Putting nature back where it belongs with Wooragee Junior Landcare
Category: News

One of the longest-running Junior Landcare groups in the country, Wooragee Junior Landcare in Victoria started at the same time that Wooragee Landcare was formed more than 30 years ago – by people who were passionate about children and the environment. Together, principal of Wooragee Primary School at the time, Andy Woods; teacher Jamie Gay, Wooragee Landcare founding member Graeme Missen and others saw the importance of connecting studies to the local environment and so replaced the old “science and nature studies” with Junior Landcare.

Today, the school’s environmental program attracts students from outside the area. With a long history of running conferences with schools, undertaking revegetation, inviting guest speakers and forming interschool connections – initially using telephone lines and loudspeakers, not webinars as they do now – Junior Landcare has flourished at school over the years. The Junior Landcare program was even an important factor in saving the school when its numbers were reduced to eight pupils in the 1990s and it faced closure.

“I think one of the great things about the program is that it’s putting nature back where it belongs – in everyone’s life every day. Sadly many children (and adults) don’t have this,” says Sue Brunskill, President of Wooragee Landcare. “Many adults think that insects, apart from butterflies and European honey bees, are all bad and we should control them. The kids are learning ecology in real life – that everything has its role – a lesson of inestimable value.”

As for the children involved, highlights include being outside, playing along the creek, looking at critters, being allowed to take risks and getting wet and dirty! Accompanying guest naturalist Karen Retra, who attends regularly to take the kids for nature based activities, is another firm favourite.

“I enjoy when we get to explore outside during gardening or in our Karen sessions because it’s really fun and you always find really interesting things,” says a student.

“They also love working in the vegetable garden with the amazing Owen and Eric, the very dedicated and knowledgeable gardeners with many years of experience and who the school and children hold in very high esteem (did we mention Owen, the head gardener is in his nineties and has been volunteering for many years?),” adds Sue.

The group has enjoyed many highlights over the years, including when they won the National Landcare prize for education and the entire school (25 kids) set off to Canberra to receive the award from Bob Hawke. “When the kids gave him a present of a Wooragee Rural School windcheater, he took off his suit jacket and wore it all day– even for the press conference outside later in the day.”

There have been many other awards for the tiny school over the years, but it is the messages from the group’s young members that are perhaps the most inspiring of all.

“I think that making sure we don’t litter is something we all know and is always up there, but making sure we respect the trees and plants is very important, too. Make sure everything is grown correctly, the land is healthy, and that nothing is treated badly,” says Alice.

“Taking care of the land is important because it helps us live and thrive, and it supplies us with food, water and air,” shares Indigo. “The plants are amazing flora. They grow over the seasons and supply us air but we must stop cutting trees down and killing nature. Encourage others around you to take care of plants and animals; some people don’t but you can change that! You could water plants and flowers or tell others to stop injuring the plants.”

Running a successful Junior Landcare group

Key to Wooragee Junior Landcare’s long-term success has been having “a core of dedicated people”, especially the connection between the school and landcare and “a plan that is flexible – the ability to change directions according to resources, interest and what is available locally,” according to the group. Their other tips include:

  • Have fun and offer physical activities outside when possible.
  • If you can, run regular activities – think of paying someone if there is a suitable person locally. Wooragee Junior Landcare is now supported (via Wooragee Landcare) financially by a local business, a private donor, and the school.
  • Invite parents to be involved and encourage them to let their kids to get dirty!
  • Look locally for funding and connections.
  • Input regularly into both the Landcare newsletter and/or your school’s newsletter. For example, Wooragee Landcare newsletter has a monthly report about the Junior Landcare activities.

For more tips on how to start a Junior Landcare group, click here.

Find out more about Wooragee Junior Landcare here:

Do you know a young person or group making a change for the environment? Email and let us know what actions they’re taking so we can feature them on our website and in the Junior Landcare newsletter!