G’day from Footscray City College, Australia

Image: Footscray City College - oh so cool (so says Tony Birch)

Footscray City College – oh so cool (so says Tony Birch)

G’day from Footscray City College, Australia!

Footscray City College is a state school in the inner west of Melbourne, Australia. We have 46 different nationalities at the school, and almost 1,000 students. We overlook one of Melbourne’s great waterways, the mighty Maribyrnong River. We are an excited bunch of 14 and 15 year old kids with some great, committed teachers. We are exploring the city of Melbourne as well as the natural landscape that surrounds the city.

Here’s a film we made on our first day with Weather Stations

Our group are working with Tony Birch and the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas to improve our own writing and knowledge about climate change. Tony has written multiple fiction books including Shadowboxing and Blood. The Wheeler Centre is an organisation that organises talks and events for the public about lots of topics including writing, climate change and more.

Our goal is to get people talking about climate change and how it might impact on us in our own suburbs, streets and homes. We want people around the world to know that we’re thinking and uniting around the issue. Not only do we want people to think about climate change, we want to provoke them to action.

We look forward to sharing our work with all of the other Substations in Berlin this September!

– Students of Footscray City College Substation

Remembering My Mountain Climbing


At the age of 11 years old I experienced a high mountain climbing with my friends. The mountain was high but the climate supported us. It was nice and sunny with very less cool breeze just passing by us. The sun just made us very thirsty as the temperature of the place was 31 degrees minimum and 38 degrees maximum. The coach chose this mountain and this climate with the season is because in winter we can’t climb in that much cold and not even in the monsoon season when it is wet so we had mountain climbing in summer which almost had made as dehydrated.


Urja – / Footscray City College Substation


Almost every Summer since I can remember, my family and I would travel down to Mornington Peninsula, but specifically Dromana. Whether or not we were with company, the day was always a blast. One particular warm Summer’s day, we arrived later than usual at around 5:00pm. It was still sunny outside because of daylight savings which made it even better. My sister and I jumped out of the car and raced to the shore. We dumped our stuff on the sand and grabbed our snorkels. The water was crystal clear and we saw loads of fish. After about an hour of snorkelling we decided to play in the sand. After 2 hours at the beach we were starving and we gobbled down our fish and chips. By that time it was getting dark and we jumped in the car for the long ride home. I fell asleep in the car and the rest was history.


– Gabriel / Footscray City College Substation

The Theatre


The theatre whether it be at school, at my dads work or any professional theatres I always feel at home and comfortable, the theatre is close to me because I enjoy performing/acting. I always feel a chill of excitement and nervousness when i enter any theatre and the smell of make up and sweat fills my nose even though i can’t actually smell it, I guess you could call it a smell memory if you can remember places you’ve seen why not things you’ve smelt? When the downbeat to an overture begins or the silent opening of a play the pre show jitters will fill my body even if I’m performing or not. The Theatre is a dear place to me it is one of the few places I can experiment with new things and be myself without the theatre I’d be lost.


– Darcy / Footscray City College Substation


Smell and taste


Those roses smelled liked the other roses.

The salad tasted like spicy jalapeno.

Those flowers smelled like roses.

The cake tasted like a chocolate.

The chicken tender breadcrumb tasted like breadcrumb with chicken.

The air smelled like fresh.

The grilled meats taste like barbecued lambs.

The baby cos lettuce tasted like regular lettuce.

The lemon tasted like sour lemons.

Those ice creams tasted a chocolate on a waffle cone.

The spring water tasted like pure water.

These smoked fishes tasted like cooked fishes.

The Marshmallow on two square-breads with chocolate were S’mores.

The habanero tasted like heat of citrusy.


– Ioannis / Footscray City College Substation

We just acted as if it didn’t exist


We never realised how important it was… We just acted as if it didn’t exist…

My mum says she remembers when worrying about a natural disaster would be at the back of her mind. That how it was almost impossible for one to effect her even in the slightest because of where she lived.

But the truth is that it’s our own fault…

She said when the first cyclone hit Melbourne, nobody was ready, it took thousands of casualties, tearing apart families and homes. It took months for people to get back on their feet, but a year later the second cyclone hit. People were now more aware of the catastrophic outcomes of an event like this, but had no time to prepare themselves. Though this time only talking the lives of a third of the original cyclone, this still left thousands homeless and distraught. These events began to occur from then onwards, often each time becoming more frequent and devastatingly destructive.

But that was 25 years ago.

Here we are now, it’s me, my dad, my mum and my brother all huddled together in the bunker, all completely silent. All I could hear outside was the crashing of the land above being torn apart violently and the terrifying whistling of the powerful winds. I had my headphone in to try and block out the noises but it was almost impossible. We are surrounded by our most precious objects, well as many as we could fit into out tiny bunker. There is a loud smash as a piece or debris outside flys into the door, my heart skips a beat and I jump, almost hitting my head.

We have been living in condition like these for many years, I was born and raised whist these events were happening, fooling me to believe that events such as these are normal and always have been. But no, these natural disasters were what Some call ‘man made’. We did this, we were given the warnings but ignored them as though they were nothing.

Children used to wish for things like the newest PlayStation or Xbox, the best soccer ball or soccer boots, to be able to play an instrument or to get a new bike.

These days you will find that most children’s wishes are to have a few months clean of disaster.

It’s kind of sad isn’t it.

To think this all could have been preventable.

People need to come to terms with how real climate change is, though in this short story I have exaggerated the effects, we still need to make a change or you never know. Something like this could happen.


– Will / Footscray City College Substation

Weather Stations: The Current Climate

Few contemporary issues present us with so much information, speculation and polarity of opinion as climate change. While many in the scientific community argue that the planet is headed for environmental disaster, equally determined sceptics dismiss such concerns. Elected officials and the media have taken sides and fiercely defend their often contradictory positions.

As part of the Weather Stations initiative, the Wheeler Centre presented a conversation that provided you, the audience, a chance to ask experts in the field what’s really going on. All five of the Weather Stations writers in residence from around the globe, including our own Tony Birch, were amongst a participatory audience.

Guests on the panel included Amanda McKenzie, CEO of the Climate Council, the independent body that was crowdfunded after the Climate Commission’s government funding was withdrawn; Environment Defenders Office CEO Brendan Sydes; and David Karoly, a Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne.

Returning [again]

The Yarra River at Collingwood

The Yarra River at Collingwood

As part of the Weather Stations project, in September and October of 2014, I visited the cities of Berlin, Dublin, London, Warsaw, Gdansk and Hel, working with school and community groups. I learned a great deal. Some of the knowledge I came away with surprised me. It was most common for people to tell me, ‘of course, you have it much worse out there,’ (climate change); a reflection on the issue as a visible catastrophe. Everybody knew about the experience of bush fires in Australia (which we are again experiencing), drought, and the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, reflecting an understandable but severely limited engagement with the issue.

Historically speaking, bush fires in Australia have little to do with climate change and have been, and are, a natural environmental phenomenon. Certainly, with the planet getting warmer (and 2014 may be the warmest year on record), fires will occur with both greater frequency and ferocity. And while some in Australia accept the link between climate change and the increase in bush fire activity, at a psychological and intellectual level we respond to fire as a disaster to be fought, conquered and overcome – even in grief. Even when the immediate disaster is associated with the broader issue, the language used to describe our response is couched in militaristic language. We battle and defeat the enemy. Confronted by widespread flood, caused as much or more by irresponsible urban planning than changes in weather patterns, we are Queenslanders, as if the heroic label somehow grants special status to a group of people hardy enough to defeat all – until the next flood visits.

The negative impacts of climate change on the environment do not manifest themselves in sudden bursts of meteorological activity alone. Climate change is not simply a recent phenomenon or future event. Its impact is both gradual and profound. The effects of climate change on the planet should not be reduced to a sound bite or dramatic image, such as the devastation caused by a bush fire. Remembering back to the catastrophic Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, the weather conditions leading up to the weekend of the fires were extreme. What most people do not know, or have forgotten, is that more people died in Victoria as a consequences of extreme heat before the fires than those who died in the fires themselves. Without doubt, the trauma and violence wreaked by the fires had an immediate and shocking impact on the lives of the people who experienced them. But, as most of us know little or nothing of the many hundreds of deaths that had nothing to do with the fires, but everything to do with the warming of the planet, we do not give enough thought to an issue that does not abate between fire seasons, being the impacts of climate change that are ever-present. While people in other parts of the globe watch images of fire in Australia on their TV screens and regard this country as a Global Warming Horror Story, they, like us, will have their lives changed, not by shock and awe, but stealth. For instance, the Arctic Circle is melting – melting too slowly to produce a 30 second YouTube clip of any consequence, but changing the planet in a way we have not known for thousands of years.

Yesterday I again walked the banks of my river – the Yarra, in Melbourne. I have written about the river several times now for the Weather Stations project; I have behaved as provincially, ‘non’ global, and perhaps small-minded as I can get. I’m not sure why as yet, but I think my understanding of the issue of climate change has to be found here, on the river. I’m reading as much as I can about the politics and science of climate change. I speak to as many people as I can about the issue. I came to this project as a writer and teacher. And yet, increasingly I have become interested in not the power of language, but its limitations. The planet is more powerful than any words or narrative that humans ascribe to it.

As I was about to leave the river yesterday, I walked by a favourite bend. At a particular moment, lasting no more than a second or two, I could smell the river the way I did over forty years ago. I could feel the memory of the river in my body. It was as much a physical as a psychological reaction. My next thought was that there were no words, not a single one available to me to describe the feeling.

I was content with that feeling.

Tony Birch


Water and Cricket just don’t mix

map“Hey Tom” get the ball called Jack. So Tom reluctantly chased after the ball which was rolling away and they continued to play some cricket in their home town of Renmark. Jack steams in and bowls the ball fast and straight on target to hit the bin but Tom swings and makes contact which sends the ball flying into the river. The boys are both unhappy and wish the river wasn’t there. Luckily there it wasn’t too hard for them to get their hands on another ball. Later Tom says to jack “water and cricket just don’t mix” which jack warily agrees to.

The boys take a break and go down to the milk bar to get a pie and a Big M. They both sit by the river busy in watching their ball float away and their pies. Later they start playing again and one by one just about their whole year level is joining in. Competition for a bat is more fierce and picking the gaps in the field is almost impossible. They keep playing and more rules are constantly being made up to keep the game flowing. The game keeps going until everyone has been called in for dinner and by that time it is so dark that it is impractical to keep playing anyway.

They next day at school a Tom and Jack organise a big cricket game at the local cricket oval for later that night. “BBRRIINNGGG” the school bell rings and everyone rushes straight home to get out their favourite bats. At 4:00 about 20 boys are there ready to play and Tom even managed to rope in an Umpire (His younger brother). After lots of controversy the teams are finally settled on it took many attempts but finally the 2 captain’s way worked with Tom and Jack the captains.

The game starts and Jacks team is bowling first. Toms team get off to a good start and then collapse and end up with total of 56 of 10 overs which may be an alright total. Jacks team starts batting and have a terrible start of 8/15 of 5 overs. Jack comes to the crease and builds a good partnership with Max now they only need 6 of the last over. Max is on strike but can’t connect with the first 4 balls everyone is now nervous. Max finally hits one and they run Tom fields the ball and then throughs down the stumps while max is definitely out of his crease. There is one ball left and Jack is on strike and they still need 6 runs to win. The bowler comes in and bowls a full toss Jack connects and it looks like it’s going for six but someone catches it. Because of the unclear boundary it is hard to tell if he caught it over the boundary. Everyone is now questioning the umpire who responds with “What Happened? After lots of Arguing the game is declared a draw. The next day at school yesterday’s game was affirmed as the best game by people from both teams.

30 Years Later

“Are we there yet?” asked James “Nearly” replied Tom as they zoomed along the Freeway as they approach the end of the long drive from Melbourne.

“Are we there yet?” asked Mitch. “Nearly” replied Jack as they turned of the Freeway on the same route as Tom and James

Two cars pulled up just before the river crossing. “Hey Tom” called Jack. Tom looks around and immediately jumps out of the car to greet Jack. The two boys James and Mitch also jump out. “I can’t wait for the cricket match” says James “Yeah, my dad said it’s the best ground” replied Mitch. The boys then go and have a look around.

“It’s good to be back” Says Tom “Yeah, the river seems wider than I remember” replies Jack “True” agrees Tom. “ I remember the banks bursting but I didn’t think it was this significant. “What’s the Murray Gulf” yells Mitch. “What, the Murray Gulf” Tom and Jack yell out “Yeah” both the boys respond. Tom and Jack walk over and see a big official but temporary looking sign with the words “Murray Gulf”. They both look at each other with confused looks. Cars going the opposite way are flashing their indicators at them as if to notify something. The drive past a sign identical to the one at the river with the words “Murray Gulf”. There are sign warning them that the road is about to end. They didn’t believe it until they say they saw barricades. They stop the cars and jump out and again see the ‘Murray Gulf” sign.

Some in an official uniform comes up to them and asks them if there alright. They respond positively and but ask ”why is the road closed” he says haven’t you heard. Tom blankly says “No”. “The man replies well there has been massive flooding in the area. Then last night we people were woken up by water and then suddenly the whole area was underwater. We are yet to find the cause and how large the affected area is. For now we are just closing the area so unfortunately you will have to turn around.

They turn around and rent a room for the night. Later that night there is a news break with the headline “THE POLAR ICE CAPS MELT”. Then this Map pops up:


“What was first thought of a just flash flooding has been realised as the melting of the polar ice caps. This has caused a massive rise of sea levels which has taken over much of Australia including towns like Renmark and the port of Adelaide. The new seas in Australia have been named the “Murray Gulf” and the “Artesian Sea”. That’s all for now a more detailed report will be broadcasted later.

Everyone in the room is gobsmacked and are all staring around speechless. Tom once again says “water and cricket just don’t mix” which Jack wearily agrees to.

– Elijah / Footscray City College Substation

The Garden

The Garden

I dip my hands in the water of the fountain. It’s cold compared to the summer heat. The quite large fish try nibbling on my fingers. It doesn’t hurt but it tickles. The smell of blossoms smother my nose as I walk along the dirt footpath but there is also the slight smell of chicken poo. It’s almost silent but there’s the distant sound of people talking and laughing. The beautiful colours of the blossom trees spread from side to side of my vision but there’s also the dirt road and the violent colour of the green grass.

– Grace / Footscray City College Substation