Mandurah woman Bonnie Beal didn’t know her passion for the environment until she took a traineeship with the sustainability team at the City of Mandurah nine years ago.
You wouldn’t know it today: as senior environmental education officer for the city, 26-year-old Ms Beal lives and breathes sustainability.
For the last two years she was the force behind the Perth and Peel Kids Teaching Kids conference, which engaged over 700 students from the region in matters of sustainability.
“The good thing about is they get to decide what they learn about,” Ms Beal said.
“They might be interested in bush land, they might be interested in the coast, and they have the opportunity to direct that learning.”
She said it was important to engage students in these opportunities because we live in a time where our actions can direct future impacts of climate change.
“Obviously we’re already locked into a certain amount of impacts from climate change, but we can really determine the fate of things, how bad it gets or how good it gets, and it’s important for students to be aware of it and connect with nature,” Ms Beal said.
In recognition of her commitment to the environment and sustainability, Ms Beal is up for a WA Young Achievers Award, which will be announced on May 12.
Whether she wins the award or not, Ms Beal has big plans for Mandurah’s environmental future.
Last year she proposed a collaboration with Western Power to start a program to use batteries to store solar power, so residents can use solar power at night when the sun is not shining.
“We can’t say what Western Power will choose to go ahead with or not, but we proposed an education program around battery storage... and hopefully Western Power will subsidize the batteries to residents,” she said.
She also hopes to spearhead a campaign to build community and government support for the nomination of Yalgorup National Park for National Heritage Listing.
She said climate change was the biggest environmental issue facing Mandurah: “It’s the unknown of whether we’re locking ourselves in to a certain amount of climate change,” she said.
“You look at all our ecosystems here and we’re part of a global biodiversity hotspot, so everything is really finely tuned to our climate, and the way things have been for thousands of years.
“From the human perspective you’ve got the coastal problems with sea level rise and erosion, especially on such low land here, and there’s a lot of health impacts too… heat waves kill more people than any other natural disaster.”
She hopes that her nomination for the WA Young Achievers Award will help bring more attention to the projects she runs with the City of Mandurah.
“I was born in Mandurah, i’ve grown up here, and what i really like about this field of work is that i’m able to make a direct impact on my community and my city,” she said.
“I want for people, when they think about Mandurah, to know it’s a sustainable city, they know we’re all trying our best.”