Thankful for our past, focussed on our future

Written by Melissa Sellen on 10 Mar 2020 - 12:59pm.

For almost 50 years the NSW Chapter of AAEE has worked with advocates, leaders and change-makers to advance environmental education in NSW.

Starting in 1972 as the Association for EE (NSW), our work began in the fields of nature education and nature studies and was driven by passionate volunteers and staff in the formal education sector and government. These pioneers worked in partnership with organisations like The Gould League of NSW, NSW Environmental Education Centres and other government departments and in 1980 formed the official NSW Chapter of AAEE.

We’re incredibly grateful to these men, women and students who worked tirelessly in the 1970’s and 80’s to build our chapter and defend the place of environmental educators at the table of government, classroom and industry decision-makers.

In the 1990’s came the launch of the Environmental Education Curriculum Statement K-12, making it mandatory for NSW government schools to program for environmental education. The following two decades saw wide-reaching support for environmental education in NSW, and a significant period of growth in Education for Sustainability (EfS) programs. Our Chapter, driven by a small group of dedicated volunteer committee members and a growing membership base, secured grants to build our projects, and embedded core programs such as the Gould League Scholarship, NSW Environmental Educator of the Year Awards and biennial NSW EE Conference.

As the new millennium progressed, so too did the focus of the NSW Chapter. In the absence of formal government policy, we spearheaded the development of the Make the Change Framework, to provide a unified, coordinated and collaborative approach to sustainability education and engagement across NSW. We advocated to save Sustainable Schools NSW by taking ownership of the program and we successfully delivered significant, multi-year grant projects to build the capacity of sustainability educators and their networks across the state.

As we look to the future, our Chapter is taking significant steps to grow and extend our reach and influence. We’re investing in a dedicated staff team, and establishing new partnerships, organisational systems and governance structures to scaffold our growth. Our projects will continue to support regional and other sector-based networks, celebrate individuals and provide resources to help educators consistently deliver best practice sustainability education projects. We are developing a new sustainability products and services directory to help connect EfS providers with projects in need of assistance and are continuing to develop Sustainable Schools NSW for the benefit of all schools across the state.

It is also clear that our leadership role is more important than ever in this time of climate crisis. We recently declared a climate emergency and signed the Safe Climate Declaration to help advance Australia’s climate emergency transition. We encourage you all to continue to be leaders in your area of influence to help affect immediate and decisive change for a safe climate future. We look forward to supporting you in this, which may be our most important legacy as environmental educators.