Green team marks govt hard on school fund
Australia is failing international education targets with its dismal support of sustainability programs in schools, a new alliance says.
Representatives of nine teacher, parent and environmental groups have descended on the offices of up to 30 politicians denouncing the government's lack of interest in sustainability education.
They say successive reports show Australia is moving backwards in developing green credentials despite all levels of government highlighting the issue as a key concern.
The group is now calling on the federal government to reinstate funding for a national schools sustainability program that has proven to be highly successful, particularly in the ACT.
The Australian Youth Climate Coalition, which heads the alliance, said the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative program had been implemented in 100 per cent of ACT schools and 30 per cent nationwide over the past nine years.
All schools had shown dramatic improvements in sustainability awareness, including cutting water, energy and general waste by up to 80 per cent.
But with funding withdrawn for next year, more than 3200 schools across the country would now be left without any sustainability program at all.
''There are many things this government needs to do to address sustainability but we've found the AuSSI program to be really effective in schools,'' the coalition's national director Ellen Sandell said.
''It only costs about $1500 per school to implement this program, which is very cost-effective considering so much volunteer time is put in by parents, teachers and the community as well.''
A host of national and state organisations have rallied behind the cause including public, independent and tertiary education unions, Australian Council of State School Organisations, the Australian Association of Environmental Educators, Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand.
ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations president Vivienne Pearce said sustainability was meant to be a core value of the national curriculum but officials were worried the message would not filter down from a federal level into individual classrooms.
She said it would be hugely disappointing if Canberra lost a program that had been so successful in the past.
''This program is really hands-on because it's teaching kids to cut their energy and water use and helping them build things like veggie gardens and worm farms,'' she said.
''And parents love it! They're always volunteering to come in on weekends and feed the chooks or plant in the veggie garden.
''The AuSSi program has been so successful in schools I don't know why they'd try to start from scratch and develop a new resource.''
Australian Conservation Foundation president Ian Lowe, a patron of the AuSSI program in Queensland, said the program was worthy of government support as the lessons children received were passed on to the broader community.
''When I talk to my colleagues I find that those who are recycling, using public transport and buying green electricity are overwhelmingly doing so because their kids have nagged them to make the decision,'' he said.