Students interested in environmental action sometimes feel alone in their pursuit. The Youth Environment Council of SA supports a group of high school students each year to volunteer, meet like-minded peers and supportive mentors, and pursue new environmental opportunities. Wanting to apply for this year’s intake? Read on for some inspiration or head straight to the application page.

Do you know a young person who is passionate about the environment and wants to make a difference while developing their skills and having heaps of fun? Then the Youth Environment Council of South Australia (YEC) might be just the thing for them.

It’s a yearly program that provides students in years 7 to 11 with a community of like-minded peers and supportive mentors, to help them develop leadership skills in their homes, schools, and communities, while working toward their own sustainability projects.

The program is run by Green Adelaide’s Education Team and proudly supported by the Department for Education, along with in-kind support from regional Landscape Board staff.

Last year, the YEC’s 60 members represented 40 schools across Adelaide, the southeast, Fleurieu Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula, and the Riverland. Seven students who were involved in previous years were selected to be mentors.

Participants got involved in a range of diverse environmental actions, which last year included:

  • creating food and wildlife gardens in schools
  • setting up and maintaining recycling stations
  • fundraising for environmental and community organisations
  • researching and revegetating local threatened species
  • experimenting with compost to understand the benefits over store-bought fertilisers
  • promoting the use of native food, by comparing the growth of native spinach and baby spinach
  • organising and taking part in rubbish cleanups
  • creating beeswax wrap products.

Sound interesting? Read on to see what last year’s program entailed and how to get involved this year.

1. Welcome Day

The first event of the year was a Welcome Day at Belair National Park in April. Members enjoyed being in nature, sharing their experiences and learning from mentors and previous YEC members about projects that created positive environmental change.

2. Leadership Camp

The annual YEC Leadership Camp took at Arbury Park Outdoor School in the Adelaide Hills.

Members built their leadership skills and environmental knowledge, linked their learning to real-world practice, and developed plans for their own environmental projects that they would be focusing on for the remainder of the year.

3. Connecting across regions

For the next 6 months, YEC members worked hard to research their ideas for change and turn them into action.

Monthly online meetings kept members connected to give updates on their projects, provide advice to each other and hear from guest speakers.

4. Leadership skills in action

Several members took up additional leadership opportunities over the year, including contributing to a YEC submission for an SA Water consultation on investment and management of water resources, presenting to the City of Burnside Youth Forum, sharing their projects at Green Adelaide events, and attending the Power Shift conference in Brisbane with young people from around Australia – including a past YEC member who helped organize the conference.

5. Projects showcased at celebration forum

The final event of the year was the sharing and celebration forum in Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

Activities included nature journaling, a botanical treasure hunt, making seed bombs and investigating bird behaviour, learning about and trying Aboriginal art, and hearing about the personal journeys of past YEC members – some that dated back to the late 1990s.

It closed with a showcase of the members’ individual and group projects to their peers, family members, school staff and VIPs. Here are just a few of the inspiring projects in more detail:

  • Charlotte and her mentor Naomi created 2 huge murals on water tanks at the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary, depicting the 6 ecosystems and more than 40 native species found within the sanctuary. A group of children on an art camp contributed by painting the base coats, making it an even more special landmark.

    Kangaroo sitting in front of wildlife mural on rain tank with kangaroo in the painting, as young woman Charlotte continues to paint the mural.
    A curious kangaroo looking at a painting of himself in the rain tank mural Charlotte is painting.
  • Archer set up a recycling station at school with a set of drawers to collect household items. The recycling station takes bread tags, oral care packaging, alfoil, packaging, and office supplies. He promoted the initiative in his school newsletter.
    School drawer set in a classroom. Plastic drawers are labelled for different recycling items collected using colourful paper.
    Archer's smart recycling station.
  • Ruby created a water-efficient edible garden at her school after researching water-wise plants, sharing ideas and fundraising. Ruby held a casual clothes day fundraiser that raised $102.40 toward the project, and gave advice to other YEC members on their plant selection.
    Close up photo of herbs growing in the ground.
    This is a stock photo, but we're sure Ruby's garden looked much better.

How to apply for the 2023 program

Applications are now open for the Youth Environment Council’s 2023 program.

Applications are open to South Australian students in year 7-11 who can get permission from a parent or guardian, be endorsed by a teacher or principal, and uphold the expectations of being a YEC member.

Want to build leadership skills with a fun environmental project? Don’t wait! Find out more and apply on the YEC SA application page.

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