Thousands of students from across the Diocese have gloved up over the past two weeks for Schools Clean Up Australia Day. From clean ups of school grounds and local parks to themed classroom learning and activities raising awareness amongst students and staff, our schools have embraced this year’s theme, ‘Change Starts With You’ by taking action to protect and care for their local environment.
Participating in the Schools Clean Up Day has been a fun and engaging way for our primary and secondary students to learn about the best methods for disposing of waste and the damaging environmental repercussions of dumping rubbish irresponsibly, while playing an active role in the solution by helping clean up their local area.
Not-for-profit environmental conservation organisation that started this community event 30 years ago, Clean Up Australia, says every young volunteer across schools and youth clean up sites is ‘AWE-some’. That is:
- (A)wareness – their eyes have been opened to the scale of rubbish that is harming our environment and wildlife;
- (W)ellbeing – their reward is a better understanding of how keeping the environment healthy is part of leading a healthy life;
- (E)mpowerment – they are now empowered to continue to take positive action to make their schools, clubs, sporting grounds and outdoor spaces the cleanest places they can be.
“The kids of Australia, led by their teachers and youth leaders, are showing us all that they really care. Their efforts across the country are raising awareness and developing leadership skills as our young people take up the challenge of creating a more sustainable and waste-efficient future” — Terrie-Ann Johnson, Clean Up Australia Managing Director
An encouraging additional dimension of our Catholic schools’ environmental awareness and action is that their ongoing focus is now as much on preventing rubbish entering our environment, as it is removing what has already accumulated – initiatives such as waste-free or ‘nude food’ lunch days, an increasing number of schools adopting a more environmentally-friendly multi-bin waste management system, and all our schools’ participation in the Vinnies ‘Return and Earn’ program.
[Click on the links in orange below to skip straight to your school]
• Our Lady Help of Christians, Rosemeadow
St Columbkille’s, Corrimal
Following Pope Francis’ call to environmental action in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, the staff and students of St Columbkille’s, Corrimal were keen to be involved in this important environmental event. With gloves ‘on hand’, staff and students from Kindergarten through to Year 6 cleaned up allocated areas in and around the school and church grounds, including the Parish Centre grounds and the adjacent laneways, as well as the neighbouring Midgely Street and Princes Highway footpath.
Assistant Principal, Maria Disibio, praised the classes for collecting a massive 14 official Clean Up Australia bags worth of rubbish – more than half of which were full to the brim by the end of the day. The students also collected a number of recyclable items, which they placed in the school’s recycling bins.
“All our students did a remarkable job of cleaning up the school grounds and we are all very proud of their efforts,” Ms Disibio said.
“I think it is important to clean up our environment so animals don’t eat our rubbish and get sick or die,” Year 4 student, Athanael said.
Holy Spirit College, Bellambi
Holy Spirit College, Bellambi started Clean Up Australia Day with a school prayer reflecting the special environmental nature of the day, and encouraged all staff and students to be mindful of the world around them. A presentation was also shown to several classes, highlighting the amount of waste that Australians produce each day and what can be done about it.
The school’s environmental group and various classes and individuals then took to the grounds to clean up litter. The students walked around at both recess and lunch, making sure the school was spotless and reminding students to be waste-wise with their rubbish.
A prayer for the Earth
You are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it; that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Teach us to act with compassion and encourage us in helping to preserve your world and all the creatures who share this planet with us.
Mary Immaculate, Eagle Vale
Mary Immaculate, Eagle Vale got into the spirit of their clean up from the start of the day, with teachers talking about and sharing videos relating to the campaign with their classes. Then in the afternoon, the whole school went out on the playground and got to work! Each grade cleaned up an assigned area of the school, and by home-time that afternoon, the grounds were spotless and looked fantastic.
"Mary Immaculate is now marvellous," one Year 6 student said.
"The cleaner it is, the better it is!" William from Kindergarten agreed.
"If our rubbish goes in the drain, it will go into the ocean and kill the animals." Year 1 student, Gilgamesh, said.
Holy Family, Ingleburn
Staff and students at Holy Family, Ingleburn were active in promoting Clean Up Australia Day and the environmental messages around it. Between the facts, figures and other key messages shared in their newsletters and at morning assemblies in the lead up to the event, students putting up posters around the school, and teachers using lessons to discuss the things we can all do to help the keep our environment clean, the school community was ready and keen for action!
On the day, the students did a terrific job of cleaning their school grounds. The school’s ecology team went further, also collecting rubbish at the nearby Koala Park where the students also play.
ST PATRICK’S, PORT KEMBLA
Clean Up Australia Day was a whole-school affair at St Patrick’s, Port Kembla, where all classes participated in cleaning up the school, including their beautiful garden area. The students found some interesting objects, including a broken road sign, polystyrene foam, pens, a wallet, keys and many different kinds of small plastics and rubbish.
“As a school, we are very aware of our environment. We encourage no plastic wrapping on lunches and advocate for how we, in some small way, can make a difference in our world by limiting rubbish, and recycling and composting,” Principal, Anne Duggan said.
St Paul’s, Albion Park
At St Paul’s Albion Park, each grade cleaned up a designated area of the school playground. Staff also reinforced ideas around environmental sustainability and reducing waste in lessons throughout the day.
Inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, the school has now committed to continuing such a clean up of the school every Friday afternoon. Congratulations St Paul’s!
St Brigid’s, Gwynneville
St Brigid’s, Gwynneville dedicated their morning to a whole-school clean up of the grounds and perimeter of the school. With official Clean Up Australia bags, the children scoured the area for any sign of rubbish and made sure to sort their findings into rubbish and recyclables - further enhancing their sustainability efforts.
“I loved the clean up day, because we are helping the world,” Kindergarten student, Charlie said.
“Clean up day was so much fun! We are making everything beautiful,” classmate, Ella said.
Our Lady Help of Christians, Rosemeadow
The students at Our Lady Help of Christians, Rosemeadow had a lot of fun participating in their Clean Up Australia Day event. They were very enthusiastic about cleaning up the school and helping conserve the environment.
Teachers kitted themselves and the children up with a glove each and they all jumped right in! Their efforts saw them tidy up the whole school, including the gardens and their two large playground spaces - a combined area greater than the size of a football field!
St Thomas More, Ruse
The students at St Thomas More, Ruse also participated in a clean up on Friday, 1 March. Classes discussed the importance of picking up rubbish around us and the purpose of a campaign like Clean Up Australia Day. Each grade then had fun being outdoors and cleaning up their special area of the school.
“It was a great opportunity for the school to come together as a community and take time to care for the environment,” St Thomas More WEN Coordinator, Lauren Walsh said.
“We contributed to Clean Up Australia Day by cleaning up our whole school. Our Year 5 classes had to clean up the oval and you won’t believe some of the things we found - from cans to crates to high-heeled shoes!” Year 5 student, Imogen said.
“Cleaning up the oval was a lot of fun. We had our gloves and picked up so much rubbish, it filled our whole bin,” classmate, Amali said.
St Francis of Assisi, Warrawong
St Francis of Assisi, Warrawong used the Schools Clean Up Australia Day event to gather their staff and students together to participate in a whole-school clean up. Each grade had their own assigned area to cover, and the results of their collective action was impressive – the school was spotless by the end of the day!
Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama
Last week, Ss Peter and Paul, Kiama participated in Clean Up Australia Day to launch Catholic Schools Week at their school. With a focus on the Catholic Schools Week theme, ‘The future has a name, and that name is HOPE’, the students and staff used the opportunity to clean up the area and celebrate the beautiful beach environment around them.
Edmund Rice COLLEGE, WEST WOLLLONGONG
Edmund Rice College used Clean Up Australia Day as a team building exercise for their Year 7 cohort. Armed with gloves and garbage bags, the group spent the afternoon cleaning up around the College grounds - the boundaries, the gully, the sports ovals and playground.
They split into their sports house groups for the task, which produced some healthy competition about who managed to collect the most rubbish collected! Overall the boys took great pride in cleaning up their school, collecting almost 40 bags of rubbish in less than an hour.
Edmund Rice Eco-Facilitator, Diane Schodde, thanked all the teachers and students who participated.
St Justin’s, Oran Park
St Justin's, Oran Park also participated in cleaning up their school environment. The little busy bees in Year 2 made sure the playground was tidy and checked the gardens were free of rubbish, while the Year 6 leaders went around to help each year group tidy up their respective play areas.
“The Kindergarten students were very eager to clean up as a team for the first time and learned that here at St Justin’s, we care about our community and school,” St Justin’s WEN Coordinator, Samantha Vergara said.
“After the students returned to class, our school looked magnificent, ready for their family outdoor movie P&F fundraiser for Caritas' Project Compassion that night.”
Cleaning up the play areas is now a weekly event for each grade, where they will focus on keeping their school environment tidy and acting responsibly in areas that they play in. Well done, St Justin’s!
St Joseph’s, Albion Park
The St Joseph’s Albion Park War on Waste (WoW) Club members joined forces with community environment groups, Two Week Red Bin Challenge and Oceans in Focus, to clean up over nine large garbage bags full of plastics and rubbish around local Barrack Point beach spot, Little Lake.
Year 8 student, Jasmine, said the group was surprised with how much rubbish there was near the lake and in the rocks. “The most common items were cigarette butts, glass, beer caps, soft plastics like chip packets and water bottles, as well as lots of small unrecognisable pieces of plastic," she said.
"It is important for young people to know where their rubbish ends up if they don't put it into the bin. It doesn't always go into landfill. Rubbish can end up in the ocean where fish have to live with our litter.”
Many schools across our four Diocesan regions also engaged in awareness-raising activities that built on their current environmental initiatives. Some saw senior student leaders use the occasion to promote eco-awareness at school assemblies, while others designed Clean Up Australia Day posters to be displayed around their schools as reminders at recess and lunch.
Other schools have organised clean ups around special events coming up during the rest of the term, such as Holy Cross Helensburgh, who have organised a clean up for after their upcoming school fete this week.
CEDoW Education Officer and Wollongong Education Network (WEN) Coordinator, Beth Riolo, commended all the schools who participated in the clean up for their environmental action to help protect the planet.
"As Catholics, we have the call from Laudato Si’ to ‘care for our common home’. Each year during Clean Up Australia Day, our schools are able to join in the collective national action to clean up and care for our common home, our country" — Beth Riolo, Wollongong Education Network Coordinator
“It is a wonderful event for our schools to contribute to,” she said.
For more information on CEDoW’s Wollongong Environment Network (WEN) and the environmental initiatives occurring in our schools, visit our WEN page.
Did you know: Over its 30 years, Clean Up Australia Day has inspired over 16 million Australians to donate more than 33 million hours to removing the equivalent of 250,000 ute-loads of rubbish from more than 178,000 locations across the country!