Sister Kaye Bryan and Sister Carmel Wallace were named Paul Harris Fellows for their outstanding work as creators of Erin Earth. They are pictured with President of Wollundry Rotary, Phil Burgess and Kathy Wallace.
President Phil said that a Paul Harris Fellow award is the highest honour that can be granted by the International Rotary Foundation. It is an honour reserved for those who have met the ideals of Rotary: Service to others; Promotion of Integrity and Advancement of World understanding, Goodwill and Peace.
The ideals of Erin earth are entirely consistent with Rotary Ideals and the work of Erin Earth, and the Sisters, is an outstanding example of these ideals in practice. An honour truly well deserved.
Presentation Sisters Kaye Bryan (Left) and Carmel Wallace (right) spoke to us about the Erin Earth Project. Kathy Wallace (second from Left) a volunteer at Erin Earth introduced the two speakers. Michelle Burton, Kirsty Cole, and Melanie Bradley, employees of Erin Earth accompanied the Sisters.
Kathy said:
"It is my great pleasure to introduce the two extraordinary women who founded ErinEarth, 25 years ago. These women were active in the environmental space long before Greta – they were ahead of their time!
Many Wollundry Rotary members would be familiar with ErinEarth.
  • Vocational visit about 4 -5 years about
  • Funded - the solar pump for the watering system and the AED
ErinEarth garden is a half hectare native woodland located in urban Turvey Park. ErinEarth is a community and place for connecting with nature, demonstrating sustainable living, and caring for Country. It is a thriving hub of biodiversity but when I was a teenager in the 80’s padding around Mt Erin and Trinity schools, the area behind the convent was a bleak looking space of decommissioned asphalt tennis courts and a tip.
Carmel Wallis and Kaye Bryan are members of the dynamic Presentation Sisters of Wagga Wagga congregation and are here today to share the ErinEarth story, celebrating 25 years since the project began."
Sr Carmel Wallace then told us of the early days of Erin Earth and the influences that informed her mind about the ecology. The sinking of The Rainbow Warrior, a ship belonging to Greenpeace, in Auckland Harbour by agents of the French Government, was a huge shock for Carmel. That a European country like France could take such criminal activity against a group trying to protect the environment had seemed incredible.
Secondly Carmel attended a climate change conference in the late nineties and this opened her mind to an issue about which she had been largely unaware. Thirdly her Catholic framework influenced by Pope John Paul 11who invited religious leaders of all faiths to a meeting in Assisi, Italy to discuss a Christian response to the Climate Crisis facing the world.
Carmel completed a perma culture design certificate and a living sustainable workshop in Drummoyne which helped her to see the need to educate and lead people to relearn the basic skills of growing vegetables, protecting the environment and respecting nature. She said that poverty and environmental degradation go hand in hand.
Carmel and Kaye thought that they might be able to do something with the old Mt Erin Tennis courts which were degraded. They had a dream to try and put into practice what they had learned. They turned to others for help including then Mayor Peter Dale, Shaun McGee and Jim Webb and about 32 other who became meters and mates. Fund raising dinners and volunteer worked got the project underway. Mick Mullins was extremely helpful with his earth moving equipment, while Barters brought a semi load of chook manure including a number of dead chooks!
Sister Kaye Bryan 
I would like to start with some words from your own website:   “The magic of Rotary is that it allows ordinary people to achieve the most extraordinary things.”
That’s what I feel like when I look at ErinEarth today.   25 years ago, there we were, Carmel and I, two 55 year old women with backgrounds mainly as school teachers.   However, like you here we are part of a group that puts its resources (people and finance) into works and projects that contribute to enhancing life.
When I experience ErinEarth today I feel as though I’ve helped bring something to birth that is vibrant, flourishing, bringing life and addressing important issues of our times.
Let me describe EE in part.   The beauty of the garden surprises many as they step in from Kildare St.   People find it can engender a sense of peace.   As you wander around you can learn everything from a 13.7 billion year story of the Universe to how you can grow vegies and water wise native plants in your own backyard.
I’d like to share two of the current Strategic Directions of ErinEarth.   They are so aligned with the original intent that it is like the baby of 25 years has grown into a wonderful adult.
  • The first is this:   We model, support, and contribute to Earth awareness and ecological justice in our local community and beyond.   Outcomes:   That EE is known as a place that promotes ecological justice:  that is, a right relationship between people, plants, animals, soil, water and air.   Second outcome:  People understand Earth’s crises and the importance of adopting sustainable living practices.
  • Second direction is that of demonstrating sustainable living to our local community.   An outcome:  EE is well known and recognized as a place (among others) that demonstrates and educates about sustainable living to the local community.
  • Who is bringing this about?   Four wonderful staff – 2 Co-Managers one covering education and strategic planning and the other finance and operations;   1 garden manager and 1 administration and communications officer.   Their hours of work amount to the full time equivalent of three staff members.  
  • And the volunteers:   About 35 currently, including weekly garden volunteers, board directors, those helping with school groups, those conducting the monthly SoulSpace Saturdays, the weekly weaving group and co-ordination of the catering for events.
  • EE is open to drop in visitors on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9am-3pm.   This year 258 visitors have dropped into the garden.   This includes Wednesday visits from the Leisure Company and 2 different home-schooling groups.
Some of this year’s activities:  
  • A very successful Open Day on 1st April.   235 adults and 111 children attended.   Lots of wonderful feedback. ……lots of native plant learning, lots of new learning, enough to inspire many who said they would apply any sustainable living ideas at home or in their workplace;  staff helpful and visitors loved the atmosphere;  
  • Schools this year:   Three schools with pre-school children – nature based programs and helping them establish vegie gardens.
  • Four primary schools, one of which had 12 children from high risk/trauma situations.   These children came fortnightly to ErinEarth for four sessions of a Nurture Through Nature program and EE staff went to their school once.   Feedback from teachers:   The students developed a sense of peace and appreciation for themselves and nature.   All the students selected for the program are facing personal challenges and it was great to give them some time out.   When surveyed the students loved the beautiful learning spaces and staff.  
  • Two Secondary schools brought their Year 7 students as part of their Introductory Day.   150 and 180 students.
  • Outreach and partnerships:  EE has joined the Institute of Company Directors Australia, an association specifically set up to support Not For Profit boards.
  • Page 3 of Co-Managers’ report:   Start with Michelle (EE Communications person) who has been invited and attended breakfast meetings of the Wagga BNI group (Business Networking) and has delivered guest speaker presentations on two occasions.
  • Supporting the development of a nature playspace/bush garden on a reserve adjacent to Amy Hurd Early Learning Centre.
  • Engagement with Junee Correctional Centre, with furniture to be made by inmates for ErinEarth garden.
  • Meeting with Community Corrections to recommence as a site for community service work.  
  • Meeting with TAFE re potential new Yazidi/Nepalese/Burmese volunteers.   Twenty students completing their Certificate 3 in English, invited to ErinEarth for morning tea on 8th May.
A vote of thanks was given by President Phil and an impromptu one by Mark Hillis, both of which were enthusiastically supported by a very attentive audience of members.
Our guest speaker was one of our own.  David Stokes was born at the old Wagga Base Hospital in 1961, the son of Geoff and Norma of “Little Springs”.His father was born in Cooma, the son of the chief surveyor for the Snowy Mountains Scheme, and his mother was from Cootamundra, the daughter of a plasterer who did the local railway station ceilings.  David was a survivor of Gregadoo Public School which closed and he then went to Lake Albert Public School where he was Dux in 1973.His parents subdivided the farm into 8 x 100-acre blocks and sold up in 1979, whereupon they moved to Lake Macquarie, and David enrolled in a BComm at Newcastle University, majoring in Accountancy.
At age 21 David happened to be at Guadalcanal in the Solomon islands when by chance he met the Pope John Paul II, not long after the 1981 assassination attempt, who had just landed for a visit on his way to Australia.  “Ah, good-ay Your Holiness”, to which the Pope replied, “You must be from Australia”.
With such connections on high, David qualified as a Chartered Accountant and started working with KPMG, with stints in London (2 years) and Suva (4 years), before moving back to Sydney, then to a gold mine in West Papua during the 2008 financial crisis, his own on-line business in Bali when the Covid-19 pandemic came along, and finally back to Australia.  Somewhere along the way he also met fellow accountant and Rotarian David Pyke.  Just one darn thing after another.
In 2020 he started working for JLL on Transgrid’s Project Energy Connect infrastructure project to construct a new high voltage electricity transmission line between Wagga and South Australia.  He negotiated the acquisition of easements from 40 landowners, surviving one veiled death threat, before transitioning across to the HumeLink project between Adelong and Yass in 2021.This is challenging work, requiring an understanding of people, listening with empathy, and finding solutions.  There are some difficult matters. His family has come full circle with electricity supply.
David answered some questions on compensation and “why should we employ you if you only stay in jobs for a short while?”, and concluded to a generous round of applause.
Our Guest Speaker today was Dr. Kristian Girling Ph.D. John Gray did the introduction and told us that Kris is a frequenter of the Riverine Club and a member of his friendship group. He has a doctorate in Philosophy in Middle Easter Studies from the University of London. He has taught in both the UK and the USA. He now works in Human Resources and his wife is from Wagga.
Kristian has authored a book of the history of the Catholic Church in the Middle East which is available on Amazon. It is titled "The Chaldean Catholic Church: Modern History, Ecclesiology and Church-State Relations"
Kristian began by posing the question: Why think about the Middle East in Wagga? Because there are so many connections, from Agriculture to Immigration, from History to Trade.
In the West we have many false assumptions about the Middle East. Geographically it is a vast area from Morocco to Afghanistan, including many countries with a hugely varied environment. It is the Heartland of many ancient civilisations as well as modern ones, Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian etc. It has come under the influence of many European Powers and has many natural resources some of which have brought great wealth through the production of oil and gas.
Over 420 million people live in this region of the world. Egypt, Iran and Turkey are the most populous with many religious identities and languages. The biggest Jewish population outside Israel is in Iran. Religion is very important. Intense beliefs influence daily life. The three main languages are Arabic, Persian and Turkish.
There are some major themes which will influence life in this region: The transition from Carbon fuels which are a finite resource, to other income sources. Israel for example is heavily invested in Hi Tech. Security Issues, food, water and physical protection are high on the agenda. There are many monarchies in the the Middle East which are changing although at a glacial pace.
Australia has a longstanding interaction with the region, from the afghan camel traders to the Anzacs in various theatres of war, Beersheeba, Gallipoli, Tobruk etc. Migration from that area to Australia between 2001 and 2019 increased by 130% and of course here in Wagga we have many Yazidi from Iraq, Hazara from Afghanistan and Dinka from South Sudan, as well as others from Iran etc. The Saudis have many investments in Australia increasing to 5.1 billion dollars. We export a lot of grain including Barley to Saudi Arabia.
Kristian responded to a number of questions on topics from the Israel/Palestine conflict, to the position of women in Iran, to what does a PH.D. do.
Members were very interested in Kristian's talk and warmly applauded as President Phil presented him with a bottle of olive oil in appreciation.
President Phil Burgess

Phil Burgess

Welcome to Wollundry Rotary
We meet Tuesdays at 12:30 at Romanos
Cnr of Fitzmaurice St & Sturt St, Wagga Wagga

Postal Address:  PO Box 229 Wagga Wagga 2650

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Wollundry Rotary is home to the Saturday Markets, the Wagga Food and Wine Festival, 
the Gears and Beers Festival and the Wollundry Photo Competition.


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Member Birthdays:
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    June 3
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    June 6
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    June 20
Spouse/Partner Birthdays:
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    June 2
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    June 13
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    June 17
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    June 19
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    June 22
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    June 10
Join Date:
  • Darren Wallace
    June 1, 2010
    13 years
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    June 8, 2021
    2 years
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    June 18, 2002
    21 years
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    June 20, 2020
    3 years
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    June 21, 2016
    7 years
  • Phil Burgess
    June 26, 2018
    5 years

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