The idea to host a ‘Koala Aid’ concert was first hatched when fires were initially burning to the north and east of Taree, and before NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a state of emergency across the state.
A low-key lunchtime event was planned, but as the fires escalated, and St Clare’s was closed for a week it had to be postponed.
Staff and students returned to the school with a real sadness. Many had been directly affected or knew people who had lost their homes.
As a result, St Clare’s 'Koala Aid' special project evolved into something much bigger, with the school’s talented musicians coming to the fore to provide a live-music extravaganza. Students were asked to bring their lunch, donate, and chillout to the bush festival vibe.
Teacher Carmel Brown and student Patrick Guthridge organised the set list. Jack Tickle and Dali Reid MC’d the event and local radio personalities introduced each of the acts.
Students and teachers came to school with bush flowers to decorate the area. It was a hot day in more ways than one and students loved getting their photos taken with the flowers to show they stood together after such a traumatic event.
Central to the event was teacher David Clarke’s Manning Valley chalk mural landscape “Our Home”, which the students admire. Art teacher Lyndall Laurie worked hard with her classes to bring the mural to life and add the detail to the event.
Students across the school spent time colouring in native animal stencils that were placed on the wall throughout day. There was also a place on the wall where students could write a reflection, which Ms Laurie described as “very moving”.
Andy’s Cake Kitchen Bakery donated a huge koala cake for all to share.
One of the most poignant performances was from teacher Simon Little, who lost his property during the fires. It provided a moment of reflection.
Mrs Laurie described the impact of the fires as being “very significant”.
“The grief, stress and helplessness we have felt as a community is very real,” said St Clare’s HSIE teacher, Eloise Thomas. “Our shared experience of these unprecedented fires and natural disaster meant that we had to come together.
“St Clare’s Koala Aid was a collaborative event and all students who participated should be very proud of themselves. We all needed to heal and support each other after the catastrophe.”