“Festival for our Future” by Bellingen Youth Leading the World members Coco, Kate, Sahara and Ella (OzGREEN); with mentor Sue Lennox; and partners Oz Green YLTW, Northbank Community Gardens and MidCoast Communities.


Bellingen is on the mid north coast of NSW where the Bellinger River is a central focus for the community and currently facing threatening impacts from nearby logging and forestry management including aerial weed spraying in addition to agriculture, urban development, degrading riverine vegetation, sewage and diesel overflows.

The Bellingen Youth Leading the World (YLTW OzGREEN) Congress began with a report on the results of water quality tests carried out by the young members. They realised that their parents and school friends did not know what was happening to the river so set out to spread some community education and awareness. As Bellingen loves a festival, the youth group felt this was the best way to communicate their message and presented their plans to the Mayor, Council and parents.


Preparations for the event included community engagement in erecting a stage out of bamboo, weeding gardens, cleaning and adapting the kitchen to serve food to the participants, gaining prizes from the local community, organising performances and events and setting up a sound system, and organising food for the event (some of it from the garden), installing tables and shade for the welcome table, and painting, collecting and organising materials to decorate bikes and other items for the parade.

The Festival was promoted with posters placed around the town, stories in the local media and through word of mouth and Facebook.

An ever increasing crowd gathered. The energy and life of the event ramped up as the musical performances and dance/ drumming acts took place by local community members and a popular local band.

The educational aspects of the event included workshops on composting and organic gardening, run by local youth. Two of the event organisers Kate and Ella presented their findings on the state of the Bellinger River. And Jessie discussed the local concerns of water pollution, global warming, and clearing of habitat.

The young team were also behind the kitchen counter and backing up food preparation with much of the food from the community garden and donated by local shops.

The ‘parade to the future’ consisted of a series of bikes, prams, strollers and shopping trolleys variously decorated with recycled materials, flowers, or leaves that ended at the stage. The young team took on the role of judging the winners and handing out prizes that had been donated by local shops. There was much excitement from those receiving a prize. The parade marked the opening of the new path to the community garden, and was also a symbolic ride to a more sustainable future.

Overall, some 400 people came to the very successful event. When festival visitors were surveyed about the impact the festival had on them related to nature and the community, the majority of participants felt it had increased their understanding about the importance of nature in their lives, their understanding of rivers, sustainability and climate change. They also had a greater interest to share this knowledge with their family and friends, and greater motivation to adjust their lifestyles to reduce the impacts on the environment. They felt they had more knowledge on how to reduce impacts, more interest to be involved in caring for nature, more interest in being a part of community to initiate this change, and a greater belief in themselves in becoming a leader to make this change.

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