Next generation of environmental leaders recognised on World Environment Day

News article |

World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June as a way to encourage awareness and action to protect our environment.

While we recognise that many people are involved in caring for the environment, we’d particularly like to give a shout out to all the young people who join in and lend a hand. These are our future leaders for environmental action and caring for our planet.

Landscape boards of South Australia support the development of young people and their environmental aspirations in many ways including direct support to youth groups like Young Environmental Leaders, the River Murray Youth Council and Youth Environment Council as well as education programs and providing funding to schools from Grassroots Grants.

Working with schools is incredibly important for connecting young people to nature, igniting their passions and helping them explore potential career pathways, often while giving back to their local environment and community.

In addition, the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, SA Arid Lands Landscape Board and the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board provide support and professional development opportunities for school teachers, ensuring they have the knowledge and resources to effectively teach environmental and cultural awareness.

The landscape boards can provide experiential learning opportunities like field trips and work experience, and create opportunities for young people to give citizen science a try.

Read on to learn more about activities and projects that young people across South Australia are contributing to.

Next generation to care for country

The Alinytjara Wilurara Landscape Board engages with schools to inspire the next generation to care for Country. In May, a group of Year 12 outdoor education students from Ceduna Area School travelled to Yellabinna (north of Ceduna) to join landscape board staff and rangers from the Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation to undertake a small vertebrate survey along Googs Track.

Students learned about important species that live in the area, and how pitfall trapping helps expand our knowledge of their numbers and range. There were many conversations about career paths available to people including working as a ranger, ecologist, project officer, or contributing to the on-ground work with new technology, mapping, data and other supporting roles.

Traps were checked each morning to see what had been caught, including the target species, sandhill dunnarts (Sminthopsis psammophila), and the western pygmy possum (Cercartetus concinnus). Students also helped to measure the spinifex surrounding each of the four trapping sites to provide important data about the type of habitat favoured by the sandhill dunnarts.

On the final day, everyone pitched in to pack up equipment and seal the pits, leaving only footprints behind. It was the third time Ceduna students participated in fieldwork with the landscape board, in what is becoming a popular tradition.

Next generation of environmental leaders recognised on World Environment Day
Ceduna Area School students learned about pitfall trapping as part of a fauna monitoring survey

Sharing local biodiversity knowledge

The Eyre Peninsula Landscape Board supports students in its region to increase awareness and knowledge of local biodiversity and environmental issues. Earlier this year Wudinna and Streaky Bay landscape officers Chamaree Goonetilleke and Libby Hunt visited Karcultaby and Miltaburra Area Schools for workshops about malleefowl. Students learned about malleefowl threats and habitat disturbance, along with how integrating conservation with agriculture can increase this threatened species’ chance of survival.

Students across western Eyre Peninsula were also recently gifted a book about the local environment, created by the Friends of Polda Rock community group, with the aim of encouraging them to connect with the local environment. Friends of Polda Rock received a Grassroots Grant from the landscape board to produce and publish this valuable book with an array of information about the flora and fauna found around the Wudinna area along with activities for kids to complete.

Next generation of environmental leaders recognised on World Environment Day
Roni Skipworth, one of the artists behind the publication, recently presented the book to students at Wudinna and Karcultaby to use in their learning.

Precious plants for precious people

The Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board Education program supports 49 schools across the region. One initiative active for more than 10 years is Precious Plants for Precious People, originally established to provide school children with a native plant to give their mum on Mother’s Day. Now it has grown to recognise the many precious people – guardians, grandparents and family friends - who play a role in raising young people.

Gifted plants play an important ecological role by helping to improve the spread of threatened and endangered native plants, reducing garden water use and providing a source of food and habitat for native insects and animals. In some areas, such as the Riverland, more than 1,300 plants were specifically selected to help improve food sources and habitat for the vulnerable regent parrot, with only about 400 breeding pairs left in South Australia. The distribution of plants is supported with classroom lessons about the importance of regent parrots and how they can be conserved.

Students from the Murraylands gifted nationally vulnerable silver daisy bush plants to their precious people. Once endemic in South Australia, the silver daisy bush has been under pressure from threats including weeds and grazing by livestock. In addition to its ecological value, the species is important to First Nation’s people who once relied on the tuberous roots of the silver daisy bush as a source of food and water in dry months.

The Precious Plants program has been very popular and is always over-subscribed. Schools have been very supportive as it has been a great way to link learning outcomes with improvements to the local environment.

Next generation of environmental leaders recognised on World Environment Day
Twins Mitchell and Victoria Alm have been involved in the Precious Plants for Precious People program through St Alberts School, Loxton.

Connecting culture and environment

Students across the Northern and Yorke region are part of a pioneering program that connects cultural education with environmental stewardship. The Northern and Yorke Landscape Board has partnered with First Nations cultural educators from the Narungga, Ngadjuri, Nukunu and Kaurna Nations to engage with students as part of its Nature Education program.

Launched in February 2023, 18 cultural educators and 12 schools have participated in the Cultural Education sessions, with another 3 schools joining soon. Students gain an insight into how First Nations people care for Country and make use of the land, like identifying and harvesting bush foods, wood carving and preserving cultural heritage.

At Yorketown Area School, Aunty Daphne Rickett teaches bush tucker culinary classes with years 5 and 6, and at Point Pearce Aboriginal School, the students are learning about botany from a bush food perspective from Peter Turner. Kevin Newchurch’s demonstration of wood carving techniques at Riverton & District High School was a hit with students who enjoyed creating their own boomerangs using sheoak wood (Allocasuarina verticillata). Students also worked with Kevin on an Acknowledgement of Country banner to be displayed in the school’s library.

The Cultural Education sessions have sparked curiosity in First Nations culture and fostered a growing interest in nature among the next generation of environmental ambassadors.

Find out more about nature education in the Northern and Yorke region.

Next generation of environmental leaders recognised on World Environment Day
Cultural educator Kevin Newchurch (far right) with Riverton & District High School students.

Students get hands-on with surveys

The SA Arid Lands Landscape Board has provided an opportunity for students from Marree Aboriginal School and Oodnadatta Area School to join an invertebrate survey at Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park and learn the importance of scientific monitoring.

Seven students joined members of the Friends of Mound Springs (FOMS), Arabana Rangers, BHP staff and SA Arid Lands Landscape Board staff for the survey at The Bubbler Spring as part of the SA Lake Eyre Basin Priority Riparian Vegetation and Great Artesian Basin Springs Project.

The survey is part of BHP’s ongoing monitoring of mound springs invertebrate populations, and artesian springs water quality and spring structure. This is important for understanding the health of the springs and how they support endemic invertebrate populations.

Students learned about survey techniques and skills for monitoring mound springs, as well as invertebrate e-DNA sampling and flora identification. This experience helped students to understand how unique mound springs are, as well as their conservation and cultural importance on Country.

The SA Lake Eyre Basin Priority Riparian Vegetation and Great Artesian Basin Springs Project is an initiative of the Lake Eyre Basin program, funded by the Australian, South Australian, Queensland and the Northern Territory governments, and BHP.

Get involved

It’s great to see South Australian youth connecting with their local environment. Contact your local landscape board to see what opportunities there are to get involved.

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