The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AUSSI) is a partnership of the Australian Federal and State Governments. Its role is to assist schools and their local communities become sustainable places. The AUSSI helps schools to improve the management of resources such as energy use, water use, waste management, local biodiversity, and landscape design. The overall goal of this initiative is to help all Australian schools and communities become sustainable.
There are currently over 2000 schools participating in this Initiative. These schools have reported up to 80% less waste collected, up to 60% less water used, and up to 20% less energy used. The school children are being taught about the elements of sustainability and they can see the results. Family members have also been influenced.
One of the schools participating in the AUSSI is Cowandilla Primary School. It is located in South Australia in Adelaide’s western suburbs and is a Climate Change Focus school. It has also been named one of the most environmentally sustainable schools in the world. The students have studied about and worked on water conservation, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and biodiversity. The school installed rain water tanks and planted gardens with indigenous plants. The students of Cowandilla made a DVD exhibiting the projects they had made to become a school focused on climate change. This DVD won the International Solar Cities Schools Competition junior title for the school.
Team Member, Cassie, had the opportunity of meeting and interviewing the principal Julie Hayes and the Resource and Network Manager, Mark Herbert. They gave her a tour of the school to show what they had been doing to help the environment. She learned that the school is passionate about promoting and moving towards sustainability. One of the things the school did was install a number of huge rain water tanks for irrigation instead of using Murray River water. They also installed a sub-soil irrigation system in the garden oval and planted locally native plants. After they won the Solar Cities Award they were given a solar street light. They plan to install roof-top solar panels and the government is going to install a wind-turbine. They are planning to use a process called eco-mapping in which the students will audit the school for water use, energy, waste and biodiversity to find problem areas that can be improved.
The Australian Governmental programs and initiatives, such as AUSSI, are helping interested schools like Cowandilla Primary School educate their students, their families and the local community about environmental and sustainability issues. The initiative also runs a competition for schools and helps cities become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This is a wonderful example of how government initiatives and action of local groups such as schools are making sustainability and good stewardship a reality.
Interviews with Cowandilla School Principal Julie Hayes and Mark Hebert:
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“About AUSSI”. Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative. Accessed 2 Mar 2008. <http://www.environment.gov.au/education/aussi/about.html>
Hood, Lucy. “Children lead way on climate change”. The Advertiser. Accessed 2 Mar 2008. <http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23244411-5006353,00.html>
“Schools competition”. 3rd International Solar Cities Congress. Accessed 2 Mar 2008. <http://www.solarcitiescongress.com.au/schools.htm>
Third International Solar Cities Congress. Accessed 2 Mar 2008. <http://www.solarcitiescongress.com.au/>
“Welcome to Australia’s Solar Cities”. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Accessed 2 Mar 2008. <http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/solarcities/adelaide/index.html>
Taken by Team Coach Tina Photakis. 2 March 2008.
Video Photographer for the interview: Emmanuel Photakis.