NSW/ACT IEU Environment Grant winner

Cawongla Playhouse Community Preschool

Paying respects to the land

Cawongla Playhouse Community Preschool won the 2021 NSW/ACT IEU Environment Grant for its project to revitalise a large, degraded back paddock.

The preschool sits on Crown land, and the paddock has been fenced off and idle for many years, requiring regular slashing to reduce the fire hazard and risk from dangerous snakes.

With children involved in every stage of the process, the proposal is to design, plant and build an orchard, bush tucker/kitchen garden, chook run, nature walk and native vegetation forest.

Director Stephen Gallen said recent flooding affecting the preschool (see p12) has set the project back. The nearest Bunnings (40km away) is out of action, as are garden centres and trades and service providers.

“We had planned to do this project slowly and thoughtfully, with the children involved every step of the way,” Stephen said.

“We might have to work a bit more intensely now, but we still hope to get positive outcomes from this work.

“We’ve been talking to the children a lot about respect for Country, and Indigenous knowledge.

“Learning about paying respect to the land and respecting the Elders, it ties in with the flood and fires we’ve been experiencing lately.

“We can talk about why we need to do this work, how it’s about restoring Country, so these disasters can be averted in the future.

“We can show how planting trees can divert and absorb water, for example. We can explain why we need to listen to what the local mob has been telling us.

“The floods might have changed the flavour of it a bit but it’s still a rich learning project that works on a lot of different levels.

“We have a group of skilled, committed parents who can offer labour and expertise (carpenters, builders, a permaculture expert, and a bush regenerator, among others).

“The process promotes children’s learning across all the EYLF outcomes. Most of the project will be self-sustaining or sustained through usual preschool daily operations (kitchen garden/chook run).

“There are lots of sensible, practical reasons to do this project. It’s all about finding a balance and taking responsibility for Country.”