Our Programs

RCE-GWS Outreach Educational Activities and Initiatives

Over a decade of partnerships delivering ESD impact

Since our establishment in 2011, we continue to worked collaboratively to deliver a wide range of impactful educational projects, programs and activities for the wider community and local residences. We have a large variety of regional partners that have delivered 36 initiatives and 45 community events to over 44,000 local and global school students, teachers, community members as well as university staff and students. Below is a list of some of our key educational activities and initiatives.

If you would like to engage with our team and network on a sustainability project, please email Sustainability Education and Partnerships.

Current and Previous RCE-GWS Activities

11th A-P Regional Meeting

In September 2018, Western Sydney (RCE-GWS) hosted the 11th Asia-Pacific RCE Regional Meeting and international symposium on ‘Mainstreaming the SDGs: Education and Impact’. The meeting followed with field trips to Brewongle Environment Education Centre and Sydney Olympic Park, RCE partners. Opened by the Vice-Chancellor and attended by 91 local and international participants, the 3-day event focused on Education for Sustainable Development and implementing of the SDGs. Read more about the meetings highlights and outcomes (opens in a new window).

Alive! Youth Environmental Engagement Project

The Alive! Youth Environmental Engagement Project ran in 2012. The program was a partnership with Western Sydney University and the Hawkesbury Environment Network in the Hawkesbury-Nepean region of Sydney. The program saw the implementation of 13 Alive! projects including stormwater harvesting tank and grow bed installed, worm farms, bird boxes made by students, planting of more than 400 native plants throughout the schools, an artificial wetland and nature conservation area, rejuvenated orchard and fencing installed and an edible garden site. These projects have both environmental and social sustainability benefits attached to them. The Alive! project conference was held on the 20th and 21st of February 2013. There were 424 young people in attendance along with their teachers over the 2 days, along with 21 environmental groups and organisations and 55 educators and youth workers. The project illustrates how various schools students, educators, teachers and university students and staff can work together. See some more highlights and photos (opens in a new window).

Bee Aware of Your Native Bees

Bee Aware was a experiential learning focused, environmental education program based across selected sites in Greater Western Sydney and Lithgow. The program aimed to promote the conservation of native bees by building awareness of their existence and importance as pollinators, assessing current distribution, diversity and habitat preference and increasing existing populations by the installation of artificial 'bee hotels'. A number of community based workshops were held to learn what they look like, where they live, how to encourage them into the garden and to learn more about citizen science. This project was funded by the Office of Environment and Heritage Environmental Trust Grant and was made possible thanks to Bees Business.

Bush Regeneration for Environmental Education

Through a collaboration between Western Sydney University and Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), education for sustainability students engaged with practical bush regeneration activities at Kingswood campus throughout winter 2018.  Themed as an “African Safari” (as most of the weeds - specifically African Olives and African Lovegrass - on the site have African origins) CVA delivered 8 active bush regeneration workshops and walks and talks on plant species, weed migration across continents over time and local ecology. A total of 75 participants cleared 20 kilos of rubbish and worked on improving the biodiversity value of 2,450m2 of the site by clearing exotic weeds. The discovery of two living Cumberland Plain Land Snails (critically endangered in NSW) contributed to the understanding of the site’s importance and resilience. The project was co-funded through an external NSW Environmental Trust grant and Environmental Sustainability, Office of Estate and Commercial at Western Sydney.

Citizen Science Symposium

Western Sydney University and Local Land Services Greater Sydney held a one-day workshop and forum: "Citizen Science in Action" in 2017. This event highlighted the importance of research and how the community can get involved with citizen science through interactive workshops around relevant technologies. Over 120 participants gained the skills to participate in the latest citizen science programs more effectively to make a real impact in your community.

Click Connect Collaborate

The Click, Connect, Collaborate (CCC) project will build the knowledge capacity of teachers and students from a network of schools in the Hawkesbury to enable them to engage with schools and students from around the world on issues of sustainability. Participants will develop skills and experience in using current technologies to share projects and learn collaboratively from the classroom. Schools developed the knowledge, experience and resources to embed real learning opportunities into classroom programs. Furthermore, they will build their capacity to operate effectively and collegially as a group of schools, supporting the objectives of the RCE in generating action through education. Grose View Public School is continuign to connect with students from local school in Japan, thanks for RCE Okayama. This project was seed funded from RCE-GWS (Sustainability Education).

Connecting the Cumberland

Connecting the Cumberland was an exhibition held in the Discovery Centre on Hawkesbury campus, launched on in May 2014 discussing the issues from the critically endangered Cumberband Plain Woodland. It also featured artwork by local school students. Every student from Year 3 – 6 at Willmot Public School participated in learning about bush regeneration using native wild flowers with Greening Australia and produced artworks on the past, present and future of the Cumberland Plain Woodland. The exhibition launch and day of activities for Willmot Public School students, teachers and principles. The student artwork was also turned into a book, with funding provided from National Parks and Wildlife Services. An e-book (PDF) is are available from Sustainability Education.

Cumberland Stepping Stones

Cumberland Plains Woodland communities are endemic to Western Sydney and have been reduced to less than 6% of their original extent due to extensive clearing for agriculture and urban development. Remnant patches are present but are small and scattered, degraded by human disturbances and weed invasion. The Cumberland Conservation Corridor comprises three priority corridors in Western Sydney and is supported by the Australian Government’s 20 Million Trees initiative. Greening Australia was awarded a $2.889 million grant to support the ongoing conservation efforts across this corridor with the aim of enhancing ecological connectivity. Recognising the importance of engaging people in active environmental restoration, Greening Australia included a strong community engagement component – ‘the Community Corridor’ – in the Cumberland Stepping Stones (CSS) project. The Community Corridor targeted four key participant groups – schools, corporate volunteers, community Bush Care groups and private landholders – across 6 Western Sydney Local Government Areas to undertake planting within the Cumberland Conservation Corridor. Over a 12 month period, close to 75,000 native tubestock were planted or provided as give-aways across the 43 community sites. The Community Corridor project engaged more than 3,000 people, the majority of whom were students. In the overarching CSS project, a total of 421,300 plants have been planted across Western Sydney. This study was asked to evaluate the Community Corridor CSS initiative and address the following question: ‘Is community engagement and education an effective methodology for biodiversity conservation?’. Read the full report (opens in a new window).

Dreaming on the Riverfarm

Dreaming on the Riverfarm – Stories from the Hawkesbury is an oral history about the Hawkesbury Riverfarm. The stories cover Pre-European settlement through to the present day uses by the Western Sydney University up until 2012. The program was funded as part of the a 2011-12 "Your Community Heritage" grant from the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. You can request a copy of the audio chapters from Sustainability Education.

Deerubbin Dreaming

A schools engagement partnership between Western Sydney University and Public Schools NSW using 'Dreaming on the Riverfarm' oral history in a project for education in sustainability using 21st Century learning pedagogies. The project involves consultants, teachers and Year 6 students from Lapstone Primary School and Year 7 students Blaxland High School utilising their own responses reasearch and investigattion skills into the history of the Riverfarm. As part of this program teacher Mrs Paula Buttenshaw and her Year 6 students from Lapstone Primary School created a number of stories and artworks that depict their personal perspectives of Darug life before European Settlement on the banks of the Deerubbin, now known as the Hawkesbury River. An e-book (PDF) is are available from Sustainability Education.

Engagement with Agriculture Toolkit (EAT)

The Sydney Olympic Park Authority 'Engagement with Agriculture Toolkit' (EAT) devliered a series of knowledge capacity and professional development for school teachers around the cross-curriculum priority area of Sustainability, particularly where it intersects with Agriculture, Science and Technology and Hospitality. The pilot event brought primary and secondary school teachers together with agricultural industry representatives, Western Sydney Unviersity, Royal Agricultural Society of NSW and Sustainability educators from Sydney Olympic Park Authority for a pilot professional development workshop and networking event. The project was directly designed to foster collaboration between education providers organisations and businesses in the Region around tackling issues of ‘agricultural sustainability and food security’. The event is linked to Youth Eco Summit and focused on the 2014 action theme: Family, Food and Farming.

Energy Forums across Western Sydney

The Greater Western Sydney Energy Alliance (GWSEA) is a recently established network of organisations and groups dedicated to increasing the uptake of renewable energy across Western Sydney, connected to RCE-GWS. In 2018 the Alliance supported local councils to host energy forums in Penrith, Blacktown and Cumberland, looking at energy efficiencies, solar, battery storage, rebate assistance for residents. GWSEA worked with the Parramatta Business Chamber and the University to host a Sustainable Expo on energy, water, materials and waste in a contemporary business context, providing opportunities for businesses to collaborate with one another. They also supported a Western student intern to assist with building their website and communication platforms.

Farm it Forward

Farm it Forward has teamed up with HawkesburyNepean Landcare Network (HNLC) and North West Disability Services to begin a Hawkesbury Farm it Forward program. In 2020 a volunteer day was held to set up the first plot at the Secret Garden site on Western’s Hawkesbury campus. This plot is co-run by HNLC with Western Sydney University students, the Environment Collective student club, and young people who meet regularly to grow their own produce using permaculture and holistic management practices.

“Farm it Forward offers the opportunity for young people to manage their own small plot on private land, for people to mentor or offer their land to be farmed for them and for people to volunteer and help out where they can. It’s about growing food together to create socially and environmentally sustainable, local food production.” – Katherine Clare, Local Landcare Coordinator, Hawkesbury-Nepean Landcare Network

Global Perspectives: Health and Sustainability - Ensuring Healthy Lives

The Global Perspectives webinar was based on the global aspiration of the SDGs 'leaving no one behind'. This international webinar was hosted by Western Sydney University to engage our students, as well as community and the global RCE community, on the issues of community health, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition in India and Bangladesh. WSU student studying their first year unit "Professional Pathways in Health Science". Guest presenters Dr Abdesh Kumar Gangwar - Program Director, Centre for Environment Education Himalaya & North-East discussed "Rural Sanitation and 'Open defecation free' Environment", and Professor Mohammed Ataur Rahman- Director, Centre for Global Environmental Culture, IUBAT discussed "Improvement of Health, Hygiene and Nutritional status of Urban Slum Dwellers". This was also opened to all WSU students and the global community to watch and engage in.

Global Webinar Series: COVID-19 and ESD

In response to COVID-19, RCE Greater Western Sydney, RCE Srinagar and RCE East Kalimantan hosted seven global webinars to reconnect with the RCE community and to learn from each other about how each RCE is responding to  the pandemic.  This initiative received an ‘Acknowledged Flagship Project’ Award in 2020 for its role in contributing to SDG3: Good Health and Well-being. This award is given annually to RCEs that have made outstanding contributions to address local sustainable development challenges in their regions. Download the report. (opens in a new window)

Hawkesbury Resilience Project

Sustainable Futures in partnership with Hawkesbury City Council, Hawkesbury Environment Network, Macquarie Electorate Students for Climate Action and RCE Greater Western Sydney has been successful in obtaining a community grant (opens in a new window) from Adapt NSW. The project, Learn-Prepare-Prevent: Community Action for a Resilient Hawkesbury,(opens in a new window) is a community education, engagement and empowerment program designed to respond to the climate impacts at multiple touch points. The program aims to inspire Hawkesbury residents to create the social, institutional and physical infrastructure needed to survive and potentially thrive in this changing climate.

Hawkesbury Riverfarm

The University occupies an historic 40 hectare holding of prime agricultural land on the bank of the Hawkesbury River - including 1 kilometre of river frontage gazetted in 1799. The farm complex is made up of a circa 1900's cottage, a series of timber framed farm buildings, silos and a historically significant water pumping tower. The space was refurbished in 2012 by TAFE pre-apprentices. The river banks has been revegetated by Western Sydney students as part of Education for Sustainability with support from Greening Australia with species commonly found in River Flat Eucalypt Forest, a listed Endangered Ecological Community. The space is now operated by Local Land Services used as their demonstration farm site.

Hawkesbury-Nepean Waterkeeper Alliance

The Hawkesbury-Nepean Waterkeeper achieved global recognition from the international Waterkeeper Alliance (opens in a new window), a global movement of community based organisation employing on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect of rivers, in 2011. This original initative has been renewed with a new collaborative working group since 2019/20 from Western Sydney University from Sustainability and Science (comprising RCE Greater Western Sydney), Greater Sydney Landcare (GSL) with Streamwatch and GSL member groups: Cattai Hills Environment Network, Hawkesbury-Nepean Landcare Network and Hawkesbury Environment Network. Our Waterkeeper (opens in a new window) group is focused on setting up a reinvigorated Waterkeeper Alliance, developing a river report card and enganging the community and place through citizen science and capacity building.

Living Links – Aboriginal Cultural Studies Program

The Living Links – Aboriginal Cultural Studies Program was a proud initiative of Willmot Public School in 2013. it supported the development and delivery of quality Aboriginal education across Greater Western Sydney. The event was a showcase of the breadth and diversity of educational providers and support networks available to schools and their communities. Teachers, School Learning Support Officers and TAFE students from 20 schools across the region attended the day as part of a Teacher Professional Learning event. Participants were given the opportunity to examine and discuss contemporary issues with experts, build networks and observe in action over 400 students from Willmot Public School and Shalvey Public School participating in 14 different workshops. This project was seed funded from RCE-GWS (Sustainability Education).

Love Food Hate Waste

Sustainability Education in partnership with the Hawkesbury Earthcare Centre and Henry Double Day Association has run workshops community, student and staff workshops each year to promote the issues of wasting food and tip to help community waste less food. Love Food Hate Waste aims to raise awareness about the impact of food waste in NSW and reduce how much 'good' food we waste.

Love Your Lagoons

In 2015 this multi-council and school environmental education project 300 school students were empowered to learn about environmental sustainability through taking action in their local area. Each of the proposed shire councils - Camden City Council, Wollondilly Council and Campbelltown City Council - were partnered with local schools to work with UWS and community and government organisations, to undertake a participatory action research study of place based wetlands education in local primary and high schools. This assisted in the preparation of teachers for the introduction of sustainability as a cross-curriculum priority area (ACARA, 2012). All project schools indicated a level of success in integrating sustainability into their curriculum through the medium of their local wetlands. There was a range of involvement, with many highlights represented by just a few examples in the Love Your Lagoons project report (opens in a new window). The project was funded as community reparation provided by AGL Energy Limited.

National Climate Action Summit

National Climate Action Summit was hosted at Western Sydney's Parramatta campus in Greater Western Sydney in April 2012. In attendance was 530 participants and representatives from 100 grass roots community groups from across Australia attended, along with key politicians and national figures. The Community Climate Action Summit is organised by the National Community Climate Network – a network of over 100 climate action groups across Australia. The RCE-GW partnered with the summit. The Directory of Sustainability at Western Sydney met with the Climate Change Commission in May to discuss issues that arose. The project was coordinated by the Parramatta Climate Action Network.

Our Place, Our Voice: A PhotoVoice Exhibition

The "Our Place Our Voice" (opens in a new window) photo exhibition features the environmental and sustainability initiatives from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities across Greater Western Sydney (GWS) and the Illawara. Each community group have told their story through their own photos and language. The project is the culmination of a collaboration between the Office of Environment and Heritage (opens in a new window), Sustainable Futures, Centre for Educational Research (opens in a new window) and the United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development - Greater Western Sydney (RCE-GWS).

PowerFUL Youth Ambassadors Program

The Powerful Youth Ambassador initiative aimed to educate, empower and engage high school students and their families around these key issues, promote sustainable consumption of resources, foster environmental stewardship and encourage youth leadership in their schools, households and local communities across Greater Western Sydney. Participating schools were able to apply for a small grants to help turn their ideas into reality around energy and resource efficiency. The project was held in May 2017 across 3 Local Government Areas involving more than 100 high school students and was funded by the Western Sydney Community Forum (WSCF) in partnership with Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) under the Blacktown Energy Initiative (opens in a new window). The program involved a number of collaborating organisations under the UN endorsed Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development - RCE Greater Western Sydney (RCE-GWS), including: Blacktown City Council, Campbelltown City Council, City of Paramatta Council, Longneck Lagoon Environmental Education Centre, Western Sydney Solar Car Team and industry support from Ndver Environmental (keynote speaker). Download and read the PowerFUL project report (PDF, 8394.28 KB) (opens in a new window).

RCE SDG Youth Challenge (2018 - 2021)

“We as young people have made a significant contribution over the last 4 years, taking hopeful action for our own uncertain futures.”  – Brittany Vermeulen, RCE Asia-Pacific Regional Youth Focal Point (2017 - 2022), RCE Greater Western Sydney

The RCE SDG Youth Challenge (opens in a new window)models how to mobilise existing sustainability networks to engage youth in a meaningful and empowering way. It addressed the 2030 Agenda through education and partnerships to localise action for the SDGs. The global youth-led initiative targeted young people at all levels of formal and informal learning and from a wide range of social contexts and cultural backgrounds. Led by RCE-GWS since its inception in 2018, the initiative has connected directly with over 27,000 individuals, mostly youth, across 12 countries delivering 57 place-based projects.

RetroSuburia Community Forum

Hosted by RCE-GWS, permaculture cooriginator David Holmgren shared his Aussie St work with over 150 students, staff and community members and organisations at Hawkesbury campus in August 2019. Through a story-telling narrative David considered localised food production in the suburbs. He explored our evolving history from the quarter acre block hosting the Australian  post war dream, through decades of rising affluence and additions, ageing and infill and permaculture inspired retrofit. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion on food security and sustainability, including Western Sydney experts Dr Abby Mellick-Lopes from the School of Communication Arts and Humanities and Mr Aaron Brocken, local Hawkesbury farmer and entrepreneur.

Schools for Sustainability

Run by both Penrith City Council and Campbelltown City Council in partnership with Sustainable Futures, local high school students explored global and local environmental issues through a series of engaging activities and renowned speakers. It challenged students to identify issues in the region they are passionate about and develop ideas on how your school can take actual steps to address sustainability issues. Participating schools were able to apply for a small grants to help turn their ideas into reality, supported by Western Sydney University.

Student Mobility Experiences

Through the global RCE network we have connected with a number of Asia-Pacific RCEs to deliver unquie learning experiences for undergraduate Western Sydney students focused on various aspects of sustainability. More than 150 students have connected with our global RCE partners, including in the Philippines (RCE Bohol and RCE Cebu), China (RCE Shangri-La), South Korea (RCE Tonygeong), and India (RCE Lucknow).

Teacher Cultural Capacity Professional Development Day

This program, delivered by Sydney Olympic Park Authority in 2018, engage local teachers and undergraduate Western Sydney students with the art, science and technologies of Indigenous culture, such as traditional ecological knowledge to enable authentic teaching of the National Cross-Curriculum Priority 2.4: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History and Cultures. Workshops unpacked the cross-cutting theme of Aboriginal Histories and Cultures were held for local teachers, followed by hands on cultural appreciation activities led by Indigenous youth with the encouragement and mentoring of Aboriginal Elders and Community leaders. This project was seed funded from RCE-GWS (Sustainability Education).

Think, Share, Act!

Led by the Principal of Grose View Public School, this project engaged with primary students in Stage 2 (ages 8-10) in an authentic learning project centred on education for sustainable development. This shared project will develop an awareness of how big ideas, critical and creative thinking, and collaboration can impact the world around them and lead to effective change for a more sustainable future. Student will participate in a series of dynamic workshops and think-tanks to explore current and future technologies and their role in leading sustainable development. These skills will be used in a futures thinking, innovation and design model called Think, Share, Act to bring about a shared community vision of collaboration, higher order thinking, thoughtful questioning and global awareness. Think, Share Act encouraged our Stage 2 students to develop ownership of their learning and become aware of how their ideas and thoughts can impact upon the world around them. All projects were required to demonstrate innovation, creativity and a strong commitment to the ethical considerations that underpin the four pillars of sustainability. This project was seed funded from RCE-GWS (Sustainability Education).

Waste Not: Student Art Competition

Waste is a big issue for Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Council (WSROC) members. WSROC’S design competition invited young, local Western designers to explore new ways with waste. The ‘Make a stand against waste’ challenged design students in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts to create original designs that vividly illustrated their ideas on waste avoidance and reducing overconsumption. The inaugural event drew strong interest from Western Sydney University Design and Communications programs, awarding one overall winning design and three runners up.

“The Design Competition 2020: Waste Not is a result of the productive collaboration between WSROC and Western Sydney University. We achieved a mutual goal of engaging Western Sydney’s next generation in the waste problem. Bold and creative ideas as to how we can avoid waste in the first place were depicted through the range of quality artworks received. The artworks have been shared with nine Western Sydney Councils to promote waste avoidance in the community.” – Rey Behboudi, Regional Waste Education Officer, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Council

Wetlands for the West Symposium

Wetlands of the West was held in September 2016 in partnership with Hawkesbury Environment Network and the National Landcare program for the wider community. The two day public symposium attracted over 100 local residents and community environmentalists. There was a keynote address from Phil Straw, Avifauna Research and Services, a panel discussions, displays, workshops and presentations from our range of different fields from biodiversity to environmental engineering on Day 1 and a field trip to a number of sites across Greater Western Sydney (Hawkesbury region) on Day 2.

Youth Eco Summit

Running for over 10 years, the Youth Eco Summit (YES) is an award-winning multi-stakeholder partnership, driven by Sydney Olympic Park Authority. YES is a unique curriculum-based event designed to foster social change by encouraging students, both in primary and secondary school, to adopt sustainable practices in all areas of life, to showcase practical initiatives and promote student leadership. YES was recognised for a NSW Green Globe Award for Public Sector Sustainability in 2013, as well as a flagship project by the RCE Global Service Centre. Watch the 2019 YES Primary highlight video (opens in a new window) or the 2018 YES High School highlight video (opens in a new window).