Photo: Prof. Erica McWilliam presenting at AAEE 2018, Advocacy in the age of anger

By Jo Ferreira, Conference Co-Convenor
aaee 2018 conference tree activity

Cam Mackenzie as a rainforest tree being held up by buttress roots, at AAEE 2018.

In late October around 250 delegates spent a great week on the sunny southern Gold Coast at the AAEE biennial national conference. Delegates gave a resounding thumbs up to the program keynotes and delegate papers, to all the social events and field trips, and to the most important components of any conference, the venue and food, which was all vegetarian, organic and locally sourced.

Keynote speakers

With a conference theme of ‘Creating Capacity for Change’, delegates got to hear four fabulous keynote speakers.

Prof. Erica McWilliam, an educational thinker and consultant who reminded us of the need to be mindful in our practices and responses to students – ‘what does saying ‘awesome’ to mediocre work mean and do?’ she asked.

Dr James Whelan, an activist educator, who discussed strategies for building capacity and people power campaigning

Mr Chris McGrath, an environmental lawyer, who shared with us the power of the law in environmental campaigns and in fighting against poor environmental practices.

And Ms Melanie Parker, an outdoor and environmental educator from the USA who shared with us how her Centre has worked with policy developers to institute requirements for all school children in her State to undertake environmental education studies prior to completing school.

Youth connection workshops

We also had a group of young people from Wild Mob share with us the projects they are working on, and their thoughts about their future through a plenary session and in workshops.

We also had a live connection to a diver in the reef tanks at Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, showcasing their reef video conferencing into schools program which is a fantastic initiative. I encourage all school teachers in AAEE to have a look at this.

Showcase sessions

There were also two showcase sessions after lunch from an award-winning environmental photographer, Richard Wylie, who has a day job as a marine biologist; and from Beau Frigault, from Doctors for the Environment to share his concerns about the health and wellbeing impacts of our changing climate. These two speakers were like the cherry on the top of an already great cake!

All in all, the program delivered a wide range of quality presentations that were both challenging and engaging – and it was standing room only for many presentations!

The field trips also received great feedback and ranged from visits to schools and environmental education centres, to community Coastcare groups, and Traditional Indigenous Games. All field trip participants returned tired but elated!

professor ian lowe at aaee 2018 conference dinner

Conference Dinner keynote, Professor Ian Lowe

Conference Dinner

Much fun and hilarity ensued at the Conference Dinner and the Brian Foreman fundraiser was a great success, with enough collected to support two scholarships for next conference.

And we congratulated this year's AAEE Environmental Educator of the Year, Jenny Dibley from the ACT. More on this year's Award recipients in our next article.

Research Symposium

The Research Symposium drew around 60 delegates and heard from a range of presenters about where the research in the field has come from (50 years next year since the US Journal of Environmental Education was first published!) and where it is heading. To top it off, Prof. Bob Stevenson was awarded a Fellowship of the Association for his contributions to environmental education in Australia, a well-deserved honour.

Thanks to our Conference team

I cannot finish without thanking the amazing team without whom none of this would have happened: my partner in crime, Cam Mackenzie and the best group of people to work with, ever: Hilary Whitehouse, Paul Hemphill, Ali van der Graaf, Kylie Moses, Maggie Muurmans, Kalindi Brennan, Hilary Macleod, Ian Ayre, Mark Caddey, Allen Hill, Lisa Ryan, Lisa Siegel, the conference volunteers, and the conference organising company, Arinex.

Folks, that’s a wrap until we see you in Mandurah, Perth, in 2020!