Building a Sustainable Community

Author: Michael Gartland. Photographer: Lia Poutney

The 140 first year students (aged 12-13) from Melbourne’s Salesian College Chadstone spent three days building community amongst themselves and improving the lands around them. Hosted by the Don Bosco Camp & Centre Safety Beach, Victoria, Australia, the program had a two-pronged focus; for the students to get to know one another and to learn what “sustainable living” entails.

As the cohort are still finding their feet after the big transition to high school, the program led with what the Don Bosco Camp does best – bringing people together into a warm, welcoming environment through the power of fun and games!

A key part of forming any community is to learn more about the people you are sharing a space with; so, the program kicked off with a series of games aimed at building bonds amongst young people. “As the Yeast in Today’s Human Family” is the Strenna theme for 2023, and a glint of determination could be seen in the eyes of the young people as it was explained to them how important their role as protagonists for a better world is.

With this small community established, the focus then turned to the wider area. The Don Bosco Camp is situated on the traditional lands of the Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation; blessed with an abundance of sparkling beach waters and sweeping plains. To live a little closer to the Earth the students forsook the cabins and instead learnt how to pitch a tent and enjoyed a few nights amongst the elements.

In recent years, the suburb of Safety Beach and its surrounds have seen a large amount of urban development, as more people seek to immerse themselves in this natural beauty. The students learnt about the vitality of Australian native indigenous plant life and the massive flow on boons they bring to all forms of life in their presence. To put this lesson into action, they then planted 150 Australian native indigenous grasses and trees around the campsite; picking up new skills while helping the campsite achieve its ecological goals.

The students also learnt about the antithesis sustainable living; throwaway culture and the large-scale impact it has on the environment through waste that is not disposed of correctly. While a discarded bottle on the side of the road might not elicit more than a second look from most people, they all end up somewhere – and the beach-side campsite knows this all too well. To help marine life and beautify of the area for the public, the students and their teachers teamed up to collect garbage around the beach environment.

Camp Manager Mr. Paul Poutney extended his heartfelt thanks to Salesian College Chadstone for making such a special contribution to the camp environment and doing it in a manner that the Camp prides itself on – taking on everything on offer with great joy.

 He added that “It’s quite remarkable to think of how far we’ll go with our young people as the yeast in our world today, everyone at Don Bosco Camp is looking forward to incorporating more of these Green Alliance activities on our camps in the future.” For their part, Salesian College passed on their sincere thanks to the camp leaders and staff for delivering such a memorable experience to the students.

As is often the case for Don Bosco Camps, the time spent together came to a close too soon; yet the students left with so much more than they came with; closer bonds to one another and a greater appreciation for the lands of their common home.