Youth leadership celebrated

Seven local high school students have graduated from Corowa District Landcare’s “Youth Create and Celebrate” leadership program on Sunday, May 29.

The program, facilitated by Sally Hughes, offered participants a blend of leadership training as well as the opportunity to develop a nature-based project.

Local community groups supported the project along the way including Corowa and District Rotary Club, the Apex Club of Corowa, and the Community Garden.

Over the course of the program, students developed a reptile habitat at the Whitehead Street wetlands under the guidance of wildlife ecologist Dr Damian Michael.

Dayna Carter from Oaklands Central School provided artwork which is set to appear on interpretive signs at the wetland. Members of Corowa Rotary and Corowa Apex attended the wetlands project and helped to build the habitat which required many hands working together.

The team also hosted two successful events in partnership with the Corowa Girl Guides.

A spotlight led by Dr Michael was complimented with pizza and a revegetation event at Baden Lodge. The group planted understorey species including silver wattle to improve squirrel glider habitat and Dr Michael installed a squirrel glider nest box.

Leadership training was an important element. Anne Ovens a local retired schoolteacher ran workshops on public speaking. Students then used this training to speak at the events and to deliver their graduation speeches.

Covid presented a major challenge over the duration of the project but also created opportunities.

Students kept connected with zoom meetings. They invited local journalist Adrienne Hartnett to speak with them and she shared her story about overcoming adversity and the importance of wellbeing.

Students also met with Federation Council mayor Pat Bourke via zoom, and he spoke to them about his journey of growing up on a farm and how he became mayor of Urana and Federation. Students were also interested to learn about Youth Council.

“The project was a wonderful experience because students were able to have genuine input while they created connections to their peers as well as older community members,” Project Facilitator Sally Hughes said.

“Furthermore, students felt empowered that they could make a difference in their local community.”

The students’ achievements over the last twelve months culminated to a wonderful graduation ceremony held at the Corowa Cricket Club.

Member for Albury Justin Clancy was a special guest at the event as well as family members, friends and the representatives from community groups who were involved in the project.

Mr Clancy congratulated everyone involved in the program.

“It was so inspiring to be part of the graduation yesterday and to see and hear from Molly, Max, Ruby, Isabelle, Dayna and Emma about what the program meant for them and how they have grown through being involved,” he said.

“Well done to Sally Hughes and all involved on this amazing program!”

Two valued Landcare volunteers Natasha Lappin and Basia Olejniczak who contributed their knowledge and support throughout the program also attended.

Catering was provided by the Corowa branch of the CWA. A highlight of the event was the premiere of the “Youth Create and Celebrate” film by “Little Brother Media” that was made to celebrate the project.

Corowa District Landcare president Brendan Christy was thrilled to see how engaged and committed the participants were to achieve strong environmental outcomes in their local area.

“I am impressed by the development of the participants leadership skills over the life of the project, and I am excited to see what these new young leaders will achieve for their local community in the future,” he said.

Past president of Corowa Rotary Meredith Miegel commented that it was great to see the younger generation participating in a project to improve their local environment and the functionality of the wetland. She also noted the personal growth of the students as a benefit of the program. Rotary have done extensive works at the wetland since 2017. They have improved drainage, walking tracks and installed shade and signage as well as a bird hide for the community to enjoy.

The project was funded by a grant from The NSW Youth Opportunities program. Ms Hughes hopes to present the film and the project at the 2023 NSW Landcare conference.

Dayna Carter accepts her certificate from Member for Albury Justin Clancy.
Project Facilitator Sally Hughes and Cr Aaron Nicholls pictured at the graduation.
Member for Albury Justin Clancy with Isabel Higgins-Carrol and Corowa District Landcare president Brendan Christy.