St Albans Secondary College student Laura Van Keulen has always loved the outdoors. The 16-year-old talks to Ben Cameron about her love for the environment, putting back into the community and how graduating from  youth leadership program The Whitten Project changed her life.

Has St Albans always been home?

I’ve lived here my whole life.

What was it like growing up there?

I worked with mum and dad on local grasslands, and did heaps of work there, like plantings and lizard surveys … I was always involved. My mum would take me to festivals, like the Brimbank Festival, the Brimbank Sustainable Living Expo.

What made Brimbank Festival so special?

The last time I went was a few years ago … I remember going and having a stall for the Iramoo Community Centre, or whatever friends’ group my mum was with, handing out showbags … it was really cool.

Does Brimbank need another festival?

The (Brimbank) festival was all the themes of Brimbank. I’d love to see it come back. I don’t know much about the financial side of things, but it was a really nice festival, which just celebrated our area.

Which areas would you celebrate if you had to pick a couple?

I would say the grasslands at St Albans – I think it’s also known as the Keilor grassland – they would be a definite one for me because I grew up there. It’s so unique … that’s a really special part (of Brimbank) that we could celebrate of our area.

I just love that Brimbank is really diverse. It might not seem that famous to other areas, but the opportunities in such a small area are really great to see. It’s really great to be brought up in an area like that.

Any other local places you like to visit?

The Visy Cares Hub in Sunshine is really welcoming, I’ve done lots of stuff there. A couple of years ago, I was involved in a choir there and rehearsed there.

Where does your appreciation for the environment come from, your parents?

Definitely. Dad is a grasslands manager with Parks Victoria; he’s got a nursery up in Sunbury. Mum has always been a volunteer.

What are your plans after school?

I’m thinking I want to go to university, but I want to travel or work before I do that, so I really don’t know what I want to do. I’m not sure if I want to work with animals, or outdoor recreation, or maybe teaching, I’m still a bit unsure.

How did you get involved in the Whitten Project?

One of my teachers told me about it in March. I got involved because I’ve always been doing stuff around leadership, and leadership programs. I thought it would be a good opportunity to make connections and do stuff in the area, expand my knowledge.

We went to the Reach Foundation for a workshop. We had the chance to speak up in a different kind of environment, talk about ourselves and support others … talk about what being a leader is, and how we want to show that in our everyday lives.

Did it change you?

I think it definitely developed my skills of leadership, broadened my knowledge.


Brimbank Star Weekly
Author: Ben Cameron
Date: NOVEMBER 8, 2016 10:42 AM