Take 3 Youth Summit in Dubbo, NSW, proves a big hit with aspiring young leaders

Take 3 hosted the second Take 3 Youth Summit at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, NSW in September. Over one hundred secondary school students and their teachers from across NSW took two days away from their regular classes to attend the event which was designed to teach students about the problem of plastic pollution in our rivers and waterways, while simultaneously building and enhancing their leadership skills. 

This year’s Summit was the first to be held inland – Dubbo is 450 km from the ocean – and was specifically designed for students living in regional and rural areas.  Titled Connecting Coast to Country: Youth Leading the Way, the Summit focused on reframing the plastic pollution crisis as a problem not just of the oceans but of our inland rivers and waterways too. The two-day immersive experience was based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The connections between plastic pollution and climate change was explored, and students were introduced to the concepts of environmental justice, and intergenerational equity in the context of the SDGs.

Take 3 offered a jam-packed program of activities over the two days, including a number of informative guest speakers who shared stories of their own leadership journeys, including the stumbling blocks and pitfalls they encountered along the way, and what they learnt throughout the process. 

One of the most popular talks was by Kate McBride [pictured above]. Kate is a fifth-generation farmer from Western NSW. After experiencing the collapse of the Darling-Baaka river system first hand, she became a healthy river ambassador with the goal of improving water management in the Murray-Darling Basin. Kate has become a voice for regional Australia and an advocate for country Australians on a range of issues including climate change and mental health. She shared tales of her transition from uni student to environmental activist, highlighting the steps that took her from ‘paddocks to Parliament House’, and offered tips for aspiring environmental leaders seeking to emulate her success. 

Students were enthralled by Dr Alisa Wallace [pictured on the left], Acting Senior Veterinarian at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, who talked about her experiences of the impacts of plastic pollution on local wildlife in the Murray-Darling Basin. Her talk included some fascinating case studies, including the sad tales of a platypus found entangled in plastic fishing line, and a loggerhead turtle that had ingested so much plastic that it became dehydrated and contracted pneumonia. Fortunately, Alisa was able to share some stories with happy endings, including that of Luca, the juvenile Pacific bottlenose dolphin which was reunited with his mother after being freed from fishing line. 

The Summit culminated with the students creating individual Action Plans to take back to their school or community. These described not only how they will take action on plastic pollution but also how they will continue their personal journeys as environmental leaders. Throughout the Summit students had absorbed Take 3’s mantra – every small action creates a big impact – and this approach was applied in their action plans. The plans included ideas as diverse as organising school clean-up days, making and displaying art created from plastic rubbish, and setting up collection points on school grounds to collect Return and Earn containers.

The students were asked for feedback on the Summit on the last day. Overall, their comments were very positive. They reported that they had learned more about the problem of plastic pollution, and been introduced to new ways to reduce their plastic footprint at home. Many students pledged to avoid products wrapped in single-use plastic and to only buy essential products in future in order to reduce waste. 

Annie Woollard, Head of Education at Take 3 was delighted with the responses from students. She said, ‘Leadership comes in all shapes & forms. Students who are engaged and inspired to take action, no matter how small that first step might be, begin their own journey of leadership. One step leads to another and creates change. Take 3 is delighted to see these inspiring young people start out on their journeys to make a better world for us all.”