Presentation Sisters Kaye Bryan (Left) and Carmel Wallace (right) spoke to us about the Erin Earth Project. Kathy Wallace (second from Left) a volunteer at Erin Earth introduced the two speakers. Michelle Burton, Kirsty Cole, and Melanie Bradley, employees of Erin Earth accompanied the Sisters.
Kathy said:
"It is my great pleasure to introduce the two extraordinary women who founded ErinEarth, 25 years ago. These women were active in the environmental space long before Greta – they were ahead of their time!
Many Wollundry Rotary members would be familiar with ErinEarth.
  • Vocational visit about 4 -5 years about
  • Funded - the solar pump for the watering system and the AED
ErinEarth garden is a half hectare native woodland located in urban Turvey Park. ErinEarth is a community and place for connecting with nature, demonstrating sustainable living, and caring for Country. It is a thriving hub of biodiversity but when I was a teenager in the 80’s padding around Mt Erin and Trinity schools, the area behind the convent was a bleak looking space of decommissioned asphalt tennis courts and a tip.
Carmel Wallis and Kaye Bryan are members of the dynamic Presentation Sisters of Wagga Wagga congregation and are here today to share the ErinEarth story, celebrating 25 years since the project began."
Sr Carmel Wallace then told us of the early days of Erin Earth and the influences that informed her mind about the ecology. The sinking of The Rainbow Warrior, a ship belonging to Greenpeace, in Auckland Harbour by agents of the French Government, was a huge shock for Carmel. That a European country like France could take such criminal activity against a group trying to protect the environment had seemed incredible.
Secondly Carmel attended a climate change conference in the late nineties and this opened her mind to an issue about which she had been largely unaware. Thirdly her Catholic framework influenced by Pope John Paul 11who invited religious leaders of all faiths to a meeting in Assisi, Italy to discuss a Christian response to the Climate Crisis facing the world.
Carmel completed a perma culture design certificate and a living sustainable workshop in Drummoyne which helped her to see the need to educate and lead people to relearn the basic skills of growing vegetables, protecting the environment and respecting nature. She said that poverty and environmental degradation go hand in hand.
Carmel and Kaye thought that they might be able to do something with the old Mt Erin Tennis courts which were degraded. They had a dream to try and put into practice what they had learned. They turned to others for help including then Mayor Peter Dale, Shaun McGee and Jim Webb and about 32 other who became meters and mates. Fund raising dinners and volunteer worked got the project underway. Mick Mullins was extremely helpful with his earth moving equipment, while Barters brought a semi load of chook manure including a number of dead chooks!
Sister Kaye Bryan 
I would like to start with some words from your own website:   “The magic of Rotary is that it allows ordinary people to achieve the most extraordinary things.”
That’s what I feel like when I look at ErinEarth today.   25 years ago, there we were, Carmel and I, two 55 year old women with backgrounds mainly as school teachers.   However, like you here we are part of a group that puts its resources (people and finance) into works and projects that contribute to enhancing life.
When I experience ErinEarth today I feel as though I’ve helped bring something to birth that is vibrant, flourishing, bringing life and addressing important issues of our times.
Let me describe EE in part.   The beauty of the garden surprises many as they step in from Kildare St.   People find it can engender a sense of peace.   As you wander around you can learn everything from a 13.7 billion year story of the Universe to how you can grow vegies and water wise native plants in your own backyard.
I’d like to share two of the current Strategic Directions of ErinEarth.   They are so aligned with the original intent that it is like the baby of 25 years has grown into a wonderful adult.
  • The first is this:   We model, support, and contribute to Earth awareness and ecological justice in our local community and beyond.   Outcomes:   That EE is known as a place that promotes ecological justice:  that is, a right relationship between people, plants, animals, soil, water and air.   Second outcome:  People understand Earth’s crises and the importance of adopting sustainable living practices.
  • Second direction is that of demonstrating sustainable living to our local community.   An outcome:  EE is well known and recognized as a place (among others) that demonstrates and educates about sustainable living to the local community.
  • Who is bringing this about?   Four wonderful staff – 2 Co-Managers one covering education and strategic planning and the other finance and operations;   1 garden manager and 1 administration and communications officer.   Their hours of work amount to the full time equivalent of three staff members.  
  • And the volunteers:   About 35 currently, including weekly garden volunteers, board directors, those helping with school groups, those conducting the monthly SoulSpace Saturdays, the weekly weaving group and co-ordination of the catering for events.
  • EE is open to drop in visitors on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9am-3pm.   This year 258 visitors have dropped into the garden.   This includes Wednesday visits from the Leisure Company and 2 different home-schooling groups.
Some of this year’s activities:  
  • A very successful Open Day on 1st April.   235 adults and 111 children attended.   Lots of wonderful feedback. ……lots of native plant learning, lots of new learning, enough to inspire many who said they would apply any sustainable living ideas at home or in their workplace;  staff helpful and visitors loved the atmosphere;  
  • Schools this year:   Three schools with pre-school children – nature based programs and helping them establish vegie gardens.
  • Four primary schools, one of which had 12 children from high risk/trauma situations.   These children came fortnightly to ErinEarth for four sessions of a Nurture Through Nature program and EE staff went to their school once.   Feedback from teachers:   The students developed a sense of peace and appreciation for themselves and nature.   All the students selected for the program are facing personal challenges and it was great to give them some time out.   When surveyed the students loved the beautiful learning spaces and staff.  
  • Two Secondary schools brought their Year 7 students as part of their Introductory Day.   150 and 180 students.
  • Outreach and partnerships:  EE has joined the Institute of Company Directors Australia, an association specifically set up to support Not For Profit boards.
  • Page 3 of Co-Managers’ report:   Start with Michelle (EE Communications person) who has been invited and attended breakfast meetings of the Wagga BNI group (Business Networking) and has delivered guest speaker presentations on two occasions.
  • Supporting the development of a nature playspace/bush garden on a reserve adjacent to Amy Hurd Early Learning Centre.
  • Engagement with Junee Correctional Centre, with furniture to be made by inmates for ErinEarth garden.
  • Meeting with Community Corrections to recommence as a site for community service work.  
  • Meeting with TAFE re potential new Yazidi/Nepalese/Burmese volunteers.   Twenty students completing their Certificate 3 in English, invited to ErinEarth for morning tea on 8th May.
A vote of thanks was given by President Phil and an impromptu one by Mark Hillis, both of which were enthusiastically supported by a very attentive audience of members.