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Personal reflections after the National AAEE Conference

Working as a teacher, storyteller and outdoor guide, I’m always looking for ways to talk about the environment, our country, and how things are going after the bushfires of 2019 to 2020. The conference was an opportunity for me to reboot my knowledge, and to develop new ways of thinking about the environmental catastrophe/climate emergency that we are facing in the world. Key words from the conference that come to mind are whole systems, living earth, captive cycle, captive cycle, deliberate democracy, environmental literacy, deliberate democracy, environmental literacy, and regenerative agriculture.

Living in a bush and beach environment on the South Coast I am fortunate to have daily direct experiences of biodiversity in all its wonder and seasonality. My local environment is changing all the time, but it has radically changed in the last few years, with increased development and the extensive recent bushfires. The fires burned 90% of our Eurobodalla Shire and the 3 month experience of the fire catastrophe has fundamentally shifted the way many of us see and understand our place, nature, fire and land management systems.

The conference has given me hope, and inspired me to keep having powerful environmental conversations in my community whenever I can, encouraging us all to make a difference in our own patch. I’m especially interested in how we can grow our knowledge to grow our connection with the local environment, our home, and how with this knowledge we can do a much better job of caring for our place.

We have a lot of threatened species and endangered ecological communities on the south coast of NSW It’s important that everyone understands what this means. I’ve only recently been discovering how the story of animals and habitats disappearing into extinction, is a very real,very raw truth that is happening everyday. We’re losing biodiversity and interconnectedness, losing wild places. I’m always looking for topics that help to bring this information to the forefront of community conversations in school, in my neighborhood, around the dinner table and in local forums. I also embed this information and ecological thinking into all my program designs and writing projects.

At the moment, I am especially interested in tree-bearing hollows, endangered shorebirds, estuaries, marine sanctuaries and littoral rainforest. We have numerous citizen science projects here on the south coast NSW and a healthy Landcare program. We also have a council which is very pro-development. My main interest is creating a community that cares for and is connected to our environment. As a shorebird educator for National Parks NSW, I realized the power of education as a foundation for community engagement and potential for behaviour change.

The more we know about our environment the better we can care for it. In our community there’s a wealth of First Nations knowledge to tap into, and and I am thankful that this is coming to the forefront of environmental and work conversations. I was inspired by the models presented at the conference that  demonstrate how we can localize our projects and involve whole communities in positive action. Jocelyn’s Juraszek’s ‘Know Your Patch’ presentation excited me as she shared her project model of working locally at a state level, and knowledge sharing through technology.

I believe that the environment needs to be integrated into our identity so that it’s not seen as something separate or green, but rather something that’s fundamental to our being and our identity. Integrating First Nations perspectives into all conversations and planning is the way forward is the way forward. Thank you David Brow for your presentation on ‘Two Way Science and Learning on Country ‘. This way of working is an important national model.

Living in a time of ecocide and climate emergency, it’s easy to feel despair and to lose hope at times I’m constantly looking for positive stories of strong leadership, and possible ways forward; looking into the heart of the truth of how we failing to look our country, our waterways, our forests, our coastline. Professor Dr Anne Poelina’s story of the Fitzroy River was very poignant listening, providing me with a deeper understanding of how we can change the way we live in and look after country, by changing the way we see it and relate to it.

Where I live on the South Coast, there is a lot of agricultural land, but very little regenerative agriculture practice. I’m currently studying horticulture part time, and have also done my bush regeneration course, and as part of the conservation and Land Management as part of the Conservation and Land Management certificate. Through this study, I’ve gained insight into how agriculture is done, and how it could be done with a lot less chemicals and whole systems change. Thank you Sylvia Layton for your presentation on ‘Turning the Tide on Land Degradation. Sylvia’s point that farmers need to talk to farmers, and locals need to talk to locals, is spot on and an important cultural context for any environmental and change work. Sylvia’s story was a refreshingly honest account of the challenges of doing things differently in farming, and changing the intergenerational ideas and traditions that aren’t healthy for any living systems. It’s about us finding the language that reaches deep into our own cultures, finding new ways and new voices to help us reshape our relationship with and connection to country, and shift the stories and values which we live by

Thank you AAEE NSW for the opportunity to attend this conference It is helped me to keep my vision of a healthy environment and positive future. It has inspired a sense of hope and it is has helped me to navigate new ways to address the big environmental issues and problem solving needed to address these issues in more ecological ways.

What’s next for me?  I’ll continue to explore the ideas and knowledge from this conference in my program design, my writing, my teaching and my conversations with neighbours, community, tourists, students and my fellow TAFE horticulturalists. I’ve joined the Regional Sustainability Educators Network. I look forward to bringing new knowledge and ways of working with, and learning about, the environment into all aspects of my working and living.

I’m not sure what work I’ll be doing in 2022, but it will involve a combination of people and plants in school and outdoors in this amazing place I live, the South Coast.


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