No gongs – but for school finalists in these awards, steps towards sustainable living are still a win

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

14 winners were named at Victoria’s most distinguished annual sustainability awards ceremony at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square on 23 November.

The finalists and winners celebrated in the 2023 Premier’s Sustainability Awards program were a reminder of the depth of eco-aware innovation within education, industry, business, and community across the state.

Recognition of sustainability success stories

An independent judging panel selected 36 Victorian finalists across 12 categories, representing Industry Leaders and Community Champions over the spectrum of sustainability action.

Although two short-listed education projects advocating for sustainability among school students didn’t win the Thriving Environment category of the 2023 Premier’s Sustainability Awards, being recognised as finalists in the annual awards was still a proud moment.

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Two school-focused finalists

Port Phillip EcoCentre’s School Sustainability Festival was one of the Community Champion finalists for the Thriving Environment category.  As Victoria’s most enduring school sustainability festival, it offers local schools the chance to showcase their environmental milestones. It also fosters a stage for students to voice their concerns and assume leadership roles.

Student-conducted workshops that foster wholesome environmental practices and enrich knowledge about the rejuvenation, safeguarding, and conservation of Melbourne’s indigenous ecosystems are central to the annual festivity. Schools involved in the festival receive assistance to kickstart fresh sustainability ventures. In 2022, these included crafting nest boxes for species on the brink of extinction, establishing native bee sanctuaries, planting murrnong daisies, launching a school nature ambassador program, and initiating e-waste and upcycling operations. Last year’s festival saw its largest turnout since its inception in 2019, with 250 students from 17 schools participating – an increase of 30 per cent.

The Earthwatch Institute was another finalist, shortlisted as an Industry Leader in the Thriving Environment category for its Kids Teaching Kids Distinctive Areas and Landscapes (DAL) program. With funding from the Victorian State Government DAL Capital Grants Program, Kids Teaching Kids partnered with more than 50 local environmental entities to endow more than 90 schools with immersive teaching experiences. This effort bolstered community comprehension of various DAL policy realms, including Aboriginal cultural heritage, environment and biodiversity, landscapes, environmental threats and resilience, water quality, tourism, and natural resources.

This initiative engaged 1,121 students and educators from 90-plus schools across the Bass Coast, Bellarine Peninsula, Macedon Ranges, and Surf Coast regions. It culminated in environmental behaviour modifications and the commencement of sustainability projects that play a vital role in preserving ecologically and culturally vital spaces within each region.

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Working towards a more sustainable future

As exploring ways to deliver sustainable solutions within the education sector becomes increasingly important, seeing how future sustainability programs and initiatives are implemented in the state’s schools ahead of the 2024 awards, will be a positive focus for Victorian educators and students.

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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]