On World Environment Day, a grant could enable one school to explore the impact of relocations on fire risk days

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Airey's Inlet Primary School in Victoria has applied for a local World Environment Day grant to help educate its students about responding to bushfire risk and school relocation.

A primary school has been short-listed for a $10,000 grant to deal with the effects of relocating on extreme fire risk days.

On Victoria’s Surf Coast, Aireys Inlet Primary School, and nearby Anglesea Primary, were forced to relocate to Torquay Primary for three extreme fire risk days in the first term of the 2024 school year.

The relocations followed updates made to the Department of Education’s Bushfire and Grassfire Preparedness policy in 2023, which require schools on the Bushfire At-Risk Register to undertake pre-emptive relocations on extreme fire risk days.

The relocations also follow implementation of the national Australian Fire Danger Rating System, which launched in September 2022.

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Aireys Inlet Primary School principal Jennifer Abel says the relocations were a direct result of the new rating system, adding that such relocations will be “a part of our summers going forward”.

She believes relocation was anxiety-inducing for many students and their parents – especially because the first time they were relocated the school was given less than one hour to move its 72 students.

Dealing with a different future

As a response to this stress, the school community applied for grant funding for an educational project that will investigate the social impacts of school relocation during extreme fire periods.

The project is a partnership between Surf Coast Shire schools, Deakin University, and University of Sydney and has been short-listed for the shire’s World Environment Day (5 June) $10,000 grant, with plans to utilise the money to use the power of storytelling to build community capacity to respond to bushfires and other climate-related disasters.

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Its competition for the grant funding includes one other local school, Lorne P-12 College. That school’s initiative would see students learn about regenerative farming, sustainable gardening, and food systems in the face of a climate crisis through a partnership with Common Ground Project.

At Airey’s Inlet Primary, Ms Abel says the grant will also be utilised for educating students about a different impact of climate change.

“We hope to educate, understand and normalise what is going to be a frequent part of summer schooling.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live