Going green secures gold

What initially began as a humble effort to reduce waste at St Brigid’s Primary School in Raymond Terrace quickly developed into a whole school environmental action plan that secured them as the victors of the NSW Minister’s Young Climate Champions Award. 

The NSW Government hosted an awards ceremony with the Banksia Foundation last week, and the NSW Treasurer, the Hon. Matt Kean MP presented the award to St Brigid's Primary School staff and students.

In announcing the finalists, the Treasurer said, “You give us hope that the ongoing work to combat climate change is in safe hands. You provide us with confidence that the bright and bold ideas we will need to continue to preserve and protect our environment are being nurtured in our schools, communities and right across our state of NSW. So, I want to take this opportunity to applaud each and every one of you for your passion and your leadership.”

Judges’ remarks for selecting St Brigid’s Primary School as the winner were then read aloud and noted that the school took out the prestigious award as it had multiple, measurable, environmental benefits associated with its actional plan. Furthermore, they said St Brigid’s initiative showcased great awareness and participation amongst students but “went way beyond this in emphasising teacher and parental involvement.”

There was loud applause as Year 6 students Makenna Penfold and Vivien Moffatt took to the stage to accept the award accompanied by St Brigid’s teacher of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, Kristen Jones.

Makenna spoke first, thanking the Banksia Foundation and the NSW Government for the opportunity to enter their school’s action plan and for publicly highlighting the sustainability initiatives that St Brigid’s is so passionate about. 

“We have worked very hard to reduce our waste and to achieve our goal of helping our environment as stewards of creation,” she said.

Ms Jones, who says it was a great privilege to be announced as finalists, let alone winners, then took to the lectern.

“We are a Catholic school on Worimi country in Raymond Terrace, and so we have a very strong Stewards of Creation and Caring for Country philosophy,” Ms Jones said.

“There are 380 students at our school who are changing behaviours and driving change in sustainability, and we are very honoured to accept this award.”

St Brigid’s was motivated to drive a whole school environmental action plan upon realising they were contributing 23 x 240-litre bins a week to landfill.

In their submission for the award, the school described how it had purchased new bins and implemented a radical new sorting system which separates its playground waste into Redcycle, cans and bottles, and landfill.

“In the classroom, we are sorting our glue sticks and pens for recycling, and we initiated plans to overhaul our canteen waste. In the gardens, we are building a habitat for butterflies and bees and composting our scraps. Initially, this was driven by our Year 6 students, however, this has now changed, and we have the whole school involved. As a result, not only have we halved our landfill contribution, but we have also changed behaviours!” they wrote.

As winners of an NSW Sustainability Award, St Brigid’s Primary School has automatically been entered into the prestigious 34th National Banksia Sustainability Awards, with the winners of these national awards announced in March 2023. In the interim, the school community is now also celebrating news it has also been announced as finalists in the Keep Australia Beautiful Tidy Towns Awards and the Kreative Koalas Competition for its sustainability efforts.

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.