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Multi-school environmental student forum fosters vital dialogue on faith and sustainability

Justice & Advocacy

Cannon Hill Anglican College students recently visited Lourdes Hill College for a special student forum with Catholic and other secondary schools about Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: on care for our common home. Find out more about the forum, including from CHAC Social Justice Coordinator Marion Rutter and students Sienna and Anouk


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Marion Rutter — Social Justice Coordinator, Cannon Hill Anglican College

Cannon Hill Anglican College’s (CHAC) involvement with the student forum held at Lourdes Hill College came about when Desiree Duvenage, CHAC’s Diakonos convener, received an invitation from Lourdes Hill College to attend a social justice forum on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, which is about caring for our common home.

This opportunity was seen as important for students in Years 10 and 11 at Cannon Hill Anglican College to engage with social justice issues impacting the planet and connect with like-minded students from other colleges.

The topic of the forum also aligned with the Anglican Five Marks of Mission, specifically, “3. To respond to human need by loving service” and “5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

The most important thing learned from the day was the impact of climate change on human suffering worldwide and the substantial amount of waste we create. The experience was an eye-opener for both the students and myself, prompting a realisation of the significance of living simply and giving generously. It also highlighted the potential of one individual to make a difference in helping others and the environment.

For me, I found the highlight of the day was the camaraderie and welcoming atmosphere among the staff from different Catholic schools, as we were the only Anglican school at the forum. The inspiring life experiences shared by guest speakers Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Brisbane Tim Norton and senior biology teacher, zoologist and ecologist Kristy Robberts who showcased the massive impact that one person can have in creating positive change.

It is important for students to participate in activities like this because it reaffirms their commitment to making a positive change in the lives of others through the Social Justice Committee at Cannon Hill Anglican College. Engaging in forums and events like this validates the significance of serving others and aligns with the values and mission of Cannon Hill Anglican College (CHAC) and our community. I would really like to thank Roseanne Macintyre from Lourdes Hill College and the staff and students involved in providing this wonderful opportunity for students from different colleges to collaborate to implement change and a better life for the planet and others affected by climate change.

Cannon Hill Anglican College students

Cannon Hill Anglican College students (L-R) Claire, Anouk, Erin, Sienna and Harriet at the Lourdes Hill College special student forum in July 2023

Sienna — Year 10 Student and Social Justice Committee Chair, Cannon Hill Anglican College

I decided to get involved with this initiative as I thought it would be a great way to expand my knowledge about sustainability in regard to caring for our common home and how we can implement the many values that were covered in the forum into our lives, both academically and externally.

Our world is ever changing and adapting, in ways both promising, but also detrimental, meaning the need for our society to educate themselves on these issues and solutions is absolutely crucial, and this forum was an amazing opportunity to further an understanding of this.

An important thing that I learnt on this day was how even one person, with small acts, can still make a difference as collectively, this can really add up and help to benefit our world.

It was interesting to hear how people are more motivated to help if they find the job easily accessible and straightforward so by making these tasks — even small as recycling into the correct bins — more upfront and effortless for a community to carry out, the participation rates surprisingly increase substantially. This was really insightful and definitely helpful to know for when I’m implementing such approaches to my schooling and life.

The highlight of the day for me was listening to one of the speakers, Kristy Robberts, who was a senior biology teacher, zoologist and ecologist. It was fascinating to hear everything she had to share about places you can volunteer and help out the community, in particular our wildlife and nature around us, as well as strategies we as a younger generation can work to implement in a realistic yet impactful way. She had so much to teach and was genuinely inspiring to hear her experiences in her career so far.

I think it is beneficial for other students to get involved and participate in activities such as this forum as it provides a wider understanding, even in just this one afternoon, of how we can make such an impact on our society using so many important values that were discussed. As well as this, being in a social setting, a great benefit is you get to know like-minded students with similar interests, and all with a passion to help better the world we live in.

Anouk — Year 10 Student and Social Justice Committee Member, Cannon Hill Anglican College

The biggest reason I like to get involved with this kind of initiative is because of my interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and environmental science. I am passionate about our planet and creating solutions to our climate crisis. Because of this, I am always seeking to gain new knowledge and advice from others, and make the effort to help our world for the innocent species who can’t.

Throughout the afternoon there were many impactful sentiments and a wealth of knowledge shared; however, one of the most lasting messages we learned about was Laudato Si’. Bishop Tim led an open discussion about Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ which is a comprehensive document on environmentalism, ethics and Christian faith.

I found this resonated with me the most because of the themes of environmentalism and world preservation. I found these ideals aligned similarly with our school’s mission and values and our Social Justice Committee’s goals. Using this experience we were able to problem-solve and create realistic solutions to our wastage problems by taking simple steps, even just in our schools. I am now more conscious on how to be more environmentally-friendly on a day-to-day basis.

My biggest highlight of the day was our group decisions where we combined schools and were able to brainstorm initiatives that we could implement inspired by Laudato Si’. I found it incredibly helpful to gain other perspectives and insights into what other schools do to limit their environmental footprint. In these teams we were able to come up with our own solutions and plan to generate change on such an important issue that I considered very thought provoking.

I can’t recommend forums like this enough; it was incredibly fulfilling to feel a part of change provoking conversations and deepen my understanding on environmentalism and creating more green solutions for our society.

As such an important and relevant topic, our guest speakers Bishop Tim Norton and Kristy Roberts imparted their wealth of knowledge to us and guided our group discussions on Christianity and sustainability. Forums like these are such incredible tools to involve the emerging generation to share our voice and possible solutions on a topic with such relevance for us and I strongly recommend other students getting involved in similar activities like this.

Editor’s note 20/08/2023: The ACSQ’s first Sustainability Roadmap was launched earlier this year. The Sustainability Roadmap lays out a framework for the different parts of our Diocesan community to formalise Sustainability Action Plans in a staged rollout.

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