The Low Carbon Schools had our second Meet Up at South Freo High, this school is dear to my heart as I worked there as the Carbon Neutral Program Manager for 8 years. Well since I left things have changed, the school in the middle of a $34 million building program. If you’ve ever done renovation at you home you can imagine what it’s like – messy.

A few years ago the school received federal funding for a new Trade Training Centre; the Green Action Team planted a native garden designed by APACE. The plan was to shut off the bore water to this garden, however, due to a number of factors this didn’t happen. What did happen was the gardens grew thick and lush and quendas (bandicoots) moved in. This is really thrilling, these little mammals have returned to very urban Fremantle – a classic case of build it and they will come!


A massive new building is under construction, is does have Green Start credentials and much effort has gone into working around the existing large trees, one of the beautiful features of the schools. When we surveyed our 15 LCSPP schools, many schools identified the lack or loss of trees as been detrimental to students (full results of our survey will be posted soon). How the new SFSHS building functions from a low carbon perspective is yet to been seen. Little things like setting reverse cycle air con at different winter and summer temperatures can improve the health of the students and staff, save money and most importantly, save carbon emissions.

Much of the rest of the 49-year-old school is begin refurbished and hallelujah – insulation in being put in! Insulation is THE most cost effective low maintenance action to improve building performance. Although I have built and renovated a number of homes, my awareness of what to keep and what to replace was enhanced as a sitting councillor on the City of Fremantle Planning Committee for four years. I am a bit of a zealot wanting to retain what is robust (it’s a school) and low maintenance (it’s a school). For example, retaining architectural features such as unpainted jarrah panelling and feature jarrah under the colonnade ceilings. This jarrah has been revarnished once or twice in 49 years and it is in excellent condition. The Department of Education has a policy of not painting what doesn’t need painting. However, as we visit our 15 schools it is clear that fashion often takes the place of long-term thinking.

One of the frustrations of the building process at SFSHS was damage to the Greensense gas, water and electricity monitoring equipment and the PV array. While currently a work in progress, this is getting remedied.

South Fremantle SHS has had a great team of people working on the Carbon Neutral Program, many community members have been on the working group for over 8 years. The school also has a LCSPP committee with 7 active members. South Freo is a newly accredited Waste Wise school and SimplyCarbon has been providing advice on next steps. Perth has had kerbside recycling in place for 15+ years and still, we are pretty hopeless at getting it right. I’ve recently had an interesting time introducing a new staff room recycling system, as always if you find those will championing the process and keep working on communication eventually change will occur.

Teachers Nick Gorrie, Graeme Offer and Leo Conti outlined the work they are doing in the curriculum focusing on sustainability – waste, STEM, renewable energy, Kali Garden, Y 10 tree planting – 70,000 to date. SFSHS’s Prue Jewell is awarded the most passionate and dedicated teacher of the night, she gave birth at midday the next day.

During general discussion ideas were suggested on how to get more parents involved in low carbon activities and committees:

  • Put whiteboard outside of the classroom that has lists of things that they need help with that the parents can put their name down against a topic – keeping in mind that not everyone wants or needs to be on a committee
  • Newsletter advertising for specific tasks that you need help with
  • Ask people if you know they have skills, rather than waiting for them to offer
  • Consider the best time for meetings; it can be tricky balancing staff availability and community members requirements.

Kathy Anketell