Meet the little school doing big things in the Top End - National Tree Day Blog

Meet the little school doing big things in the Top End


In many remote Australian communities, kerbside recycling simply doesn't exist. These primary school students from the Northern Territory are banding together to save resources from landfill, raise money for the community and protect their beautiful home.

Manyallaluk is a remote community located in Australia’s Top End, approximately 100 kilometres from Katherine. The only way in is down a dusty dirt track lined with bright orange bursts of grevillea, wild buffalo and donkeys. Manyallauk is a ‘dreaming place’ home to the ‘frog dreaming’ and lies along a traditional Songline created during the Frog Ancestor’s journey. The community is home to 150 Jawoyn, Mayali, Dalabon and Rembarranga people. 

Within this community sits a little school doing big things. Manyallaluk students have been busy learning about recycling and the benefits it can bring to the community including making money, keeping the community clean and working as a team. The school has 23 students from Pre-School to Year Six. 

There’s no kerbside recycling in this remote community. This encouraged Peter Beesley, Community Activity Coordinator at Nyirrunggulung-Rise, to launch a small recycling project with Manyallaluk school to avoid materials ending up in landfill. 

Principle Ben Kleinig and students counting materials in preparation for the Container Deposit Scheme in Katherine.

Principle Ben Kleinig and students counting materials in preparation for the Container Deposit Scheme in Katherine.

The collection bins are located on the school grounds and once they are full the students make a list of what they have and estimate the return they will get from the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) in Katherine. 

Recycling initiatives are just one of the environmental projects the school is involved in. Principle Ben Kleinig travelled with students to Darwin last year to present a STEM project to scientists and environmental groups at the Northern Territory Natural Resource Management conference. The youngest presenter was Jai Maralngurra, a five-year-old Manyallaluk student. 

Manyallaluk students at the Northern Territory Natural Resource Management conference.

Manyallaluk students at the Northern Territory Natural Resource Management conference.

The school won a trophy for their project which involved monitoring the nearby creek for buffalo throughout the year using a drone. Ben is working on other wildlife monitoring projects with the students including using spy cameras to search for Gouldian finches and using a GoPro camera to see what lives in the creek. 

Principal Ben describes Manyallaluk as a special place, “maybe it’s the constant connection to surroundings — to simple, good things like campfires, fishing and hunting, to old stories and caring for country”.

The students planted 21 trees with community members for National Tree Day this year with funding from The Seedling Bank. The shade of these trees will allow for communities to gather and connect out of the heat of the harsh sun, while also providing habitat and shelter for the range of wildlife that inhabits Central Arnhem Land.

Everyone is a student and a teacher at Manyallaluk. 

“The kids and families teach us their language, stories and skills, and they show us their Country,” Ben says.

“The richness of this culture and traditional knowledge is something that we consider an immense privilege to learn from”.

Visit the Manyallaluk School YouTube channel and Facebook page.

National Recycling Week (November 8-14) is almost here. The Schools Recycle Right Challenge runs from 4 October to 12 November 2021 and offers a wide range of free recycling themed activities, curriculum-aligned lesson plans and event ideas that have been developed specifically for Australian schools.

Schools Recycle Right Challenge Resources:

For more information, check out our National Recycling Week resources for schools.


Jennifer McMillan

Jen worked as a vet nurse while studying environmental science and completing her master's degree in Journalism. She loves bushwalking, storytelling, caring for baby animals, Australian birds and river red gums. Jen works on the National Tree Day and National Recycling Week campaigns.