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Time to meet Environmental Leaders of the Future

DEPHA staff played the role of mentor and volunteer during a two-day conference in Hobart where students took the centre stage.

Tasmanian students relished the chance to teach and learn from each other about sustainable uses for river, land, marine and coastal environments during the Tasmanian Youth Environment Conference.

More than 250 students from 20 schools across the state attended the inaugural conference at the Derwent Entertainment Centre in Hobart.

Throughout the day, students delivered 40-minute workshops on environmental topics of their choice which they have researched and prepared over the past six months, mentored by environmental experts and sustainability educators.

The students presented their information to their peers and then visited other student-led workshops to learn about a wide range of topics.

Organisers believe this approach shifts the responsibility for learning back to the students through the ‘kids teaching kids’ model.

DEPHA staff from Parks and Wildlife and the Environment Division mentored some of the students in the lead up to the conference. They also volunteered on the day, helping students move between groups and assisting with jobs such as time-keeping.

Declan Sledler was among MacKillop College students who gave a presentation on sustainable initiatives introduced at his school.

"These include solar panels in our science labs and a water conservation program, where we use rainwater tanks to reuse our water," Declan says.

"We have also introduced a logo - 'catch it if you can' - to re-enforce our sustainable messages."

Kayla Field led Claremont High School's presentation on the white-bellied sea eagle. The budding zoologist says she is fascinated by wildlife.

"The aim of out presentation was to raise awareness about the status of animals such as the white-bellied sea eagle. We talked about habitat, what they eat, how many breeding pairs there are and other interesting facts about this species."

Firestarter organiser Arron Wood says the conference has been held in all states and territories across Australia and has also been run in New Zealand.

"The Tasmanian conference is one of seven this year involving more than 3000 students," Arron says.

"It is a chance for young people to express their concerns about the environment and provides the next generation of environmental leaders with the tools to find solutions to globally important environmental issues."

Arron told the conference that student voices are just as important as going out and planting a tree and it is important to be heard and to get messages across the community.

The event was carbon neutral - with offsets purchased through climate positive purchases such as renewable energy.

On Day Two, students were encouraged to put what they have learned into action through various hands-on activities. Wet weather meant the activities were conducted under cover - at the City Hall.

Once again DEPHA staff lent a hand organising and running several activities including making boxes within boxes out of recycled paper (Box 'til you drop), activities centering on the Tasmanian Devil (Devil of a job) and projects encouraging students to learn more about life in their local waterways (Crikey! There are critters in my creek and Mirco World Survey).

Staff spoke of how inspirational and rewarding it was to be with groups of students who were keen to learn, asked really challenging questions and seemed to enjoy every minute.

For more information about Firestarter, visit: