When Justin Brennan was Damascus College’s sustainability coordinator, he always knew there was a lot of potential in its bushland setting.
So Mr Brennan, biology teacher and current sustainability coordinator David Neate and about 10 dedicated students joined forces to create the Murnong Trail, an 800 metre biodiversity track through the campus.
That hard work was recently recognised with Damascus College being named the Sustainability Victoria Biodiversity Secondary School of the Year.
Mr Brennan now works in the Tiwi Islands but said Mr Neate kept him up-to-date with the award outcome.
“I always knew we had a great resource there,” Mr Brennan said.
“I thought ‘why don’t we make a go of this and turn it into something’.”
Mr Neate said all finalists in the award were very strong contenders but he felt the Murnong Trail connected both with the community and the Wathaurong people, who helped develop it.
“It’s not just about walking through the bush,” Mr Neate said.
“It’s about protecting the biodiversity.”
There are 16 informative stations situated along the trail, which also includes protected indigenous plants such as the Murnong yam daisy.
It is also a hands-on project for students to learn about the environment.
Mr Neate said once local Aboriginal elder Bryon Powell became involved with the project, it changed its focus slightly.
“He gave us insights into how the plants were used but there was still an emphasis on biodiversity.”
Year 12 student Claire Roberts said a lot of weekends were devoted to work on the trail.
“It was enlightening to see how much biodiversity is down there and to learn about what is in abundance there,” Claire said.
Sustainability Victoria chief executive Stan Krpan said the awards had a record 206 entrants this year.
He said they provided schools with an opportunity to showcase their efforts at a statewide level and to learn from each other.
“What’s most impressive is the breadth of programs that students, teachers and their wider communities are involved with,” Mr Krpan said.
“These schools have done an exemplary job, and really set the benchmark for others to strive for next year.”