What is AuSSI?

The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) provides practical support to schools and their communities to live and work more sustainably. It fosters a whole school approach to change for sustainability with measurable environmental, educational, social and financial outcomes. AuSSI is a partnership of the Australian Government, all state and territory governments and the Catholic and Independent school sectors.

AuSSI engages and supports students, staff and community members to improve the management of a school's resources and facilities - including energy, waste, water, biodiversity, landscapes, products and materials. It also integrates these activities with teaching and learning across the curriculum. By participating in a learning by doing process, students achieve a better understanding of the world in which they live, and have opportunities to help create a more sustainable future.

AuSSI helps to build sustainability knowledge, skills and motivation by supporting training of school staff, whole school planning, development of teaching materials and use of tools for measuring and reporting on sustainability outcomes.

AuSSI does not replace other environmental or sustainability education activities in schools, rather it links to and complements existing programs already being implemented within schools.

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Achievements

In 2010, the Australian Government evaluated the governance arrangements and the operational effectiveness of AuSSI. AuSSI has made a significant impact on education for sustainability in schools over the six years it has been operating, with a modest investment from the Australian Government. There are common goals and a collaborative and cooperative approach to implementing the initiative, but with flexibility that suits the individual needs of different jurisdictions.

AuSSI achievements include:

  • Almost 30 per cent of Australian schools are now AuSSI schools, including public, catholic and independent schools (both primary and secondary).
  • AuSSI schools are achieving immediate and measurable improvements in their use of resources, grounds and facilities. Participating schools have reported reductions in waste collection of up to 80 per cent, reductions in water consumption of up to 60 per cent, and savings on energy consumption of 20 per cent with commensurate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Schools are achieving broad social, wellbeing and educational benefits from increased school pride and interest in learning.
  • Families of AuSSI school students across Australia have been influenced by their children's participation in AuSSI.

Evaluation reports

Vision, goals and guiding principles

Vision

The AuSSI vision is:

For all Australian schools and their communities to be sustainable.

Goals

AuSSI aims to achieve the following goals:

  1. Learning and teaching for sustainability as an integral component of school curricula.
  2. Schools actively engaging in a continuous cycle of planning, implementing and reviewing their approach to sustainability as part of their everyday operations.
  3. Schools using natural resources, including energy, water, waste and biodiversity, in more sustainable ways.
  4. Schools and school authorities reporting on changes towards sustainability.
  5. Schools working towards sustainability in partnership with their local communities.
  6. Schools and school authorities implementing polices and practices that support effective education for sustainability.
  7. Schools and communities developing values that support a sustainability ethos.
  8. Young people sharing ownership of sustainability initiatives and decision making.
  9. Individuals supported to make effective sustainability decisions and choices.

Guiding principles

AuSSI is based on the following guiding principles:

  • Seeking to develop a school culture committed to the principles of sustainable development.
  • Seeking to go beyond awareness raising to action learning and integration with school curricula.
  • Encouraging the involvement of the whole school.
  • Encouraging the involvement of a school's local community and a shift in the broader community towards more sustainable practices and processes.
  • Seeking to develop relationships with other areas that impact on the organisation and management of a school.
  • Being founded on a sound basis of theory and practice in schools and school systems, quality teaching and learning, and environmental education for sustainability.
  • Encouraging schools to achieve measurable social, environmental, educational and financial outcomes.

History

The original concept for a sustainable schools initiative came out of the success of the Waste Wise Schools Program in Victoria. A proposal for a pilot program received widespread support from the Australian and state/territory governments, and pilots commenced in NSW and Victoria in 2003. Based on the success of these pilots, funding was provided to Queensland, Western and South Australia to develop and implement sustainable schools in their states. In 2004 the Australian Government launched the national Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI).

The pilot project won the Eureka Award for sustainability education in 2005 and was a finalist in the Banksia Awards. Later that year funding had been provided to the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory to join AuSSI. Tasmania followed in 2007.

Since that time, AuSSI has grown consistently. It is now operating in all states and territories and over 3000 schools (30 per cent of all schools nationally), across public, Catholic and Independent schools, both at the primary and secondary levels.