2023 AAEENSW Environmental Education Awards

It was wonderful to visit the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability in Waverton on Friday 24th November for the AAEENSW Environmental Education Awards, an event that has been occurring since 1981. Invitees were encouraged to join a walking tour of the site to learn about its history and how it has been remediated and repurposed into a center for sustainability and a public space for the local community. Highlights of the tour included the Sydney Library of Things, the Community Garden, communal veggie plots for locals, rain gardens to filter stormwater runoff, renewable energy systems, and the repurposing of the four tunnels that were once used to load coal from ship to ship. One tunnel now serves as a microbat haven, another as rainwater storage for greywater use, a third as a pedestrian walkthrough, and the fourth as a fabulous event space in Tunnel 1 where the awards were held.

Sue Martin and her team at AAEENSW organised a fabulous celebratory event with food and drinks, and a green book share table, with Costa Georgiadis as the MC for the evening, who is also the Patron of AAEE NSW.

This year, there were six awards, including:

  • Return and Earn Program Leader Award
  • Sustainable Schools NSW Teacher of the Year Award
  • Sustainable School of the Year Award
  • Sustainability Connect Business of the Year Award
  • Emerging Leader in Environmental Education Award (less than 5 years of experience)
  • NSW Environmental Educator of The Year Award (recognizes individuals with over 5 years of experience)

Peter Rutherford was awarded Highly Commended in the NSW Environmental Educator Award 2023 that he had been nominated for. This award recognises the skills, understanding, and effective action for the environment that recipients have taken in their work, as well as their leadership that has influenced others and notable achievements over the years.

There was a beautiful tribute to Peter by Costa at the end of the award evening, expressing so much love and gratitude for the many years of Peter’s work in Environmental Education, since they first met in 1988.

Costa celebrated Peter’s ability to bring people in to be part of the connection to our environment with his commitment to ecology. “Ecologos” – the Kimbriki Eco House & Garden’s core take-home message of “I will take care of everywhere I go” was one of the first things that resonated with Costa when they first met, partly due to its Greek origins but also on a more serious note as being a real light that has shone into so many people’s lives. Costa spoke highly of the many mechanisms Peter uses to share this message – through heart, spirit, song, and movement, teaching the culture of ecology and planetary love with a similar connection to the country as first nations people.

Costa summed up Pete’s dedication to his work at Kimbriki Eco House & Garden beautifully:

“The legacy you have created, the position you have held, and the connection and the way you have held our children, who are becoming adults and leaders, will carry on for generations.”

More details about AAEENSW and the awards can be found at: AAEENSW Website