ACTION4YOUTH – Taking a whole of school approach to support disadvantaged youth into careers in agriculture

 

The Illawarra and Shoalhaven have some of the highest youth unemployment numbers in New South Wales with an average unemployment rate of 11.7% – and as high as 17.6% – in some parts of the regions. Action4Agriculture is on a mission to address these frightening statistics and support our disadvantaged youth into agricultural careers. They will do this through a new program called ACTION4YOUTH and a grant received from the National Careers Institute.

 

In the first school term of 2023 ACTION4YOUTH’s EXPLORE-CONNECT-SUPPORT program will roll out in ten schools across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven that have identified a percentage of disadvantaged youth in their school population.

In addition, ACTION4YOUTH will be working with the youth-employment-focused  Shoalhaven Community Investment Committee, led by Mission Australia and supported by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, to reach NEET (not in education, employment or training) youth and give them the same opportunities as those in mainstream education.

 

The EXPLORE phase of the program will introduce young people to the wool, dairy and fishing industries, connect them to Young Farming Champions (early-career professionals working in the agriculture sector), give them access to the Become Education app and facilitate personalised sessions with careers counsellors.

 

Those showing an interest in working on-farm/on-boat will progress to the CONNECT phase, which will connect them with businesses from wool, dairy and fishing for structured discussions on careers and career pathways in these industries.

 

The final phase – SUPPORT – will provide training and work experience over a six month period and give youth access to the Dale Carnegie Next Generation course, designed specifically to build and strengthen soft and life skills in order to give them the highest chance of career success.

 

Federal Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP believes the ACTION4YOUTH program has the potential to make a real difference in the local community

“I am thrilled to support the ACTION4YOUTH program, which will provide young people in our community with valuable opportunities to explore the dairy, fishing and wool industries, connect with early-career professionals, and receive personalised career guidance. With the support of Become Education and key industry partners, I have no doubt that this program will make a real difference in the lives of our youth and help them achieve their full potential in dynamic and diverse careers right here on the NSW South Coast.” Federal Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP

L-R Liv Pennie (CEO of Become Education ) Bronwyn Hilaire Bomaderry High School, Fiona Phillips MP, Holly Pastor Bomaderry High School, Danii Fordham Tocal College Alumni Officer

 

ACTION4YOUTH has partnered with Become Education to deliver 21st century careers advise and pathway creation, and to fill the void where schools do not have careers advisors.

“Research shows that young people have a narrow idea of the world of work. They can hold simplistic or outdated ideas of careers. Agriculture is a prime example of a dynamic, changing and diverse field that is open to students of all backgrounds and interests. Agriculture can offer engaging careers for those with specialty knowledge from engineering to agribusiness, plant and animal systems, logistics, ecology, production processes and technology – to name only a few,” Liv Pennie, CEO and Founder of Become Education says.

Even before its commencement ACTION4YOUTH has gained the attention of international stakeholders, including Chris Webb, careers consultant for England’s University of Huddersfield and host of the #WeAreCareers Show, who writes:

“For me, this is a brilliant way to empower young people with career management skills and support them and their parents/carers to navigate an increasingly chaotic world, as well as mitigate the sense of ‘information overload’ that we so often hear as careers professionals.”

 

Action4Youth’s key business connections are Australian Wool Innovation, Dairy Australia and Austral Fisheries.

 

From The Archibull Prize to Young Farming Champion – how Action4Agriculture works for Danielle Fordham

Traditionally agriculture has not conducted longitudinal studies following the journey of participants in its agricultural awareness programs. We look forward to that changing.

Today’s story is very rewarding for our organisation. Our journalist the wonderful Mandy McKeesick interviewed Danielle Fordham who we first met over 12 years ago when she participated in The Archibull Prize during secondary school

 

Young Farming Champion Danielle Fordham (centre front row ) inspiring the next generation of agriculturalists to follow in her footsteps 

Background

Action4Agriculture offers a holistic suite of programs designed to inspire and empower agricultural advocates and leaders. We realise this is not a sprint but a marathon that requires long-term commitment from ourselves, our partners and, most of all, the young people we want to inspire and cultivate.

Danielle Fordham is the perfect example of how the programs and training come together. She was first exposed to Action4Agiculture through The Archibull Prize at Caroline Chisholm College and in 2022 became a Young Farming Champion sponsored by Hunter Local Land Services. As our new program, Action4Youth, readies for roll-out in 2023, Danielle has already been involved – sharing her agricultural journey with students as part of a pilot program at Lake Illawarra High School.

This is Danielle’s Action4Agriculture story ……

Danielle, you were part of the team from Caroline Chisholm College that was named Grand Champion Archibull in 2011 with the wonderful Rubick’s Cube inspired creation “Moobix Cube”. Can you tell us about your Archibull experience?

I was part of The Archibull Prize in 2011 and 2012 and the experience was incredible. It connected my learnings in the classroom to the real world. As a cohort, my friends and I loved participating, bonding and getting to meet like-minded people our own age who shared the same passions.

I enjoyed researching issues such as how to feed a growing population, learning more about cow by-products (did you know cow parts are used in cosmetics and medicine?) and showcasing the trophy-worthy dairy and red-meat industries. It was great to come up with creative ideas to communicate these issues and showcase agriculture in a new light to the wider public.

The experience opened my eyes to the endless opportunities in agriculture and it cemented my interest and career ambitions in the agricultural field. Most importantly The Archibull Prize connected me with the brilliant organisation that is Action4Agriculture (previously Art4Agriculture) and the opportunities it has provided me.

 

Since high school you’ve become a poster girl for the diversity of Australian agriculture, undertaking a business traineeship, attending Tocal Agricultural College (Double Dux!!), working in agribusiness, studying an environmental university degree and working as the Alumni Officer at Tocal. How did it feel to add Young Farming Champion (YFC) to your resume in 2022?

 

It was deeply empowering to be selected as a Young Farming Champion. I was struggling to find my connection back to the agricultural industry as I had moved into the environmental science sector and the YFC program provided the best opportunity to combine the two.

The experiences and workshops provided by Action4Agriculutre as a YFC have strengthened my confidence and ability to a stand as a clear, trusted voice in agriculture. I want to make a positive impact on agriculture and support the community, and YFC has enabled me to do this and more. YFC has broadened my horizons and I feel I can go further with my career than I ever imagined.

 

And, specifically, what skills has the YFC program given you?

The YFC program has taught me essential skills such as how to be an effective communicator, how to be an inspirational speaker and presenter and how to efficiently manage my time. The program has given me a network of peers and industry and community contacts.

Through YFC I have converted my passion for agriculture into a vehicle to empower other young people, such as my students at Tocal Agricultural College.

 

In 2023 we are launching Action4Youth, which aims to introduce disadvantaged young people to career pathways in agriculture. You participated in a pilot program at Lake Illawarra High School last year. What was that like?

It felt incredibly rewarding to be able to connect with students who were like me: interested in agriculture but who didn’t grow up on a farm or have the money to study agriculture straight out of school.

I was able to share my story and empower the students to think outside the square. I could assure them there are plenty of opportunities out there after school and, as a living example, that you are not limited by your HSC or ATAR results. If you are passionate about a career or lifestyle, there is nothing stopping you. You have just got to keep looking for your next step and embrace the skills and lessons you learn along the way.

Additionally, I was equally inspired by the Lake Illawarra students and their tenacity and enthusiasm. It was great to learn from each other and feel connected to the future of agriculture and our communities.

Young Farming Champions Lachie White and Danii Fordham were a big hit with students and teachers at Lake Illawarra High School  

Overall, how do you feel the Action4Agriculture programs align with your aspirations for your own career?

The Action4Agriculture programs align with my aspirations of being a clear, trusted and influential leader in the sustainable agriculture field in two particular arenas: marrying agriculture and science, and promoting women.

The environmental world is in turmoil with global issues of climate change, ocean acidification, food and resource insecurity, habitat destruction, and contamination. These issues threaten all our livelihoods and existence; and this make creating a future we all want to be part of a shared responsibility.  Agriculture is a key industry in combating and controlling these issues with opportunities in technological innovation, sustainable and regenerative practices, environment restoration, carbon capture and rehabilitation integration. The opportunities for agriculture to be part of the solution are endless.

To create these solutions it is vital to strengthen the connection and relationship between agriculture and science and I plan to do this by promoting sustainable agriculture.

Championing women in agriculture and science is also a passion of mine and in 2022 I organised an event to recognise 50 years of female students at Tocal College. By telling my own story and connecting with like-minded women we can overcome social challenges and promote equality.

Action4Agriculture’s ethos and opportunities to connect directly with the next generation and particularly the training and networking received as a Young Farming Champion enables me to effectively communicate these challenges and find the solutions we all need.

 

 

Meet Ryan McParland who has discovered PEOPLE are the biggest challenge for changemakers

Earlier this week our wonderful journalist profiled our newest Young Farming Champion, Ryan McParland. That post has provide to be one of our most popular ever

 

Today Ryan shares his personal story ……………

Troy, Shaun, DIanne and Ryan McParland 

I grew up on a small dairy farm near Jamberoo, which turned into a commercial beef cattle enterprise as my parents left the dairy sector due to economic pressures of deregulation and urban encroachment in the early 2000s.

My entire family has been involved in the agricultural show movement for many generations and I had exposure to showing cattle and helping at our local Albion Park show from a very young age. My parents were also heavily involved in the local Rural Youth /Junior Farmers clubs, which ceased operation around 2006. In 2007, to keep me connected to the show movement, they bought me a trio of Rhode Island Reds, which led me to joining the Dapto Poultry Club. With the support of many mentors I have learnt about breeding and showing poultry and progressed through the young judges’ competitions. I am now president of the club.

“Four generations of our family have showed, so you can definitely say it is in my blood,”

I also shared the family passion for showing farm produce, which led to judging appointments. In 2016 I won the NSW Poultry Judging Championship and the NSW Fruit and Vegetable Judging Competition in the space of three days. I have a love of learning and judging and sharing this knowledge with others.

In 2013 I started a cadetship as a mechanical engineer with BlueScope Steel, studying at University of Wollongong. In that first year of employment I realised how important my agricultural and show background, as well as volunteer exposure, were to my engineering work ethic and success.

Conversely my work with the steelworks assists the show movement and the connection between agriculture and industry and with BlueScope’s support and sponsorship I kicked off the Illawarra Young Farmers Challenge in 2014, which has now run in some capacity for nine years.

In 2017, through my work, I took a 12-month study exchange to the University of Colorado, an experience rewarding for my studies and my own development – before I left I probably was considered still a young country boy, with not many road skills. Things have certainly changed!

While in America I attended State Fairs, Poultry and Cattle Shows and learnt about 4H and Young Farmer Programs. This inspired me, on my return home in 2018, to start a youth group of similar minded people who had an interest in agriculture and, in particular showing, and to see if we could resurrect a youth in ag group and keep the show movement alive.

We started the Albion Park Show Youth Group, which quickly expanded to include people from all over the south coast and in 2020 formed “The Ag Group – South Coast & Tablelands” covers show societies bounded by Milton to the south, Moss Vale to the west and Camden to the north.

Oh, boy – what a time to start a new movement – a combination of COVID and extreme weather events resulted in most shows being cancelled for three years.

But our journey has taken us from strength to strength with a lot of challenges and a lot of doubters and I have realised the biggest challenge can be managing people. I have been able to identify the challenges of engaging and motivating youth volunteers for the agricultural show movement and with this knowledge I have confidence we can bolster volunteer numbers in all agricultural shows.

My leadership journey has taught me I too need to role model best practice

I recently chaired a meeting where I had to stop myself from blocking an idea from a new member. I regained my thoughts and was able to channel their energy and direct their idea into something that they can own and still meet the club’s requirements. We have to remind ourselves someone fresh on a committee is not going to know the history of the club/society, pre-context, what has been tried before, etc., BUT they can offer a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and energy. As a snr or experienced person in a committee, you have to take it on yourself  to guide, to use open ended questions, explain the past, and self-reflect to make sure the reason you may disagree is in the club best interest not your own.

 

My motivation for continuing this work is to promote positive perceptions of the rural sector and of rural volunteering and to learn to work with and influence others for the benefit of all.

Meet Ryan McParland who is helping young people create and drive youth led organisations

The agricultural show has been part of the Australian landscape since the 1820s, providing a vital connection and
conversation between the city and the bush. Over the years the show has struggled to retain its relevance in a changing
world but Ryan McParland is leading a charge of young people determined to modernise and revolutionise this mainstay of
agricultural pride. With Ryan at the helm the enthusiasm of youth from both urban and rural environments is married to the
wisdom and experience of age, and all in the show world are coming along for the ride.

Ryan McParland with his father Shaun at Government House 

Action4Agriculture director Lynne Strong recently spent a number of weeks working with Ryan McParland at agricultural shows in the Illawarra. She has been inspired by his vision for building a cohort of committed youth volunteers who can support rural and regional Australia.

“The leadership journey begins with knowing how to lead yourself, then to lead teams and finally to lead systems. I believe Ryan has the capacity to not only lead systems but to drive meaningful change within Australian agriculture. He has the skills to create a movement and also the skills to gather around him the role models, mentors, champions and funding partners that he needs to be successful,” Lynne Strong CEO Action4Agriculture

Ryan grew up on a Jamberoo dairy farm and his family have always been strong supporters of the agricultural show movement, including the now-defunct Rural Youth program.

“The McParland name is synonymous with Albion Park Show and I got to know Ryan when he was still in school and would come to show meetings [at age 15 Ryan was the youngest member ever of the Albion Park Show]. I’ve watched his development, seen the beginning of his career with the steelworks and been fascinated by his never-ending enthusiasm for agriculture”  says Colin Hollis former MP and show committee stalwart.

Ryan’s road to honorary Young Farming Champion is differentiated by the fact he does not work in agriculture; instead Ryan is a mechanical engineer with BlueScope Steel and a tireless volunteer for agricultural shows in his spare time. Harry Murphy is Ryan’s boss at BlueScope and understands the tightrope Ryan often walks.

“We work a nine day fortnight where Ryan puts in longer days but that works for him because he then has a four day weekend for his show commitments. He’s a very skilled and keen young engineer who’s a very systematic thinker with excellent time management, and we lean on those skills in our business. He’s learned a lot of those skills through his involvement with agricultural shows, which makes him well ahead of the curve for someone of his age and experience,” Harry Murphy, Manager  Energy Services Asset Development, Digital, Services and Manufacturing Excellence

Ryan, who has been with BlueScope since he began a cadetship ten years ago sees a flow between his agricultural world and his engineering one.

“Growing up on a farm you realise things don’t always go as planned, things change, and you develop a mindset of adapting and getting on and getting the job done. You deal with many different people at the shows and this develops leadership skills. I think that goes a long way towards shaping my career.

“But in the reverse, there’s a big safety and risk management culture at the steelworks that when combined with the structure, critical and creative thinking, people management and problem solving that comes with engineering, can be transferred to agriculture,” Ryan says.

The benefits are also material ones with BlueScope sponsoring Ryan’s show work.

“BlueScope has a vision of industry and agriculture being connected and they see there’s a pathway of bringing people into both industries,” he says.

Carmen Martinago is a McParland family friend who knew Ryan while she also worked at BlueScope, and it is her own volunteer work with Albion Park Show since her retirement that has brought her into a closer working relationship with him. She has watched as he inspires volunteers at their local show, converting them to committee members, and liaises with groups such as the Wollongong Camera Club to leverage benefits to all.

“Ryan has got that combination of having very good ideas and having the boundless energy to actually bring those ideas to fruition. He does this by bringing other people along with him – he’s got this lovely collaborative approach – and he truly acts as a leader; even the older members of the committee become part of the journey,” Carmen Martinago former Learning and Development Manager BlueScope

Over the years Ryan has held just about every position available within agricultural shows but his passion is a modernised revival of Rural Youth, which he has developed into The Ag Group (TAG). His enthusiasm for the project was one of the reasons he was chosen as a RAS Rural Achiever in 2020/2021, joining one of our original YFC: Dione Howard.

“Ryan is a fantastic role model to young members of the agricultural show movement – he takes the time to show youngsters all there is to showing (livestock, poultry) and ways they can volunteer to ensure that the show movement thrives.

At Sydney Royal I very much enjoyed seeing Ryan in his element within the show community who gets behind him and likewise who he supports. Ryan is a natural choice to be an honorary Young Farming Champion, with a career outside of agriculture and a passion and great success within the sector.” Dione Howard, National Rural Ambassador

 

Young Farming Champion Katie Barnett has been selected for NSW Government Regional Youth Taskforce

We are super excited to announce Young Farming Champion Katie Barnett has been selected as one of 18 young people for the NSW Government Regional Youth Taskforce. We look forward to sharing with you the big issues that Katie will advocate for

In the meantime you can learn more about the taskforce below

Press Release

New taskforce to advocate for regional youth

Published: 19 Jan 2023

Released by: Minister for Regional Youth

The Regional Youth Taskforce will get a brand-new look with Minister for Regional Youth Ben Franklin announcing 18 new young leaders from across regional NSW who will advocate for their peers and deliver positive outcomes for young people.

Mr Franklin and Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall met with 2 of the new members in Uralla and said the Taskforce will provide policy and operational advice to the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government to advance the needs of young people in the regions.

“This group has been selected from more than 140 applicants, and includes two young people from each of the State’s 9 regions who will meet throughout the year to focus on the NSW Regional Youth Framework pillars: work readiness, wellbeing, connectivity and community,” Mr Franklin said.

“Throughout the year the Taskforce will join me and senior representatives from Government and its agencies to have their say about services, programs and infrastructure that is important to them.

“The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government knows there’s no better way to be informed on the issues that matter to young people in regional and rural NSW than to hear them directly from this exceptional group of young people.

“In the role, our 18 new members will hone their skills in driving policy change, advocate for real outcomes for young people, and provide a voice for regional youth within the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government.

Katie Barnett from Kentucky says she’s thrilled to represent rural and regional Australia and, most importantly, her region of New England North West.

“I feel privileged to have this opportunity and am looking forward to my time on the 2023 Regional Youth Taskforce. I’d like to see more opportunities for young people in my community including more employment, better housing and education,” Ms Barnett said.

Fellow Taskforce Member Jack Lyon echoed her sentiments.

“Young people, no matter what walk of life they come from, deserve more opportunities and better outcomes in the future than they have now,” Mr Lyon said.

“I want to see more work ready outcomes, youth empowerment, a stronger sense of community and perhaps a different focus for how to prevent youth mental health problems.”

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall congratulated Katie and Jack on their appointment.

“Kate and Jack will be excellent ambassadors and advocates for the needs of our region and their peers – I wish them every success,” Mr Marshall said.

Mr Franklin thanked the outgoing 2022 Regional Youth Taskforce for their input guiding major NSW Government policy decisions.

“Some of the 2022 Taskforce’s achievements include raising awareness of the need for more mental health support for regional young people, improving messaging to youth about the harms of vaping and inclusion and awareness for LGBTQIA+ young people living in the regions,” Mr Franklin said.

“I congratulate the members of the new 2023 Taskforce and look forward to working with them and hearing their views on how the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government can continue to serve young people across regional NSW.”

Get more information on the Regional Youth Taskforce.

How to deal with difficult people

This post comes to you from Action4Agriculture’s program manager

I have just signed up for a workshop with Amy Gallo,  an international expert in dealing with difficult people

Lets be honest with ourselves we can all be difficult to deal with if some-one touches the wrong buttons at the wrong time.

I manage a capability building program for young people who are “doers” and changemakers

I often find myself fielding calls asking for advice on how to handle people who are resistant to change

The first thing I say is “This is not my area of expertise”

Whilst I have done multiple workshops across the world with world class experts like Amy. Its one thing to learn the theory, its another to put into into practice, another to find safe spaces to practice it and the mega important one finding the role models in the Compassion Curiosity Framework space  that you can surround yourself with, learn from and channel when you need to

What my years of training has allowed me to do is identify the people who do it well and they make my heart sing

I saw an extraordinary example when I watched Series 12 Episode 2 of Call the Midwife recently

This 4 min video collates the scenes that I am referring to. Watch how Sister Julienne role models the Compassionate Curiosity Framework ( hear Kwame Christian talk about the framework here )

1. Acknowledging emotion

2. Getting curious with compassion

3. Engaging in joint problem solving

Reflections on 2022 from our Young Farming Champions Leadership Team

As we venture forth into a new year and put some distance between ourselves and the lockdowns, restrictions and online world of the pandemic, we want to take a moment to reflect on the Young Farming Champions (YFC) program and lessons learnt in 2022. We spoke with four YFC alumni – Jo Newton, Dione Howard, Franny Earp and Emily May – to get their impressions of the year that was. We found that the highlights have been mentoring from a supportive community, while a wish-list includes face-to-face workshops (or conferences) and long-term funding to secure the future of the program.

What made you proud about being a YFC in 2022?

Dione: “I am proud of the mentoring relationships that have been developed and continued this year between YFC alumni and new program participants. The support extends beyond the program and its workshops, to mentoring throughout many big life decisions that our YFC are making.”

Jo: “Peer-to-peer mentoring was particularly evident in the preparation of school presentations, with YFC presenting in front of one another and providing advice and support to each other.”

Franny: “The YFC community is a supportive space that allows for mentorship and collaboration. I have experienced this community both in terms of YFC activities such as workshops and school presentations, but I have also experienced the community on a personal level through the new friendships I have formed within the YFC community.”

Emily: “I was proud of the way many YFC stepped up this year and embarked on school presentations as part of the Paddock Pen Pals Program and I was especially proud of the YFC who mentored their fellow YFC.”

 

A big part of YFC is the Innovation Hub (iHub) where YFC get to workshop big ideas. What did this look like in 2022?

Jo: “Having been a YFC since 2013, this year I am most proud of watching newer YFC like Emily and Franny step up and become involved with the iHub and continue their own leadership journeys.”

Dione: “For the iHub, I am proud of the ongoing efforts to deliver Paddock Pen Pals [into schools] and connect with students across Australia. It is the perfect representation of how Action4Agriculture and YFC have adapted during challenging times over the past few years.”

Franny: “Over the year the iHub has experienced many changes including additions to the leadership team and the structure of the hub. I am proud of the way that iHub operates as a ‘flat’ hierarchy ( holacracy), which allows for each member to assume different roles and responsibilities that speak to them and their interests. I believe this ‘flat’ structure will continue to improve the hub’s communication and coordination.”

Emily: “While navigating the change in the iHub structure we were able to host various sessions and support our fellow YFC despite being a very small team of volunteers. This was very fulfilling and rewarding to be a part of.”

 

Image source 

 

It feels like everyone is a bit over online learning after the pandemic. What things could be done differently to improve YFC and the iHub?

Dione: “I would love to see YFC have the opportunity to attend a face-to-face workshop. The life skills and friendships I have made from face-to-face YFC workshops over the years will stay with me forever.”

Jo: “I think we could probably improve the on-boarding process for new iHub members to help them understand how it works.”

Franny: “I also feel that it would be helpful to provide an on-boarding activity to iHub. As a new member this year, a clearer vision of what iHub hopes to achieve and clear action points would lead to significant change.”

Emily: “I believe more regular accountability workshops would be of benefit. This would allow us to understand everyone’s work and stress loads and evaluate people who may either need a bit of a break to unwind or may need a bit more additional support during busy times. It also provides a structured session for a bit of a debrief, which we all need from time to time in a safe environment.”

 

What would you do if you could wave your magic wand for YFC?

Jo: “If I had a magic wand I’d provide long-term stable funding to the YFC program as it truly is one-of-a-kind in its approach to building capacity and supporting the development in agriculture’s current and future leaders.”

Dione: “I would wave my magic wand for ongoing funding for YFC, face-to-face workshops and the travel to get there – how many waves does the wand get? It would also be ideal to have administrative support for Lynne for the YFC – everything from on-boarding to following up RSVPs and presentation preparation.”

Franny: “I would love to see an in-person event. In my ideal world, we would have a conference-like event that went for several days and included both workshops as well as opportunities for YFC members to present their own research/work.”

Emily: “My favourite and the most rewarding part of the whole YFC family is the impact I can have on those around me through sharing my experiences and assisting others to follow their goals. While encouraging people to do this is always difficult, having a system that more heavily encourages the giving back portion may just be the push some people need to get them to step up and experience the sense of fulfilment and the greater appreciation for the work that goes into creating this program.”

 

Final words?

Jo: “To me the community of YFC alumni continues to be a place of shared values and source of inspiration and I hope that the community of YFC can continue to support, nurture and champion one another.”

Dione: “The YFC network is a family where we can learn, grow, and learn some more. We have the opportunity to practice difficult conversations and overcome challenges that instill us with skills for life. The community of practice that has been created over the years is something to be immensely proud of, which includes tried and tested ways that we know work well for young people.”

Franny: “In my eyes, I see YFC as a community network and as a training program. I believe that the network is future-proofed because we have some strong and loyal YFC alumni who are passionate about keeping the conversation alive and work closely with new YFC to help them feel supported.”

Emily: “For me the YFC alumni network is a community of likeminded individuals who share in each other’s wins and learn from each other’s losses. It is a community we can all call upon for support, assistance and guidance but also a community that enriches and inspires others in both the agricultural and wider world to look to us as role models.”

Shining the spotlight on Tarrawanna Public School and the power of the Living Classroom Concept

 

Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future has wrapped up for another year with students from multiple schools exploring the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) and taking their peers, their families and their communities on a sustainability journey. One such school is Tarrawanna Public School.

“Tarrawanna Public School (TPS) has been building a culture of sustainability over the past three years. When our principal, Bronwyn Jeffree, started at TPS, she recognised the gaps in sustainability learning and introduced ‘The Living Classroom’ project run by Aaron Sorenson at Elemental Permaculture. Aaron is amazing at what he does and has been instrumental in encouraging sustainability at TPS.” assistant principal Kelly Judd says.

The Living Classroom provided foundations and focus for the school’s sustainability journey.

“The Living Classroom is a permaculture classroom where students establish and maintain different systems,” Aaron says, examples of which include a 4-seasons vegetable garden, composting, biodiversity and themed gardens such as tropical food forests where pawpaw and banana now bear fruit.

The Living Classroom demonstrates care of country. We are informed by the legacy of Indigenous people and are setting up frameworks to work with traditional land owners. At Tarrawanna it is, most importantly, a reconciliation garden,” Aaron continues.

The Living Classrooms are designed by Aaron Sorenson and Dan Deighton of Elemental Permaculture 

Sustainability at Tarrawanna comes from kids teaching kids. As older students (known as Environmental Leadership Ambassadors) progress through The Living Classroom project, they impart their knowledge and understanding to the younger children so that all students from K-6 have some form of sustainability participation. That may be food-scrap collection for the compost, weeding, mulching or harvesting.

“What we hear from our students is they will correct each other if something is placed the in the wrong bin.  They understand the value of the food scraps and how important it is to the garden and the ecosystems,” Kelly says.

The message also reaches families and communities.

“Our experience shows sustainability conversations go home. We’ve had parents ask if they can come in for our Living Classroom lessons (joining their children in a lesson). In these instances, the child becomes the teacher, as students excitedly share ideas about sustainability and the things they can improve around the home to be more sustainable. Families report they have planted vegetable gardens, have chicken coups and are composting,” Kelly says.

TPS furthered their sustainability journey in 2022 when they participated in Kreative Koalas, which inspired them to connect with Wollongong City Council to jointly create a Tiny Forest for the preservation of local wildlife.

“The project has encouraged wildlife back into the area and the students and community monitor the types of animals returning,” Kelly says.

Combining the Tiny Forest, which provides food for native animals, and permaculture gardens, which provide food for students and the community, led TPS to study SDG 2: Zero Hunger for their Kreative Koalas project.

The artwork on their koala Mr T B Kind (short for ‘to be kind’) depicts the animals seen in the permaculture garden and in the Tiny Forest including native bees, kookaburras, the black cockatoo and the iconic Tarrawanna water dragons. These mosaic animals, on Mr T B Kind, are made from re-purposed broken tiles that were discovered as garden beds were created.

“Our Kreative Koala has our community talking. He is the icon in our garden and the children take great delight in sharing the story of why a decorated koala now lives in our school,” Kelly says.

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Rounding out the Kreative Koalas project was an open day held at the school with invitations to parents and community members to visit classrooms and see firsthand the sustainability learning that is happening at Tarrawanna Public School.

“We are very proud of our sustainability efforts and how it has connected our community,” Kelly says.

Congratulations to everyone at Tarrawanna Public School for being a leading light on how sustainability, through programs such as The Living Classroom and Kreative Koalas, can become embedded in the community.

 

 

Robertson Public School making sustainability sustainable and preparing their students for the Green Jobs of the Future .

Students from Robertson Public School with teacher John Crompton and Costa Georgiadis at the Kreative Koalas Awards and Celebration ceremony on December 1st 2022 at Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens

“Young people increasingly see the green credentials of businesses and industries as a key factor influencing their  career choices.”

Kreative Koalas, with generous support from the St Vincent de Paul Society, sees many forms of sustainability and environmental commitment in primary schools. At Robertson Public School they believe in making sustainability sustainable.

“We promote environmental protection and education at Robertson Public School in a couple of ways. We work with the Robertson Environmental Protection Society, to preserve remnant rainforest on our extensive grounds (10 acres), which has inspired us to establish a Tiny Forest.

We are part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden initiative and we have a potting shed and raised garden beds to grow vegetables that go back into our canteen. We have introduced a beehive into the school and will be adding another next year to encourage native bees into the school grounds and to further promote sustainability.

We have a Sustainable Schools grant to establish a glasshouse where we can raise vegetable and native plant seedlings. We are going to create a Farm Gate and sell vegetable seedlings, surplus produce and honey to our local community and whatever money we raise from that goes back into our sustainability practices and in particular into building our Tiny Forest.

But most importantly, we want to make sure our sustainability is sustainable and is something that we can carry forward through a number of years.” principal Gordon Parrish says.

Gordon realises that to do this requires not only the support of students but also their parents and the wider community. Parents and grandparents come into the school to work in the gardens alongside their children and to share their own knowledge. The school is part of the Share Our Space program that encourages community members to use the school grounds during holidays and after school hours, and the students connect with local businesses with a similar sustainability mindset.

Moonacres is a local café that also has an ethical farm out of town that supplies to restaurants in the area. Our Stage 3 kids will be visiting the farm four times next year to look at crop rotation in different seasons, and then we are going to try and mirror that back at school,” Gordon says.

 

While Robertson Public School currently reports to parents on activities such as recycling, 2023 will see the students take a bigger responsibility in sharing the sustainability message with the community. They plan to create instructional videos on school activities such as building native bee hotels and vegetable gardens and post these to social media.

In 2022 the sustainability message was informed by participation in Kreative Koalas where students raised awareness of all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The SDG were painted on their koala named Koala T, a reference to the number of times the word ‘quality’ appears in the goals (quality education, gender equality, reduced inequalities). Koala T will become part of the Tiny Forest once planting is completed but for now she sits in the school’s bush medicine garden.

“I think the koala will take centre stage on all our sustainability programs and be a good strong reminder of the practices we are aiming for within our school and community. The kids are the driving force behind our projects and the koala will be the symbol of that,” Gordon says.

https://youtu.be/PFQoOiLHSHM

With all the Christmas rush over and the New Year beginning, why not take some time and have a walk around the Kreative Koalas on display in the Birchgrove at the Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens

Announcing the Action4Agriculture Grand Champion Koalas and Archies

 

The Southern Highlands Botanic Gardens in Bowral came alive with cows and koalas on December 1st as Action4Agriculture crowned the winners of  The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas.

 

Celebrating resilience and grit, the awards ceremony was a testament to teachers and students who explored ways to show leadership, inspire hope, strengthen their communities, and design a bright future despite the challenges of the pandemic years

 

Special guest Costa Georgiadis was on hand to crown the champion schools who were:

  • 2020 Grand Champion Archibull – Penrith Valley School from western Sydney

  • 2022 Grand Champion Archibull – the Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education from western Sydney

  • 2020 Grand Champion Kreative Koala – St Brigid’s Primary School from Raymond Terrace

  • 2022 Grand Champion Kreative Koala – Tarrawanna Public School from Wollongong

All schools were tasked with examining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, designing, and delivering a community action project, creating a movement to embed sustainability thinking and actions in our way of life

 

The students presented their learnings through art on either their fibreglass cow (secondary schools) or koala (primary schools).

 

Special awards presented on the day were:

  • The Carmel Mills Memorial Award for Learning with Impact – Chevalier College from the Southern Highlands (The Archibull Prize) and Scot’s All Saints College from Bathurst (Kreative Koalas)
  • The Alan Eagle Watershed Moment Award – Hill Top Public School for reporting sustainability alongside core curriculum subjects on student report cards

Action4Agriculture is grateful for the support of Corteva Agriscience, NSW Government, St Vincent de Paul, Austral Fisheries, Wingecarribee Shire Council and Southern Highland Botanic Gardens which allows The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas to be delivered into schools.

These programs empower our students to look at our world differently, explore sustainability and environmental issues that affect our planet and design local solutions to global challenges.

 

Please contact Lynne Strong for photos from the event M: 0407 740 446 IE: lynnestrong@action4ag.com.au