Highlights from ‘Green Futures Now’ youth program in Warrnambool

It’s been almost 12 months since I assisted the Warrnambool City Council in delivering their Green Futures Now project – a new initiative aimed at providing young people an opportunity to lead their own project to address local climate change and sustainability issues (read more about the program in this previous article). While I stepped away on maternity leave late last year, the group continued to drive the project and see their ideas come to life.

Members of Green Futures Now exploring the Warrnambool Community Gardens during one of the intensive workshops. Photo: Becky Nevin Berger.

During three intensive workshops, the group enjoyed hearing about some of the local initiatives and activities occurring to tackle climate change and broader environmental issues. The Green Futures Now members recognised a need for greater community awareness around some of these initiatives. In doing so, they created a series of video interviews with local people and representatives from community groups involved in tackling climate change and creating a more sustainable environment.

In one video, local Indigenous artist, Sherry Johnstone, provides a Welcome to Country then speaks about her artwork which plays an important role in passing on messages and stories to others. Through her artwork, Sherry aims to encourage others to notice the natural world around us and connect with nature. 

Local Indigenous artist Sherry Johnstone sharing insight into her artwork. Photo: Warrnambool City Council.

In another video, Tully Farrington speaks with Megan Nicholson, local artist and environmentalist, about one particular passion of hers – turning marine debris into pieces of artwork. Megan takes fishing ropes from our local beaches and turns them into interesting sculptures, some of which are inspired by Dr Seuss! These eye catching sculptures educate the community around the issue of marine debris and open up important discussions about what we should do with debris once we’ve removed it from our beaches. The fishing rope Megan uses avoids landfill and is given a second life.

Tully Farrington speaking with local artist Megan Nicholson during one of the video interviews. Photo: Warrnambool City Council.

The Green Futures Now members also spoke with Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Group, Making a Difference (MAD) for the Merri, Warrnambool Community Gardens and Colleen Hughson (founder of Beach Patrol) who all shared some of their amazing work. You can view these video interviews by visiting the Green Futures Now page on the Warrnambool City Council website. 

Members of Green Futures Now also saw a need to better support young people to make small everyday changes to improve our planet, and inspire future environmental leaders. The group put together “Living Simply” packs containing reusable and sustainable products such as vegetable seeds, a reusable straw, beeswax wraps and natural soaps, along with information sheets. Young people were invited to complete a survey in order to receive a pack, answering the following question – “Describe your dream Green Future if all of us helped to make it a reality?”

Members of Green Futures Now putting together their “Living Simply” packs. Photo: Becky Nevin Berger.

The responses captured a diverse and innovative range of solutions such as re-thinking packaging to reduce plastics, better education around recycling, more awareness around soft plastic recycling, working to eliminate aerosols, options to bring your own cups to take away outlets, normalising cloth nappies, greater protection of nature reserves and improved education around growing your own vegetables. These powerful responses, from people as young as six years of age, highlight the importance of giving young people the opportunity to help shape our greener future. While the issue of climate change and achieving a greener future is often considered complex, young people understand what needs to be done.

As we are about to kick off Green Futures Now 2022, I was keen to speak with a member from last year’s group to get their feedback on the experience. For Tully Farrington, being involved with Green Futures Now provided a unique opportunity to learn more about the environmental action and initiatives occurring in the community, some of which are not well known. Tully also appreciated the council seeking the input and contributions from local young people. Connecting with other like-minded young people that she may not have otherwise met was also valuable. Tully finished by encouraging any young person who is passionate about the environment and climate change to get involved in this program.

Thank you to the Warrnambool City Council for the opportunity to be involved in this great program.

Lauren Brown