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There and Back Again: An International Development Worker’s Tale

Isabel Robinson, as told to Josh Solomonsz

I first went to Papua New Guinea when I was 19. Before then, I had lived a somewhat sheltered life – I grew up in Middle Park, went to a private school in St Kilda, and my only overseas experience had been a school exchange to Tuscany in Year 10. I left school and started a Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University, but after so many years of study, I think I was tired of the theoretical. I was reading all these articles about aid and development and environmental damage and globalisation, but had no practical experience of what this looked like. After a year and a half of Arts, I took a leave of absence and volunteered in PNG, where I was confronted with a reality very different from my own. Life in the villages was full of joy but also difficult, particularly for women. Women my age might already have several children and spend most of their time tending their gardens, cooking, cleaning and collecting water. I realised that travelling, going to university and pursuing a career was not, in fact, totally normal, but a privilege that I must use and use well.   

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How St Joseph's Primary School saved $20,000 when installing a raingarden

St Joseph’s students joined hands-on catchment care to raise $20,000 through Living Water Workbees, allowing them to install rainwater tanks and a raingarden of indigenous plants, funded through the Victorian Government’s Port Phillip Bay Fund. 85% of the water used in St Joseph’s Primary School (Elsternwick) is now supplied from their tanks; and during heavy rain, stormwater is slowed and filtered by the gardens before flowing to our Bay.

Help youth leaders tackle plastic pollution in our Bay - Sam Perkins

As a Brighton Sea Scouts Venturer, Sam noticed an alarming amount of microplastic appearing at the Holloway Bend Beach in Brighton. Concerned with impact these microplastics would have on the life in Port Phillip Bay, Sam was inspired to protect the bay as his project in pursuit of the Queen’s Scout Environment Award. The question was: where to start?

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Help young leaders across cultures fight plastic – Chenxin Tu

Chenxin grew up in rural China, allowing her to develop a deep connection with nature. Moving to Australia, she felt isolated from the natural environment, and in particular noticed Chinese-Australians faced barriers to connecting with Australia’s environment. This dramatic shift stirred her to want to find ways in which all Australians can balance urban life with the natural environment.

At the EcoCentre, Chenxin developed skills she needed to turn her passion into a reality.

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Help next generation Eco-Warriors defend wildlife from plastic - St Columba's School

Youth are mobilising to advocate for the environment, as thousands of students protested for greater action towards climate change across Australia last month.  Their message is being heard, but more in-depth sustainability knowledge and leadership experience, coupled with greater tailored support from school staff, will help these young leaders amplify their voices.

Young people across Melbourne like the Grade 3/4 Eco-Warriors from St Columba’s School in Elwood, participate in the EcoCentre’s leadership program for students and teachers.

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School Excursions: showcasing our outdoor classroom activities

Port Phillip EcoCentre’s Excursions offer something special and unique that can only be achieved in an outdoor classroom. It enables students to connect to the world around them using their heads, hands and heart - intellectually, physically and emotionally.

The power and transformative nature of that connection can be seen every time we conduct an excursion, whether with students in Prep or in Year 12. Annually working with over 4,000 students, we have the privilege of seeing and hearing the students' joy, wonder, and fascination with the natural world and the myriad of species within it.

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Why Harry & Meghan care about plastic litter - and you should too

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are currently touring Australia for the first time together, with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex prioritising meeting as many members of the community as possible. As part of their visit, they have participated in a plastic litter beach clean-up at South Melbourne beach.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle meet with young sustainability leaders

Students from Albert Park Primary School (APPS) have had the opportunity to meet with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to share their learnings as Grade 6 Sustainability Leaders.

As part of the Victorian Government’s ResourceSmart Schools Program, Albert Park Primary School has completed the energy and waste modules and is currently completing the biodiversity module, to certify their focus on sustainable actions in school and in their broader community.

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Slip, slop, slap sustainably: reef-safe sunscreens

This summer, beachgoers are urged to slip, slop and slap sustainably by using sunscreen not containing toxic chemicals, to avoid further damage to our reefs. Chemicals in sunscreen can wash off directly to the ocean when swimming. They can also be carried off the sand to the ocean as the tide rises, particularly if beachgoers use spray-on sunscreen which leaves residue chemicals across the sand. Even sunscreen washed off in the shower has the potential to end up in the ocean.  

Boon Wurrung Foundation Logo The EcoCentre acknowledges the Kulin Nations, including the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung language group, traditional owners of the land on which we are located. We pay respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Elder members of our multicultural community.

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