Janelle Randall-Court: No Waste on Country & Cooling the Schools

First Nations Cultural Education Officer, Janelle Randall-Court (Video: Kalani Gacon)

Story by Lis Bastian

Bundjalung Yaegl woman and Bullaburra resident, Janelle Randall-Court, has a long history of working creatively to inspire people to care for Country. We interviewed her after watching her give a cultural presentation for Greening Australia’s Cooling the Schools Project.

Key Points:

  • With funding from the NSW Government’s Greening our City program, Greening Australia and Deadly Ed are delivering cultural education sessions as part of the Cooling the Schools program.
  • Cooling the Schools is planting 36,000 native trees and plants in schools across Greater Sydney to reduce the urban heat island effect and increase biodiversity.
  • Schools can apply to Greening Australia to be part of the Cooling the Schools program here

“My whole background, professionally and personally, is around education and obviously culture is at the heart of it all. Working with children, working with community, as an educator is really a beautiful opportunity to weave my cultural history and that cultural story in everything I do. I’ve always been concerned about the health of Country and have looked at opportunities to find positive ways to heal Country. Now that could mean using the arts, it could be working directly with young people, it could be working within education.

So I have this personal background of using all those elements in coming up with creative, lighthearted, thought-provoking, entertaining, educational ways to heal Country.”

Janelle’s diverse skills in dance, choreography, video production, artmaking, storytelling, education and project management have resulted in an inspiring body of work.

Long before the media began to highlight how damaging and wasteful our fast fashion culture is, and way back when you were still allowed to scavenge at ‘tips’, Janelle was scavenging for clothes and eventually ran Tipp Wear fashion parades, with models wearing clothes rescued from landfill.

While working with the Aboriginal Cultural Resource Centre (ACRC), her dedication to reducing waste led her to co-produce the 2011 documentary: No Waste on Country: Leave Only Footprints.

In 2015, after having worked as a Discovery Ranger for National Parks, she drew on her background as a professional dancer to produce Treasures: an inspirational dance work based on the life of the male Satin Bowerbird. She wanted to convey the dangers of waste in the bush, and in particular the threats to bowerbirds which collect man-made blue ‘treasure’ in their attempt to attract a mate.

Janelle and the dancers performing Treasures (Photo: supplied)

Janelle has also designed these stunning No Waste on Country bin stickers:

Janelle Randall-Court: No Waste on Country

In 2022 Janelle also participated in the Re-Imagining Waste Art Project with the Blue Mountains Creative Arts Network, and gave a series of workshops with community to make art from waste.

When we caught up this week, she was inspiring young children in her current role as First Nations Cultural Education Officer with Greening Australia’s Cooling the Schools Project

Funded by the NSW government’s Greening our City program, Cooling the Schools and Deadly Ed are helping students learn firsthand about the environmental and cultural benefits of planting native species for First Nations cultures. They’re planting 36,000 native trees and plants in schools throughout Greater Sydney to create the canopy needed to reduce the urban heat island effect ahead of future heatwaves. The Project aims to connect children to nature, empower them to take action in their communities, and to create ‘greener cooler places where both people and nature can thrive’.

Each session starts with Janelle engaging the young people in a presentation about culture and Country. The Greening Australia team members then demonstrate how to plant tubestock, before helping students plant dozens of local species to ‘cool the school’ and provide habitat for wildlife.

Janelle Randall-Court:  Cooling the Schools

Janelle and the Greening Australia Team introducing the program (Photo: Lis Bastian)

Janelle is effusive about working with Greening Australia and is thrilled that she can use all her environmental and cultural education skills, and arts background, to develop programs within the Cooling the Schools Project.

She’s aware that much of what students are learning is making them anxious and believes that helping them get their hands in the dirt to create future canopy and habitat in their own schools, is a concrete and light-hearted way for them to have a genuine and positive influence over their own futures.

Janelle Randall-Court: Cooling the Schools

Janelle helping the children plant their tubestock (Photo: Lis Bastian)

She describes her days as being layered with joy: from working with the passionate Greening Australia team to getting out on Country and connecting with the young people in each school. 

“Some of the kids have never planted before. I’ve had kids skipping around me saying ‘I want to be a farmer. I want to do more planting. I love this.’ Some kids want to come up and hug you because it’s just made their day.”

Janelle providing one-on-one attention to students (Photo: Lis Bastian)

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This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

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About Lis Bastian

Lis Bastian is the Senior Lead for Blue Mountains City Council’s Planetary Health Initiative. She is the editor of the Local News Platforms and has been a writer, editor, news presenter and teacher/lecturer covering both cultural and environmental issues for over 30 years. She has been pioneering Solutions/Constructive Journalism in Australia since 2012.

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