Beechworth, nestled in Victoria’s High Country, is a town of distinction. With four Victorian Tidy Town awards in 2009, 2014, 2017, 2019 and two national Tidy Towns titles, it showcases a commitment to community pride and beauty. Home to the Burke Museum, Beechworth Honey, and Bilson’s Brewery, it offers history, honey, and handcrafted beer. But not just that, The Drag’d Out Festival adds vibrancy to the cultural scene. The town is surrounded by vineyards and is a gateway to the region’s wine industry. This town, rich in history and innovation, shines brightly in Victoria’s High Country.
Merri-Bek, situated in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, is a vibrant and culturally diverse municipality. Merri-bek is making waves in a range of impactful projects, including Green My Plate, My Smart Garden, and The Bike Shed’s “Fix Your Own Bike” initiative. Additionally, for their community support through the Western Emergency Relief Network, showcasing their commitment to creating a more resilient and sustainable community. This is the second Tidy Cities win for Merri-Bek who won the award in 2013, demonstrating their commitment to a sustainable and beautiful environment.
Farm My School is a not-for-profit working to transform unused land within schools into regenerative market gardens supplying food to the local community. In its second year, the program at Bellarine Secondary College in Drysdale, Victoria has turned a disused soccer field into a community-built 1.5-acre market garden, promoting healthy eating, ecological stewardship, and connected communities.
Soap Aid is a registered Australian charity that has taken on the crucial mission of reducing waste soap sent to landfills. Their exceptional project, known as the “Hotel to Hands” programme, embodies a true circular economy initiative. Soap Aid has established partnerships with various accommodation providers across Victoria, Australia, and New Zealand, encompassing resorts, motels, apartment complexes, guest houses, Airbnbs, caravan parks, housekeeping companies, and employee accommodation facilities.
The Torquay Rubbish Rangers, celebrating their first year in February, have made a significant impact on keeping Torquay clean. With around 30 members, led by the dedicated Dean, they cover 26km of the Surf Coast Highway on bikes equipped with trailers to collect rubbish and recycling every week or 10 days. Dean’s visibility promotes the group’s efforts, involving people of various ages, from 18 to 60. Future plans include expanding the cleaning efforts and collaborating with schools during warmer months.
The ‘Let’s Strain the Drains’ initiative in Victoria aimed to address upstream pollutants by installing and monitoring 163 litter traps in stormwater infrastructure across eight metropolitan councils. Tangaroa Blue Foundation and Pipe Management Australia led the meticulous monitoring and auditing. Collaborating with local councils and land managers, source reduction plans targeted identified litter items to reduce their impact on Port Phillip Bay.
Lily Setnik has displayed remarkable leadership, initiative, and dedication to the environment and community service. As an Environmental Leader at Rosebud Secondary and a volunteer for various environmental causes, Lily actively protects and restores the local environment, inspiring her community. Her kindness extends to volunteering at the Southern Peninsula Community Support Centre, fostering strong connections. Lily serves as a positive role model in the Mornington Peninsula.
In a bid to combat cigarette butt litter in the community, Tanya initiated a project acknowledging the harmful impact of such litter on the environment. She created a petition, gathering community support to request the local council’s action on education and installing specialised bins in schools and parks. Tanya engaged other councils, reaching out to the Prime Minister and joining a UN environment program to support her cause. Her environmental commitment also extended to tackling palm oil usage and tree planting in her hometown in India, earning recognition as a semi-finalist for an environmental award. Determined to make a positive impact, she will continue her efforts to protect the planet.
Tempy Primary School, a rural school with 18 students embarked on a conservation mission to study and protect the endangered Malleefowl. In 2020, the school received funding from the VMRG’s Geoff Armstrong Bequest and MCMA’s Citizen Science program. Auspiced by the Mallee Landcare Group, the project aimed to educate students about the unique characteristics and lifecycle of the Malleefowl, while minimizing threats to their survival near the school. The students took initiative due to concerns about Malleefowl being at risk near the highway. The project focused on strategies such as erecting distinguishable signage, controlling pests in Malleefowl habitat, and revegetation to prevent fragmented habitats. The students were also encouraged to become citizen scientists, contributing to real scientific research.
My Smart Garden is an innovative, free educational program that fosters connections among community members across metro Melbourne, empowering them to create sustainable gardens. Eight councils, including Brimbank, Stonnington, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Merri-bek, Moonee Valley, Yarra, and Wyndham City Councils, collaborate to deliver My Smart Garden. This program equips individuals from diverse backgrounds with knowledge on food cultivation, climate adaptation, biodiversity support, water conservation, and waste recycling. With workshops, localised resources, event recordings, and a monthly newsletter reaching over 6,700 recipients, My Smart Garden offers valuable educational opportunities for all, including renters and those with limited spaces.
The Drag’d Out Beechworth festival celebrates the art form of Drag, uniting people from diverse backgrounds. The event attracts audiences from far and wide, including those reconnecting with their hometown. The festival offers inclusive and safe entertainment for all ages, featuring local and international DJs, talented Kings and Queens, Drag Bingo and Trivia, Q&A sessions, a drag talent contest, and a family-friendly Frock up Family Day. The festival emphasises cultural safety, accessibility, and supports local businesses and suppliers.
Geelong Sustainability, in collaboration with the CSIRO and Greater Geelong Council, spearheaded the Climate Safe Rooms project. The project’s goal is to enhance home comfort by creating energy-efficient rooms that withstand temperature extremes. These rooms are fully insulated, draft-proofed, and equipped with high-efficiency air-conditioning and small solar systems to offset costs. The project also assessed the health benefits and energy bill savings resulting from improved year-round home comfort.
In June 2021, Victoria faced an unprecedented windstorm that caused extensive tree damage. Traditional mulching methods couldn’t handle the massive amount of debris. However, the innovative Kettlewells Green Waste Processing Site emerged as a scalable solution. This site revolutionises green waste treatment by converting debris into valuable products. With over $35 million worth of products generated, including fenceposts, firewood, and habitat, it benefits the entire Victorian community while challenging conventional practices.
Green My Plate (GMP) implement and supply reusable plates, bowls, and cups to food vendors at events and then wash and recirculate. This process is of benefit to events as single-use plates, bowls and cups are removed from the site leaving a cleaner footprint and less waste to clean, as well as diverting waste from landfill. To date they have serviced the Australian Open, Grand Prix, school fetes, along with various other events. GMP also offer consulting to schools and councils by tailoring and designing closed loop systems which require a day-to-day service.
In northeast Victoria, “manipulated” red gum trees known as Aboriginal Ring Trees hold significant historical value. These trees, over 200 years old, were marked by Aboriginal groups to define boundaries and signify important sites. Scar Trees are protected, but Ring Trees are not yet safeguarded. Collaborating with Dhudhuroa Waywurra Nations, efforts to formally register and preserve identified Ring Trees are underway. Raising awareness is crucial, as many are unaware of their existence, risking the loss of these historically important sites.
HAND UP, a mental health awareness campaign by Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative, unites the Mob living on Wotjobaluk Country and off-Country residents with regional connections. Through an annual community event, they celebrate their connected strength by offering and seeking support in times of need. Together, they demonstrate resilience and unity, reinforcing that they are strong when they extend a helping hand and stand together. HAND UP celebrates the collective inner power.
Since 2014, a group of dedicated locals has been actively combating climate change, strengthening the local economy, and fostering a resilient power system. Their initiatives prioritise cost savings, energy resilience, comfort, health benefits, and reduced carbon emissions. Supporting energy conservation, flexible electricity use, and renewable power generation, they work towards achieving 100% renewables. With a community-focused approach, they engage residents, businesses, community groups, the local shire, and infrastructure providers, sharing their knowledge with other communities and organisations nationwide to promote alternative energy solutions.
Geelong Sustainability spearheaded the Community Power Hub project on behalf of the Barwon Region Alliance for Community Energy. The initiative united community energy groups and local government from various areas in the Victorian Barwon South West region. Through collaborative efforts, the project aimed to promote sustainable energy practices and foster community-driven initiatives for a greener future.
Friends of Drouin’s Trees (FoDT) is a community group established in response to a request from the Baw Baw Shire’s environment office. Their initial goal was to compile a Significant Tree Register for their town amidst the first Precinct Structure Plan for the state being developed in Baw Baw Shire. Drouin and its surrounding region boast a remarkable environmental legacy, characterised by farming and services. FoDT has tirelessly worked to raise awareness about the invaluable environmental assets in their backyard and the importance of safeguarding them.
Situated in a residential area northwest of Metropolitan Melbourne, St. Anne’s Primary School recognises the negative impact of exotic species planted by residents on local biodiversity. To address this issue, they initiated the Pollinator’s Corridor project, reintroducing diverse indigenous species specific to their municipality. As the plants establish themselves, an array of pollinators, including blue banded bees, endangered ant species, and native butterflies have begun to appear. The project is being expanded to create a larger corridor, incorporating more native plants, habitat rocks, and a pathway to encourage student engagement. The school community remains dedicated to educating students and families, fostering awareness about the vital importance of biodiversity in their local environment.
The People of Beechworth exhibition showcases ten modern community members through life-sized photographic portraits and their stories on interpretation panels, connected to historical themes. It links residents with the town’s past, emphasising community and history’s creation. The Burke Museum underwent a full refit for this exhibit, transforming it into a contemporary and engaging experience. Age-appropriate exploration drawers with characterful animals cater to young visitors.
In the spirit of reconciliation Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.