The roots of Australia’s National Tree Day


The roots of National Tree Day were possibly planted way back in 1594, when a Spanish mayor in Mondoedo held the planet’s inaugural tree planting festival. That event is seen as the precursor to the still celebrated Arbor Day, initiated in 1805 by Don Juan Abern Samtrés – a priest in Villanueva de la Sierra. His intention, apparently, was to celebrate of the vital role trees play in the good health of our broader environment and the living things that inhabit our world.

About Planet Ark

Today, Planet Ark has enthusiastically taken up the mantle, and National Tree Day – billed as Australia’s largest tree planting and nature care event – is celebrated annually in Australia on the last Sunday in July, two days after the annual celebration of Schools Tree Day on the last Friday of July.

The not-for-profit environmental organisation oversees a series of events across the country and has planted 26 million trees around Australia in just 13 years, thanks to the help of five million volunteers. Their mission? To support people, businesses and governments in reducing their impact by providing resources for a sustainable future, supporting low carbon lifestyles, and connecting people with nature.

Over the national tree day weekend, 300,000 people are set to volunteer their time to educate Australians for both Schools Tree Day and National Tree Day. The program of events is designed to inspire young and old to “get their hands dirty and give back to their community”.

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an teacher and student plant trees for schools tree day

Planet Ark’s Schools Tree Day

Thousands of school students participate by hosting planting events and running environmental activities, including building habitats for native wildlife, and creating spaces for nature play.

This year, there are plans for the planting of a Miyawaki Children’s Forest at Randwick Sustainability Hub. The forest will be made up of various native tree species from the Plant Ark seedling bank and their growth will be an evolving celebration of the transition from pre-school to primary school.

The trees were chosen because they grow fast, thrive with minimal maintenance and will complement the area’s critically endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, to naturally boost the biodiversity of Randwicks’s ecosystem.

“This is such a beautiful part of Randwick City and this event is a special way to acknowledge the importance of green space, especially when we live in an urban environment. Getting the kids involved from a young age to learn how to nurture the outdoors, is critical for a happy and healthy future,” said Dylan Parker, Mayor of Randwick.

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The event is the brainchild of landscape architect Barbara Schaffer and artist Michaelie Crawford – the driving force behind Sydney environmental collective Tree Rites.

“We are striving to create a connection to nature in the long term – the children can watch the forest grow, they can appreciate it as a little child, as a teenager and as an adult they will see this growth,” Ms Schaffer said.

This is just one of many events around the country, made possible by funding from Planet Ark’s seedling bank program which financially supports National Tree Day volunteers’ planting activities.

So far, 132 schools and community groups have received more than 80,000 seedlings, as well as the funds to coordinate fun planting activities with them. Accompanying resources like activity sheets, lesson plans and the National Tree Day Schools Competition are also available for schools and education providers each year.

The National Tree Day program

Two days later – on Sunday 30 July this year –  families are invited to join the celebrations as communities across the nation come together to plant the next generation of trees and reconnect with nature at a series of planned events.

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In the words of Planet Ark CEO Rebecca Gilling: “National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day is about heading out into the great outdoors, getting your hands dirty, and connecting with the local community.”

Parents can get involved by spreading the word to colleagues in the workplace. Businesses can host events, facilitate staff  volunteering at Tree Day sites, donating to the seedling bank, or bringing nature into the workplace.

Planet Ark research shows that plants in the workplace help staff to recover faster from stress and overwhelm, clean the air of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and airborne bacteria, and increase productivity and creativity.

Ms Gilling says, “we see first-hand the positive impacts of time in nature through the thousands of students who get involved in Schools Tree Day each year and the joy it brings them. So many adults reflect on their childhood experiences of Tree Day, and the pride they feel as they see the results of their labours all those years ago”.

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By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.