St Columba Anglican School proud recipient of IEU Environment Grant

St Columba Anglican School Port Macquarie is an independent school offering co-educational education from Kindergarten to Year 12.

Situated on 36 acres in a semi-rural expanse alongside one of the region’s vast nature reserves, the school enjoys frequent visits from eastern grey kangaroos and various native bird species.

A designated koala corridor exists along the school’s northern border. The school’s commitment to sustainability, under the guidance of recently retired teacher Anni Kiehn and a group of enthusiastic students, aims to foster lasting changes for both present and future generations.

Their efforts in recent years encompass diverse initiatives. Among them is a Return and Earn bottle and can recycling initiative, complemented by recycling programs for items like pens and batteries.

Waste-free ‘nude lunchboxes’, hives of native bees, the flourishing Wambuyn bush food garden, and multiple vegetable patches all stand as testaments to their eco-conscious endeavours. The school also engages in planting and weed control in the adjoining reserve.

However, one aspect of environmental stewardship stands out as the students’ focus — the preservation of koalas. The Port Macquarie-Hastings region has one of the largest koala populations in Australia. Recognising the shared responsibility for the survival of these iconic creatures, the whole school champions this cause.

As of 2022, the koala has been classified as an endangered species. Forecasts indicate a grim fate — koalas could vanish from NSW before 2050 unless swift and effective interventions are undertaken. Threats include habitat loss, disease, and road accidents. Recent adversities, including drought, the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires, and habitat degradation on neighbouring lands, have further encroached upon the koala habitat near the school.

Amid these challenges, the Year 6 Sustainability Committee sprang into action. The students seized the initiative to bolster the school’s koala habitat. Their proposal involved replenishing the lost habitat by planting trees within the school’s koala corridor. Collaboration with school leadership, the campus maintenance team, and the local Koala Conservation Hospital culminated in the planting of six swamp mahogany trees (eucalyptus robusta) — a food source for koalas.

In 2022, IEU member Anni Kiehn applied for the IEU’s Environment Grant on behalf of this cause. The grant, totalling $2000, recognised the project’s merits and its potential for sustainability advancement. The five students who were integral to the project, accompanied by Kiehn (pictured), were recently presented with the cheque by IEU Organiser Steven Bergan.

Eager to capitalise on this support, the students plan to expand the variety of native plants and trees on the campus to encourage more local fauna and insects. They also plan to install wildlife cameras to document the project.

The $2000 grant provides a vital boost, underscoring the significance of collaboration between educational institutions and organisations committed to the greater good. As the school nurtures and observes the growth of these planted trees and the flourishing habitat they will foster, they extend their gratitude to the IEU for their support and belief in the power of education and environmental stewardship.