Friendship and flora: a winning combination

UniLife has won the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) Best Student Association Community Engagement Award in recognition of the 2012 Kangaroo Island Tree Planting Festival. 

At the festival in late June last year, 100 students planted 24,478 native plants that are endangered on the island to help re-establish more than eight hectares of native flora.

UniLife President Arun Thomas said he was delighted to win the award, which was presented at the CISA National Education Conference in Sydney in July.

“The Kangaroo Island Tree Planting Festival has shown that bringing together a large number of people in an organised way really can make a significant difference and produce positive, landscape-scale environmental change,” he said.

Students from all disciplines are invited to take part in the festival. The friendships forged over the weekend are compounded by the revegetation activities, plus sight-seeing. International and domestic students alike jumped at the chance to get involved, with tickets to the event selling out within a week. UniLife and UniSA subsidise tickets so that all students have the chance to attend, regardless of economic standing.

Community involvement is a strong emphasis of the festival, with the students able to engage with groups like Conservation Volunteers Australia, Nature Foundation SA, the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and the Kangaroo Island Natural Resource Management board over the course of the weekend. The experience is a fantastic one for personal and professional growth, with a broader focus than other faculty-specific activities. The Kangaroo Island Tree Planting Festival strengthens the student community through friendships, the university community through community partnerships and the local and environmental community through the revegetation work. These qualities helped secure the CISA nomination and win.

“CISA sought submissions from student associations across the country for community engagement projects that linked students with the broader community,” Thomas stated.

“This award recognises not only the environmental impact of this festival, but also the bonds students build with each other as well the wider community.”

The tree-planting festival went ahead this year as well, so keep an eye out for its return in 2014. For more information about CISA, visit

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