This year will be the third Bello LeaF (Learning Festival), running alongside Bello Winter Music. Bellingen Shire local Lisa Siegel is Bello LeaF’s coordinator and excited about the array of workshops, talks, forums, gatherings and tours, covering a wide and rich array of eco-learning topics, that will be part of the LeaF program. The LeaF program, (sponsored this year by Bellingen Solar Depot), is an initiative of the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance (BSLA). Lisa is very appreciative of the opportunity to work with the Bello Winter Music crew, who have been “so inclusive, generous and open to new initiatives,” says Lisa.
Last year the LeaF program was a great success. “The ‘Primitive Fire Making’ workshop attracted more than 70 participants and the ‘Edible and Medicinal Weeds Walk’ saw 42 participants, guided by Damien Harrison of Chamomile Naturopathy, meandering through the main streets of Bellingen,” explains Lisa. This year environmentalist Tim Silverwood, co-founder of the organisation ‘Take 3 for the Sea’, (a project aimed at educating beachgoers to take 3 pieces of rubbish when they leave the beach), will be the first LeaF patron and will be in Bellingen to meet festival goers.
Lisa’s life as an environmental advocate began in Year 6 at her school in California, when she was a member of ‘STOP: Student Team on Protection’ – getting kids on the playground to pick up their rubbish! Lisa became a vegetarian at 15 and admits that she always had “the need to save the world.” After leaving school Lisa completed a Masters in Education from Columbia University in New York, majoring in teaching and curriculum. Her passion for social equity and sustainability drew her to life on a Kibbutz in Israel, where she lived for 5 years and met her husband Steve. After the birth of their son Lior, the couple moved to Australia and settled in Bellingen, with family and friends from their time on the Kibbutz. “Bellingen had the sense of community, the passion for sustainable living and the availability of alternative options for health and food that we were seeking,” says Lisa.
Lisa’s life in Bellingen has been enormously busy. Lisa was a founding member of ‘Transition Bellingen’, which was part of a global transition network that aimed to build resilience so that local communities could survive, and even thrive, in the face of global challenges like Peak Oil and Climate Change. At that time, there were many groups functioning across the Bellingen Shire with a common mission of ecological sustainability. Transition Bellingen saw the need for greater sharing of information between these groups and was instrumental in establishing ‘Eco Bello’, which would function as an umbrella group. Eco Bello has now morphed into the ‘Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance, (BLSA), and is comprised of 15 local groups, who are working collectively and independently to create a culture of lifelong learning for sustainability and ecological balance. The LeaF program at Bello Winter Music has given this collective an opportunity to share their common objective with the Bellingen Shire and visitors to our region.
Lisa’s real passion has been mentoring our youth to become empowered community change agents. Bellingen EYE (Environmental Youth Experience) began in 2007, when a small group of high school students decided they needed to form a connection with their environment, to “go bush”. Lisa was a member of a youth group in California when she was a teenager. She knew first hand the power of youth camps for building leadership skills, resilience and a sense of community service. “The camps had an enormous effect on my life ongoing,” says Lisa. Lisa and Andrew Turbill, (an environmental educator and a wildlife naturalist with a professional career in conservation land management and environmental education), began going out on bushwalks and weekend camps with the youths. A deepening connection to nature and a love of the planet inspired them to want to do something more. Bellingen EYE was born.
EYE has been an integral part of our community ever since, helping our young people gain knowledge on ecological systems, build leadership skills and harness their creativity, as well as finding their voice. Lisa explains that the ethos has been “youth led, adult guided,” as the older youths mentor the younger and basically run the camps.
The Centre for Ecological Learning Incorporated (CEL) was formed in 2011, in order to take the successful local youth program, (EYE) under its wing, and formalise its management structure. CEL is incorporated as a not-for-profit association and is now responsible for many local projects including the ‘Young Naturalists Club’, the Bellingen High School Community Garden, Bellingen SeedSavers and the newly created Waste Not Bellingen, a collective of people passionate about promoting alternatives to single use plastic and reducing our waste footprint in the Bellingen shire.
CEL was also the major force in establishing the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance (BSLA). Lisa is a co-ordinator and the treasurer of CEL and acts as a mentor to the many groups and projects. CEL’s overarching mission is “to provide Earth-based, immersive and meaningful education experiences about the natural world and our relationship with it, for both young people and adults.”
Lisa is a skilled environmental educator with over 20 years experience in developing and facilitating educational experiences for children, young people, and adults. Lisa is currently working at the Cascade Environmental Education Centre (a NSW Public School) as coordinator of the Waterwise Schools program. Despite her extraordinary commitment to local initiatives, Lisa has managed to attain her Masters in Social Ecology from the University of Western Sydney. “I get bored if I’m not busy. There’s always something pressing to do.” Lisa is very humble about her achievements and tells me that she is really just “an eco-freak.” We are very lucky to have such an enthusiastic and passionate “eco-freak” in our Shire.
Bello LeaF events and workshops are part of the Bello Winter Music Festival Program and free to ticket holders. Non-ticket holders are welcome to join (space allowing) by donation at the events. See the Bello Winter Music Program for the full LeaF Program. Visit the BSLA tent in the Market Park to learn about LeaF or the BSLA and its affiliate groups.
CEL (Centre for Ecological Learning) is currently offering the chance to go into the draw to win a Gold Pass to Bello Winter Music for anyone who joins CEL before June 15th. Your fees go towards helping CEL run its amazing programs. You can also vote at their General Meetings and can opt in for their newsletter too. Fees are $40/adult and $20/youth per year.To join click here