War on Waste – Gerringong Public School catapults Captain Koala onto the national stage

“With the amount of waste increasing in Australia by nearly 8% a year, it’s time for us, as a nation, to seriously re-examine the ways we consume and dispose of consumer items?’ 


Gerringong Public School and science teacher Sue Hassler catapulted themselves into the pilot program of Kreative Koalas with an unmatched enthusiasm to learn more about recycling and waste management, and in doing so won the award for best community project.


Their creation combined their artwork, Captain Koala, with a TerraCycle Drop-off point. “Our project is unique because we have combined our koala into our community project,” the school said. “We have turned this object into a purposeful and decorative addition to our school. We hope to inspire better knowledge of and involvement in recycling, especially through the provision of this collection point for hard to recycle items such as toothbrushes, Nescafe coffee pods and pump dispensers.” Last year we collected over 60,000 Terracycle items which the school receives 1 cent per item for, this money comes back into the school to help with our sustainability work.

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Gerringong Public School won $500 for their efforts but the longer-term applications of their learnings are what makes this such as successful project.

Gerringong Public School was supported by legends local artist Penny Sadubin and Sustainability Ambassador Jaime Lovell through their Kreative Koala journey

During the Kreative Koalas journey the school participated in a plastics audit and was astounded to collect 822 pieces of plastic including chip packets, snap lock bags, clingwrap, foil and muesli bar wrappers. A second audit found an additional 494 pieces of plastic in the school’s water easement. These plastics became the focus of the school’s war on waste.

Gerringong Public Waste Collection.jpg

“I realized that every syllabus or curriculum had an underpinning in sustainability and nearly every topic had some direct content related to the environment,” Mrs Hassler said.  “I showed the students Mission Blue with Sylvia Earle, and then we talked about plastics; their break-down periods, where they come from and why they are a problem. Then we looked at their lunchboxes and how we could minimise plastics in them. We saw a huge change in lunchboxes and there is now a lot less clingwrap, for example, coming into the school.”

Gerringong Public School then overhauled their bin system. Now waste is separated into paper, foil and hard plastics, Terracycle (chip and muesli bar packets)and landfill. “With a school of 430 kids we’ve gone from filling 21 landfill bins each week to four and they are usually only a quarter full,” Mrs Hassler said.


In addition, the students made beeswax wraps as an alternative to cling wrap and Ziploc plastic bags, which can take five hundred years to break down. So successful was this part of their war on waste that parents began asking for after-school workshops to make their own. The school canteen also came on board with eco-cups, metal spoons and a reduction in the use of foil, and recycling bins were put in the staff room and library.

The school has been very successful in educating and engaging their local community using Facebook, school newsletters and their local newspaper The Bugle with Captain Koala now becoming a community teracycle facility

“It’s an ongoing process of watching what the waste is and it takes a long time for people to understand that what you’re doing is important,” Mrs Hassler said. “There’s no point in teaching literacy and numeracy if we’ve wrecked our environment in the meantime. It becomes about starting independent action with nine and ten-year olds and that’s just gold for me. I’ve got kids who’ll come to me and say, ‘On the weekend, we picked up all these plastics on the beach’ and I feel like they do get it and they’re implementing it in their own lives and making a difference.”

Gerringong Public School is a shining example of the power of collaboration to take courageous steps to create change. Though driving of change may start with one champion, it is the movement, and in this case the students who are everyone’s future, who will make it a reality.

Kreative Koalas focus of collaborating with thought leaders who back the next generation of young people who are going to rethink the world and create a better future is something we can all be involved in and be proud of.

See what all our Courageous Kreative Koala schools are doing here 

Watch this space for more on the adventures of Captain Koala.

News Flash

The Kreative Koalas program welcomes Sue Hassler as our  2018 Kreative Koalas Ambassador. In this role Sue will be supporting schools in the Southern Highlands of NSW to help Australians meet our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Sue Hassler shares the highlights of Gerringong Public Schools Kreative Koalas expereince 

Meet the bear who deep dives

Continuing our series on the Champions Schools who nailed the 2017 pilot of Kreative Koalas

Today’s blog post features Diver from Keira High School who won the Fair Food Forager Award for Best Kreative Koala Call to Action. Visit the Hall of Fame here

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Keira High School’s koala is personified as a diver. It is clothed in a wetsuit, complete with scuba diving tanks and a mask. The wetsuit is a tight fit, symbolic of how the Koala is trapped amongst a myriad of rubbish. Wollongong is a coastal city and the students Koala design reflects the impact of rubbish in their community. They incorporated a mixture of plastics (e.g. scrap fishing wire) with their Koala to represent the natural world and express the suffering of our coastal environment as a result of our actions. The Koala’s marine theme is juxtaposed with the rubbish representative of human impact.

The second part of the Kreative Koalas program was to design a community project.

Keira High School’s Sustainability Ambassador Daniel Simpson talks about Keira High School’s community project 

Like the other schools the Kreative Koalas program has had a domino effect with Keira High School students becoming more environmentally aware within themselves and within the wider community. This has led to exciting outcomes and future plans.

“This was one of the first environmental initiatives taken up by Keira High’s student body. In the future, we aim to promote sustainable practices in a way that will have a lasting impact on our school community. This will become an ongoing project that will continue to run at Keira, and we plan to do bigger and better things as we become more experienced with the Kreative Koalas program.”  Liz Price Lead Teacher Keira High School

Keira High school

Well done Keira High School looking forward to reconnecting in 2018 and catching up on your waste management call to action success

Interesting facts

Koalas aren’t bears.  Visit here to learn more


Meet Sam the bear with a (re) purpose

Continuing our stories on The Bears on a Mission  meet Sam the Bear with a (Re) Purpose

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Created by the clever team at Gwynneville Public School Sam won the Sharon Bird MP Award for Best Kreative Koala Artwork.

The school also picked up the The Gareth Ward MP Award for Best Animation with this phenomenal video highlight the scary stats on clothing waste and merits of up-cycling

Students in years 4 and 5 work on The Kreative Koala Project. Their focus was on “ Waste”  and how we could  make a difference by reducing the amount  of rubbish on a personal level,  a School  level and  at a Community level.

They aim of their artwork is to engage and promote discussions about our stewardship of our landscapes and waterways 


The base shows the up-cycling projects the student created to show how we can reuse or recycle products that we aren’t using anymore

The plinth the koala has four milk crates. Three are filled with rubbish from our beach clean- up, from our school clean up and from the packaging from when our koala arrived. The fourth is our target for our next clean- up which is zero waste.

For the community project part of the program  the students organised a playground clean up . They found that even though they had bins out, there was still a lot of rubbish being dropped onto the ground or was blowing out of the bins. In their community they  went to North Wollongong Beach and partook in a beach clean-up. They found from a distance the beach looked quite clean but on a closer inspection they soon saw that there was a lot of rubbish hidden in the bushes and under the sand. It was easy to see the large bits and discovered  large amounts of small pieces of plastic and cigarette butts.

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Well done to the Champion team from Gwynneville Public School who also took out the Greater Sydney Landcare Network Award for GRAND CHAMPION KREATIVE KOALA

and dont forget to check out what their Sustainability Ambassadors had to say

Interesting facts

Koalas aren’t bears Visit here to learn more

Meet the bears on a mission

2017 saw the roll out of the Kreative Koalas pilot in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Hawkesbury regions. It was just a little 5 school pilot that kicked big goals. All it needs now is a politician working with the schools to champion an overhaul of NSW Government policy on waste management in schools.

2018 will see more schools pilot the program in rural NSW starting with a partnership between the NSW Government ( Family and Community Services and Office of Environment and Heritage) Landcare and Southern Tablelands Arts as well as local businesses and community groups in the wider Goulburn catchment.

Over the next week we are going to profile each of the 5 schools in the 2017 program starting with Hawkesbury High School

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Hawkesbury High School won the secondary school ” Sharon Bird MP Best Kreative Koala Artwork Award’

It is a beautiful piece of art with an equally beautiful story

Hawkesbury HS (1)

Hawkesbury Habitat project “B n B n B” – Bird, Bee and Bat Backpackers hotel


Hawkesbury High School is located at Freemans Reach on the North West outer fringe of Sydney in a semi-rural agricultural area with rich natural resources and diverse native habitat.

Teaching about sustainable agriculture practices and living sustainably is included in the Australian Curriculum. The school has an established agriculture area with courses in animal husbandry and crop production taught as part of the curriculum.

Over the last two years the school has been working with Hawkesbury High School P&C, teachers, students and community members to revamp the agriculture area with an injection of time, positive energy and money

The big idea

Students wanted to spread the word that

Our native animals and plants are necessary for a healthy ecosystem. Working together we can make a difference to protect habitat and improve sustainability.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal they focused on was “Life on the Land” with the aim to increase awareness with a plan to protect native habitat at the school and educate about bush regeneration and agricultural sustainability.

Their Big Idea was “Everyone needs Habitat” and the vision was to help Humans be more aware of their use of resources, the impact we have upon nature and how we can  be more sustainable.

The Challenge

Birds, Bees, Bats and Koalas are becoming endangered with the destruction of local Cumberland Forest in the Hawkesbury region to make way for human habitat. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has listed the Cumberland Plain Woodland as a critically endangered ecological community due to the widespread land clearing for housing and agriculture. With a focus on the other creatures who need habitat their represents some key ideas:

  • Koalas – No tree no me!
  • Birds – need forage plants, flowers, nesting sites
  • Bees – we built a native bee hotel to encourage plant pollination for food production
  • Bats – we built homes for the microbats who need homes too!

There are two significant silcrete Aboriginal tool sites located at the rear of the school in the bush block. These are heritage listed with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. (NPWS #45-5-2493)  The site also has some especially rare terrestrial orchids which were an important food for Aboriginal people. A painted ribbon of small dots on the Koala symbolises Aboriginal heritage to our school site and the important food source of native bee bush honey.

What they did beyond their artwork

Construction students with their teacher to build the Koala stand, the bat boxes and also reclad the greenhouse, new pathways concreted. Community members have worked with us to clean up the area and replace the shade cloth.


A bush tucker garden will also be planted on the site. When established, the Bush Tucker area will be used to teach students and the community about traditional Aboriginal foods used by the original inhabitants of the site. A sensory garden will be planted to help attract birds and create nesting places.

Congratulations to all the students and teachers at Hawkesbury High School. Great outcomes for people and the planet

Interesting facts

Koalas arent bears Visit here to learn more


Say Yes, to Clean Beaches

Bulli High School have recently taken part in our new program Kreative Koalas which  we piloted with Intrepid Landcare earlier this year. Yesterday I spent an inspirational afternoon with the Bulli High School Green Team.

Champion teachers Stacy Fraser and Rob Moore talk about the students that inspire them everyday 

On my way home, I felt like a roast dinner, so popped into ALDI to pick up their famous chicken with apricot and cranberry stuffing.  I have only just discovered ALDI as a place to shop after finding they have some great fitness gear on promotion from time to time

I thought I would grab some veggies whilst I was there and had a shock horror moment. My god ALDI is a soft plastics palace and for the fruit and veggies that weren’t wrapped in mountains of plastic there were no paper bags to be seen.

It made me sad.  I had spent two hours with 20 students who spend their Wednesday arvo cleaning up after the rest of us and our retailers aren’t making it easy for us to do the right thing. How do we work together to send clear messages to our retailers to say?

‘Work with us. We want to Make Australia Beautiful Again’

I was confident yesterday that if were all as committed as the Green Team it wouldn’t be hard. Let me share with you what the Green Team is doing in their sport allocated environmental clean up program through talking to the Champion Teachers Stacey Fraser and Rob Moore and some of the students

Bit of Background

Bulli High School is located in a ‘to die for’ location adjacent to Sandon Beach. The Green Team has adopted the beach as their Keep Australian Beautiful project.

They do this by clearing the rubbish out of the creek that is adjacent to their school, this reduces the rubbish in the storm water drains that flow onto the beach and they do regular clean up of the beach front itself

Here they are yesterday in time-lapse motion

The team was excited that despite this weeks heavy rain the beach had very little rubbish beyond a lot of cigarette buts and some soft plastics. This was until they discovered THE COUCH in the Lagoon


8,000 pieces of plastic are estimated to float in every square kilometre of ocean.

633 species worldwide including 77 Australian species are impacted by marine debris.

Over 75% of what is removed from our beaches is made of plastic. Source

Geography Teacher and Green Team partner. Stacey Fraser talks about some of the other Green Team projects and her inspiration for starting the program

Bulli High School have now joined the Tangaro Blue project and will be collecting, measuring,  monitoring and sharing their data  with the Australian Marine Debris Initiative database

Tangaroa Blue Foundation is an Australian-wide not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the removal and prevention of marine debris, one of the major environmental issues worldwide. But if all we do is clean-up, that is all we will ever do.

To successfully solve the problem, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) was created, an on-ground network of volunteers, communities and organisations that contribute data from rubbish collected during beach and river clean-up events to the AMDI Database, and then work on solutions to stop the flow of litter at the source. The AMDI helps communities look after their coastal environment by providing resources and support programs, and collaborates with industry and government to create change on a large scale.


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Watershed moments for Power of Youth in Action and the Power of Art

This weekend in partnership with Intrepid Landcare, Picture You in Agriculture launched the Young Sustainability Ambassadors (YSA) and Landcare Legends  program.  Read their stories here

This program is inspired by the success of the Young Farming Champions (YFC) program and a pilot of the program under the banner of the Young Eco Champions in 2012. Read more about the back story here


I am sitting here in one of the most incredible built spaces I have ever been thinking how excited the founders of Landcare,  Rick Farley and Phillip Coyne would have been to be the room with the YSA and witness a new era of young social and environmental actionists partnering with young farmers to co-create the future they want to see

Like the YFC the Young Sustainability Ambassadors have the opportunity to both hone the skills they learn at the workshops and go into schools as part of the Kreative Koalas program and start a movement of change

I loved this quote from one of the ambassadors

“We are the product of what we have learnt from other people. Surround yourself with the people and the places that inspire you”

One of the highlights of this weekend has been that we delivered both.


Thanks to the support of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) we held the workshop in the most amazing inspirational space


The SBRC is a 6 Star Green Star- Education Design v1 accredited, multi-disciplinary facility that aimss to research, collaborate, and link with industry to meet the challenge of improving the energy efficiency of our new and existing buildings


They are pioneering new approaches to retrofitting techniques to create more effective places to live and work. The SBRC is located at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus. Want to know more you can check out their website here 


Just across the road from the SBRC is another treasure of sustainable built spaces. The Illawarra Flame house is baby of Team UOW Australia who took up the challenge of choosing to demonstrate how to retrofit a ‘fibro’ home, to transform it into a sustainable 21st century net-zero energy home. The aim was to upgrade an existing building to inspire Australian homeowners and the local and national building industry, and to accelerate the development and adoption of advanced building energy technology in new and existing homes.

What a great job they have done – Love it making the ‘fibro’ house trendy




#newbeginnings #YSA2017 #kreativekoalas17 #YFC17


Young people driving change

The Picture You in Agriculture team has paired up with Intrepid Landcare to roll our the school’s based program Kreative Koalas (website a work in progress). This exciting new partnership  will allow our Young Farming Champions to broaden their networks and influence through a partnership with Young Sustainability Ambassadors ( website to be launched this week)

Today’s guest blog comes from Megan Rowlatt the CEO of Intrepid Landcare who has a long association with the Young Farming Champions program


A state and national award winner, Megan continues to communicate on a global scale through her creative blogging, writing resources and articles for numerous organisations and publications on youth leadership, nature and conservation, and through personal one-on-one mentorship roles with young people across the world. And while she’s constantly on the road creating change in communities all over Australia, it’s not unusual to see her hiking through our rich and diverse Australian bush, swimming in a secret water hole, or getting her hands dirty pulling weeds and planting trees on an epic Intrepid Landcare adventure with a tribe of other like-minded young people.


This is Megan’s story …….


Speaking to crowd-filled rooms, hundreds of people deep about my passion for the environment, the future of the planet, and how young people play a pivotal role in sustainability on a global scale, was something I never would have dreamed possible a few years ago. But today, this is my world.

I work in the environmental conservation space, co-founder of a national organisation in Australia called Intrepid Landcare [link insert: www.intrepidlandcare.org]. We focus on leadership development in young people who have a passion for the environment. It’s my life’s work, my passion, and my purpose.


Intrepid Landcare  Board 

The Intrepid Landcare team  design and deliver leadership programs which inspire and build the capacity of young people to step out into the community and drive change from the grassroots level. It’s environmental conservation meets outdoor adventure, adventure meets purpose, and it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.


A late bloomer to the leadership space, my path has been quite a gentle meandering through little trip ups and hidden lessons, I had no idea I was as passionate about the environment as what I am, or what role I wanted to play in the world, or that I was even capable of the things that I am today. But my connection to nature and deep sense of responsibility to look after it, entwined with a series of serendipitous travel and volunteer experiences has guided me to where I am today.


A connection to nature and deep sense of responsibility to look after it, entwined with a series of serendipitous travel and volunteer experiences has Megan to where she is today.

As a support officer working with people in the Landcare movement who genuinely care about the land, in 2008 I had landed my dream job. But I soon noticed a gaping hole where young people just did not exist in the movement, and took on creating opportunities in my own community. The rest, is history.


Megan’s love affair with nature 

It wasn’t until I recognised I was actually a changemaker and started investing in myself [link insert: http://myconservationcollective.com/invest-in-you], that I started to gain real momentum in my impact. And one of those investments was the ‘Art4Agriculture Young Eco Champions’ program. This program really gave me the communication skills and confidence I needed to craft my vision and message for the future. It played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development and I have since gone on to speak at regional, state and national conferences on natural resource management, youth leadership, and conservation. I’ve appeared on local, state and national radio and television programs, been keynote speaker at environmental film festivals, facilitated countless forums and events, and my work in this space has even taken me to Bhutan to join a team of global changemakers discovering different models of sustainable development.


Megan in Bhutan 

All of what I step into aims to raise the bar on the way we speak about sustainability in Australia and on a global scale, and at the forefront of this conversation is young people and the role they play in future of our planet. So it has been critical for me to get the skills down, to be able to communicate in a way that resonates with the diverse audiences I want to reach .

Thank you Megan for sharing your story.  As you can imagine we are looking forward to working with this exciting and inspiring young woman and her tribe of changemakers