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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 05:30

ErinEarth is a Presentation gift

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Officially opened in September 2006, ErinEarth is an environmental education house and garden focused on sustainable living.  It is set on half a hectare of land in front of the former Presentation Sisters' Mt Erin convent, which was built in 1876 two years after the first five sisters arrived from Ireland to start a school.

ErinEarth's primary goal is on sustainable living education with a focus on community, spirituality, energy conservation, water minimisation and biodiversity protection.

Open days are held at the centre on the third Saturday of the month from March to November with workshops on topics such as bush foods, energy saving ideas and creating a vegetable garden. School groups also regularly visit the centre where the focus is on encouraging the students' natural sense of wonder and awe, and helping them to make connections between the various life forms they observe and experience.

Sister Carmel Wallis PBVM, who with Sister Kaye Bryan PBVM, were the key drivers behind its establishment, lives in Erin Earth's solar passive house — the gathering spot for visitors to the community.  Surrounding her home is a water-wise garden of native plants, a vegetable garden, a display of native plants distinctive to the area, a dam and wetlands.

"We also have two fabulous dogs — Megs and Lizzy who are the hub of this place," says Carmel. "They play an extraordinary therapy role particularly with people who are struggling."

Joining the dogs are four chickens — Otis, Bluey, Eco and Nemo who each produce a daily egg.

"It's rather lovely how ErinEarth has evolved and turned out," says Carmel. "But we wouldn't be where we are today without the close association of a network of local bodies and groups such as Wagga City Council, Charles Sturt University, TAFE, Riverina Environmental Educators and many more.

"We would also never have done what we did without 125 years of Presentation Sisters in this town. It is the goodwill of all those years that has made ErinEarth possible.

"We have become part of the fabric of the town and working both inside and outside the Catholic framework has been really important in making everyone welcome and part of ErinEarth."

As well as the backing of many local bodies, ErinEarth is strongly supported by an enthusiastic band of volunteers.

A core group of former farmers and tradesmen undertake much-needed maintenance work each Monday morning and all-day Thursday.

"They weld, build, clean and landscape,"' says Carmel.

Other volunteers come from the local drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, from probation and parole services and from mental health and disability services.

"One of the most important things we do is provide morning tea on the Monday and morning tea and lunch on the Thursday," says Carmel. "We take a long time with the morning tea as the social side is both important and fun and has resulted in a great community.

"The greatest need particularly among the young men who come here is for good mentors. The older volunteers provide that role."

ErinEarth also has a committed group of retired teachers who as well as developing curriculum materials for the ErinEarth website, work with teachers and school groups on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Another retired volunteer constructed and maintains ErinEarth's website. Others help in the kitchen preparing morning teas and lunches or are part of the group's management committee.

"There is such a wealth of knowledge among these people," says Carmel.

Another key focus of ErinEarth is on spirituality. The community is fundraising to commission a sculpture of St Francis of Assisi in the garden, and each Thursday holds morning prayer focussed on Earth prayer.  In September ErinEarth will bring together a number of its network interested in spirituality of the land. They come from a range of religious and non-religious backgrounds and their common interest is to discover what ErinEarth may be able to offer that nourishes a lifestyle that respects the integrity of creation and is more sustainable.

"We are particularly focusing on the spirituality of the land as we are beginning to realise that reconciliation with indigenous Australians must go hand in hand with reconciliation with our land," says Carmel.

"A lot of problems in the world and among people have happened because we have disconnected ourselves from the earth," says Carmel. "We don't see ourselves as an integral part of a web of life; we put ourselves outside and we put our God outside it."

And what would Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Sisters think if she dropped in on Erin Earth.

"While her primary concern was on educating people who are poor, we now realise that the degradation of the environment and poverty go hand in hand," says Carmel.

"Social justice is about right relationships between people but it is also about right relationships between soil, water, air, plants, animals and humans — we need right relationships between all.

"We have seen miracles happen here; old asphalt tennis courts have been transformed into wetlands full of frogs and tadpoles and the bird life is amazing.  Watching the excitement and awe of the kids when they come here for excursions and lift up rocks to find centipedes and other insect life is wonderful and fills me with hope."

Pathways August 2010

Have your say...

"Congratulations on a wonderful venture. May God bless your efforts"
  - ANNE, 26-08-2010

"so lovely to read of your great work Carmel & Kaye. So proud to see Kath featured. Well done. "
  - frank hennessy, 26-08-2010

"Congratulations. All your hard work is bearing abundant fruit.May your vision continue to grow and help our poor, fragile earth well into the future. uncgh"
  - Judith, 26-08-2010

"What a great piece of knowledge about the existence of ErinEarth. Our relationship with God and nature is inseparable. Continue the good work Carmel and Kaye for the glory of God."
  - narcy, 26-08-2010

"Delighted to know the fragile ones of the Wagga area have a chance to connect with our fragile earth. Great work may your good work continue."
  - Geraldine, 26-08-2010

"It was a wonderful story of Erin Earth & the work by volunteers. If more people take your model, the earth would be a much better place. A beautiful picture of dear kath & the devoted Dogs. God Bless, Myra & Stan Batson. 26.8.2010 "
  - Ktan & Myra Batson, 26-08-2010

"This is a great story the Presentations are always "stars at everything they do and this venture so reflects that"!"
  - catherine, 26-08-2010

"There is still hope for the world in self-destruct mode"
  - Ray O'Donoghue, 26-08-2010

"Wonderful story. You are an inspiration for all of us. Keep up the good work.Anna Ryan"
  - Anna Ryan RSM Dublin, 26-08-2010

"Well done, Carmel and Kaye. Great to see your story being told and your great work featured. You - and the puppies - are an inspiration. Blessings of the Universe on you."
  - Cathy O'Keeffe pbvm, 30-08-2010

"Great work!Happy to see Rosslyn in the midst of this sanctuary . Peta Anne Molloy keeps me informed of Presentation endeavours."
  - Sr.Mary Luscombe RSJ, 02-09-2010