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Lorraine and Terry Watkins were among several award winners recognised for their work in promoting sustainability at the 13th annual Living Sustainably Awards for 2024. Image: contributed

Council awards to sustainability champions

Emma Pritchard

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) hosted their 13th annual Living Sustainably Awards for 2024 on June 27.

Initiated by the CVC Climate Change Advisory Committee, the awards recognise the significant contributions made by local individuals and organisations as they work towards achieving sustainability within the region and were presented by CVC Deputy Mayor Jeff Smith and longstanding committee member Janet Cavanaugh.

The 2024 nominees were chosen for their progress in energy and water conservation, innovation, sustainable recreation, and employment initiatives as well as cultural awareness and preservation.

CVC Environmental Officer Suzanne Lynch said living sustainably is definitely about “growing your own food and keeping a few chooks and bees in the backyard,” while it is also about creating and protecting habitat, preserving our ancient culture, creating different business models, diverting resources from landfill, and storming the halls of Parliament on issues that are important to the future of the Clarence Valley community.

“This year’s sterling crop of nominees are showing us the way,” she said.

The 13th annual Living Sustainably Awards for 2024 featured five categories including Education, Business, Community, Individual, and Our Backyard, with the winners as follows:

Education: Students from South Grafton High School, under the guidance of Michael Kennedy and HSIE Head Teacher Donna McArthy, were recognised for their work in transforming a corner of Beresford Park in South Grafton into an educational space to allow young people to learn about First Nations culture, the importance of the natural environment, food resilience, and wellbeing.

Business: The Mudyala Aboriginal Corporation and Share Create Innovate, were announced as joint recipients of the Business Award.

Key providers in sustaining culture and country, the team of 13 employees and volunteers at Mudyala Aboriginal Corporation assist families, children, and youths aged up to 25 years to navigate schooling and training opportunities, enabling them to reach their full potential.

Together, they have helped facilitate more than 1 million hours of learning and play time through local kindergartens, preschools, and schools.

Director of Share Create Innovate, Gina Lopez has successfully facilitated behaviour change throughout a ten-year campaign to eliminate plastic bags and promote resource recovery in the Clarence Valley.

Ms Lopez was instrumental in designing the EcoBag for the Plastic Free Yamba campaign, and the Boomerang Bag which is made from textile waste diverted from landfill and sewn by inmates at the Clarence Correctional Centre (CCC).

Community: Formed in 2018, the Clarence Catchment Alliance is spearheaded by Shae Fleming and Elizabeth Parker and is aimed at informing and educating the Clarence Valley community, lobbying politicians and decision makers, and forming broader alliances.

Their initial campaign, which called for the Clarence Valley to be declared off limits to mining, produced 11000 signatures and saw the petition tabled in State Parliament.

Individual: Recognised for his tireless restoration work, including tree propagation and planting, diverse nest box installations, and creating drought resistant habitat, Peter Turland has almost single-handedly regenerated a degraded and small population of the endangered Melaleuca irbyana into a much-lauded flora reserve and, as such, brought the species back to life in the Clarence Valley.

Since 2015, he has planted more than 5000 native plants for a biodiversity and revegetation project in the Pillar Valley which aims to preserve wildlife and create corridors for koalas and squirrel gliders.

Our Backyard: Lorraine and Terry Watkins have devoted the whole of their backyard to sustainable practices.

Using only organic additives in the growing of their extensive variety of vegetables and fruit has encouraged five different types of frogs, butterflies, and native bees to take up residence on their property.