Environmental Education

One of the core objectives of Sutherland Shire Environment Centre is to develop and support environmental education initiatives.  We currently offer a “Writing for the Environment Award” for people aged 25 years or younger, as well as two very special environmental education projects benefiting kids of all ages: Speaking 4 the Planet, and Nature and Learning.  Our kids are our future – let’s help them appreciate our beautiful environment and learn how to protect it.

Through the University of New South Wales we also offer a Masters and Phd thesis Award to encourage and support students undertaking studies on environmental issues around the Shire Sutherland region.

Speaking 4 the Planet

Beat Plastic Pollution.  Connecting People to Nature.  Illegal Trade in Wildlife.  Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.  Raise your Voice, Not the Sea Level.  Think.Eat.Save.

You might recognise these recent World Environment Day themes. We want our kids to be able to speak up about their beliefs. How great would it be if they could speak up for the planet?

Speaking 4 the Planet is a world-first program – an arts-based sustainability competition, which runs in Australia and internationally on primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Originally founded in Australia, since 2013 school students have been participating in Speaking 4 the Planet competitions.

For 2024, the S4P topic is Trees, the Guardians of Life.  S4P asks participants to focus on the importance of their local bushland – for themselves, their communities, and their regions. 

From the blue beaches to its red centre, Australia is blessed with diverse and unique woodlands, rainforests and bushland. It has 130 million hectares of forests – about 17% of its land area.  Yet Australia has some of the worst deforestation in the world – comparable to Indonesia and Brazil.

The topic Trees, the Guardians of Life is linked to Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on Land.  The competition has the following categories:

* Public speaking (max 4m)
* Art
* Writing 
* Performance poetry

Students can enter submissions in one or more categories.  

For more information please download the S4P information pack.

For more information please contact Phil Smith at phil@speaking4theplanet.org.au

The closing date for submissions is  Friday 26 July 2024.

All submissions should be made online via the S4P website.

Previous Speaking 4 the Planet winners

2021 was the first year of the UN’s Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and the focus for S4P was on the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. The theme of Rewind the Clock – Reverse Ecosystem Degradation attracted 43 entries.  Entrants came from schools in Liverpool, Willoughby, Sutherland Shire, Parramatta and Georges River Local Government Areas.

The impassioned speech of Mohamed Affouf of Blakehurst High School, which called for an end to the littering that pollutes our oceans and injures and kills animals, won the speaking prize.

Winning artwork by Amalia Ibrahim, St Francis College, Edmonson Park

In his speech Mohamed said, “it’s insane that 1.9 billion tonnes of litter can end up in the ocean every year. Each year, more than 100,000 dolphins, fish, whales, turtles and many other species may get tangled in or swallow plastic waste…  just adapting daily changes, by using paper bags, degradable containers and paper straws, can significantly save the valuable marine life and surely make humanity happier.”

The beautiful song on ecosystem restoration entitled “Do our bit and stick by it”, composed and performed by Felicia Dimitriadis of Carringbah’s Endeavour Sports High School, won the video category.

Winning artwork by Carissa Roberts, St John Bosco College, Engadine

A number of excellent entries were received in the art category and the judges were inspired to award three first prizes to evocative works by three young artists.

These artworks, Matthea Alexandra Baeha (St George Girls High School); Carissa Roberts (St John Bosco College, Engadine); and Amalia Ibrahim (Saint Francis College, Edmonson Park), are featured here.

We would like to congratulate all the participants for their effort and ideas.

Winning artwork by Mathea Alexandra Baeha, St George Girls High School

You can find out more about S4P by viewing the video below, or see the ten year anniversary evaluation report for an overview.

Heathcote resident and long-time environmental advocate Phil Smith was nominated for the Earth Prize International 2020 by the World Environmental Education Congress as a result of his work on the Speaking 4 the Planet program.

For more information contact Phil Smith: rephilled@hotmail.com


Nature and learning

Did you know that spending time in nature improves your children’s health and benefits their learning?

If you are keen to find out more we have a program we support that is being run in conjunction with Sutherland Shire Council. Contact us to organise a Nature and Learning session at your school or P&C group.

If you’d like more information about the program please contact Phil Smith: rephilled@hotmail.com

If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy nature with your children, you may also like our map with some family friendly walks around the Shire and Royal National Park. If you know of a walk not included on the map please add to it or let us know.


This article in The New Bush Telegraph, newspaper and online journal, speaks to our intimate relationship with trees, and how we need to value that relationship.


R D Walshe Memorial Writing for the Environment Prize

In 1989, Bob Walshe OAM, author and environmental activist, ran a short “Writing for the Environment” course in Sutherland. From this group grew Sutherland Shire Environment Centre. Bob’s wisdom, approach and ongoing support built a foundation that allows the Environment Centre to continue to support members and local community organisations in their efforts to protect and improve their local areas in the Shire and its region. Bob passed away in March 2018. His loss is felt keenly by all who had come in contact with him over his 94 years.

In honour of our founder, Sutherland Shire Environment Centre has established an award to value the role of writing in helping to shape a sustainable world.

Through the RD Walshe Memorial Writing for the Environment Prize, Sutherland Shire Environment Centre continues to value the role and place of writing in helping to shape a sustainable world – healthy people living on a healthy planet.

The topic for 2023 is: Future What Future?


Please see the RD Walshe Writing for the Environment Prize page for details, and for more information contact Phil Smith: at rephilled@hotmail.com 

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre UNSW thesis Award

To encourage and support students undertaking studies on environmental issues in and around the Shire Sutherland region, Sutherland Shire Environment Centre offers a Masters and Phd thesis Award through the University of New South Wales.

The prize is $1,000. Topics might include (but are not limited to) environmental conservation, environmental remediation, environmental education and environmental history.  Ideally the winning thesis, or an edited version or extract would be published in the public domain, although this would not be a requirement. Theses can be nominated through their authors’ supervisors.

If you’d like to find out more, please contact Catherine Reynolds: catherine@ssec.org.au


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