THE power of many hands – and many words – made light work in Bulli Park last Friday, with local students helping to plant a greener tomorrow.
Students from Waniora Public School and St Joseph’s Primary school joined in a nature filled morning and brought new life to the historic park on Friday 29 July. Around 60 students worked with Wollongong City Council staff to plant a selection of native shrubs and grasses around the new bicycle ‘pump track’.
The students spent time with award-winning writer and NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year 2020 Kirli Saunders, who led a nature-based Caring for Country poetry workshop.
The two activities were delivered in partnership by Council and Red Room Poetry as part of growing Poem Forest, a free competition that builds on positive words to increase tree plantings across Wollongong.
Poem Forest invites students and teachers to submit a nature poem. For every submission received across Australia, a tree gets planted in Campbelltown’s Mount Annan Botanic Garden. Last year, more than 5,000 trees were planted in Mount Annan Botanic Garden.
“It’s important for us to increase the number of trees and plants across our outdoor spaces as well as caring for them,” Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said.
“Our planting days with local schools are always a highlight for Council staff, who play an important role in educating our younger generation on how they can support a greener future.
“The planting day was unique in that we had Red Room Poetry and proud Gunai woman, Kirli Saunders, join us as part of Poem Forest.”
This is the first year a Wollongong-specific prize has been offered, which includes $500 cash, a $50 voucher to spend at Wollongong Botanic Garden’s Greenplan Nursery, free plants and a school excursion – in addition to the national prizes.
Red Room Poetry Artistic Director Dr Tamryn Bennett said Poem Forest is about deepening connections with plants and place.
“We want young people to know that their voices matter and that their actions can make a difference when it comes to caring for country,” Dr Bennett said.
“We know students are so passionate about the environment and every tree we can plant helps to make a greener future for everyone. Plus there’s lots of fantastic prizes!”
The workshop led by Kirli invited students to take a moment to reflect on their morning planting and put pen to paper the gratitude they have for Country and nature. Their poems will also be entered into the competition.
Kirli Saunders believes that people are more inclined to care for Country that they’re connected to.
“This event provided valuable and important moments for students as they listened to Elders, wrote stories, and shared yarns while planting native plants,” she said.
“The morning began with Aunty Sharralyn Robinson, who gave a warm welcome and explained the cultural significance of the Lomandra, that the students planted around the bike track.
“I felt really lucky to contribute to regenerating the land I live on, and supporting cultural connections between schools and community, while also facilitating literacy development,”
Cr Bradbery said local students have been invited to submit drawings that share how they feel about trees and why outdoor spaces are important.
“We’re keen to display these pictures alongside poems in the park in the future,” Cr Bradbery said.
“Friday’s event is a positive outcome for our community, and all of their creations will promote the benefits of community greening in and around Bulli Park.”
Open to all students living or attending school on Dharawal Country within the Wollongong LGA, the competition is open until Friday, September 23. More information HERE.
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