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Wollongong City Council

What’s in a poem? That which we call a tree…

Tuesday 17 May 2022

Want to help the environment but don’t know where to start? What if your words could plant a tree? Would you have something more meaningful to say if that poem would help grow Wollongong’s urban forest?

Wollongong City Council is teaming up with POEM FOREST — a free nature writing prize presented by Red Room Poetry. POEM FOREST plants a tree for every nature poem received. Last year, more than 5,000 poem trees were planted at Mount Annan Botanic Garden.

This year, Wollongong City Council and Wollongong Botanic Garden have partnered with POEM FOREST to help grow the number of trees that make up our city’s urban forest.

From now until Friday 23 September, we’re calling for local students and teachers living or attending school on Dharawal Country within the Wollongong Local Government Area, to enter a poem into the competition and plant a tree at their school or at home.

“I enjoyed writing for this competition because even if I don't win it is nice to know that there will one day be a tree that only exists because of my little piece of writing. I would write a poem a day if someone planted a tree for it.”

—  Alexa F (2021 participant reflection).

The best individual poem will receive:

  • $500 cash
  • $100 book pack from Magabala Books, Pantera Press, Wonderground Journal
  • $50 voucher to spend at Wollongong Botanic Garden’s Greenplan Nursery
  • Seeds from the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan
  • Judging notes and winner’s certificate.

Highly Commended prizes in each category will also be awarded a book from Magabala Books.

The best collaborative class poem will receive:

  • Free school excursion / incursion for one class – up to 30 students with Wollongong Botanic Garden
  • 30 free plants from Wollongong Botanic Garden’s Greenplan Nursery.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said that the project offered young people the opportunity to take positive climate action.

“We have a responsibility to increase the number of trees and plants across our community, as well as to care for the trees we already have. Council’s Urban Greening Program takes a strategic and pro-active approach to greening our city,” Cr Bradbery said.

“At the same time, we’re calling on our whole community to get involved in urban greening through planting up their own property, planting a verge garden, adopting a tree and other great opportunities. This partnership with Red Room Poetry is just one way we are engaging with our local students and teachers.

“Poetry is one of the most accessible artforms we have at our disposal. If you can write, you can learn how to write poetry. I encourage all of our local students to get creative and have fun with this project.”

Dr Tamryn Bennett, Artistic Director, Red Room Poetry said that now was the time for climate action.

“POEM FOREST ensures young people feel heard and hopeful about their future. It lets them know that their voices matter and that together we can make tangible climate action,” Ms Bennett said.

How to get involved?

To enter, visit the POEM FOREST website, follow the prompts and submit your nature poem. For every entry received a tree will be planted at Mount Annan Botanic Garden.

This year our partnership means we can offer a special local prize for students living or attending school on Dharawal Country within the Wollongong Local Government Area. To enter the Wollongong local competition, simply include a photo of your own tree planting with your poem entry.