‘we shouldn’t be doing that’ and it’s evolved into an adult passion where I like to bring issues to the public attention – things we can do better.”
With a Bachelor of Environmental Science from the University of Edinburgh and a Masters in Engineering Studies (focussed on power generation and climate change) from the University of Sydney, Cecilia’s career has seen her champion sustainability with everyone from Clean Up Australia, to state government and local councils. In 2019 she took on her current role with Wingecarribee Shire Council.
One of her initial tasks was to overhaul the annual School’s Environment Day, which at the time “involved 600 students and was bigger than Ben Hur.” Cecilia reimagined the day as one of immersive activities and adventure learning for a smaller number of students to be held in the bush at Camp Wombaroo. The first School’s Environment Day in the new format will be run in May catering for 200 students, with the second to be held later in the year allowing 200 more local students to participate.
Another initiative under Cecilia’s direction is Sustainable Us, designed as a community engagement project to address impact on the environment and actions that can be taken to mitigate climate change.
The project includes a series of 12 videos and will feature Hilltop Public School, who broke new ground in 2021 by using Kreative Koalas as a catalyst to report on education for sustainability.
Hilltop is a tiny community but every community in the world will be affected by climate change and these kids had already produced a video to highlight it in the context of their own space, and they’re sharing these stories with their parents and grandparents and community members. What they are doing is fantastic and we will feature them in the Sustainable Us episode about community to illustrate how we can come together and make a big difference,” Cecilia says.
Read our case study on Hilltop Public School here
Watch the first video in the Sustainable US series here
Alongside the School’s Environment Day and Sustainable Us, Southern Highland’s schools, including Kreative Koalas participant Robertson Public School, benefit in other ways from Cecilia’s proactive approach.
“We send newsletters to all the schools in the Shire at the start of every term, flagging the resources that we have available to help teach a sustainable lifestyle. We offer workshops, and presentations on the local water cycle and the local impacts of climate change, run recycled art competitions and we were the first regional council to offer the Solar My School program to schools.”
“There is no silver bullet to address our environmental impact but its important people know that switching off the lights when you leave a room is just as powerful as buying a Tesla. Nobody should feel excluded based on their financial or physical ability. It’s just a case of being a bit more resourceful with what we have.”
When it comes to being resourceful Cecilia and her team are well ahead of the curve, and the benefits to our Kreative Koalas schools will be endless. We look forward to continuing and building this association for years to come and congratulate Wingecarribee Shire Council on its initiatives that educate and inspire us all to lead a better life for our planet.