ErinEarth, a sustainable living education centre and volunteering community, has won the 2023 NSW Environmental Citizen of the Year Award.
The Wagga Wagga centre, which showcases a waterwise, native plant garden and organic vegetable growing, was recognised for its efforts to restore and care for the environment and promote sustainable living.
The award was announced on World Environment Day (5 June).
ErinEarth administration and communications officer Michelle Burton said the win felt overwhelming, especially considering the other nominees and the great work they did.
“It’s [the award] a wonderful acknowledgement to all the people that have put in their time and effort over the years to make ErinEarth what it is,” Ms Burton said.
“It’s an acknowledgement of the vision that our founders created, the effort put in by the volunteers and all the other contributors and donations that have gone into ErinEarth.
“The award creates hope, optimism and awareness for our environment and it provides educational inspiration to our community.”
Ms Burton said the award had come at a “beautiful time”, aligning with ErinEarth’s 25th anniversary.
“Twenty-five years ago, the ErinEarth site was two crumbling asphalt tennis courts and a rubbish dump,” she said.
“But the Presentation Sisters Carmel Wallis and Kaye Bryan saw the potential for something more and took action.
“With support from the Wagga Wagga community, Carmel and Kaye turned a local wasteland into a beautiful half-hectare garden, which is now home to many plants and animals native to the Riverina, while also being a place of wellbeing and healing.”
Ms Burton said the award recognised ErinEarth’s efforts in delivering nature and sustainability-based education sessions for schools and the community, engaging volunteers in weekly gardening programs and welcoming visitors to open garden and workshop events.
She said it supported the community’s wellbeing across a range of age groups and ability levels, especially through partnerships with other local not-for-profit organisations.
“There’s a recognition that a lot of good is being done out there and not just here in ErinEarth,” she said.
“There are so many people out there who have been nominated and haven’t been nominated and those quiet achievers are creating and making a difference.”
Ms Burton said the volunteers were filled with excitement after hearing about the award.
“They’re all excited to see ErinEarth acknowledged from over the last 25 years,” she said.
ErinEarth quietly marked its achievement with a baked cake and will celebrate with the volunteers soon.