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Huonville High Leads the Way on Renewable Energy

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 5 April 2017


Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I want to read in some reflections that I had on a terrific experience I had attending the launch of the Zayed Energy Project in Huonville last week.  I understand the member for Franklin, Mr Street, spoke about this last night.  I have a different perspective.  Toby Thorpe, who is the year 10 high school student who presented at the launch spoke about his experiences and he was kind enough to share them.  They were so moving to me as an example of how from little things big things grow and I think we cannot overstate how big a success this prize has been for the Huonville High students and for Tasmania, and all students who will follow and have the ability to build on what they have started.

It was a $US100 000 prize that they were awarded, but it started with a very small situation of going to visit a greenhouse think tank that was run by the Sustainable Learning Centre that the Education Department runs.  Toby attended and he described himself at the time as having no idea about sustainable or renewable energy and not being a very confident person.  He was not concerned about STEM education and did not give much thought to the impacts that he was having on the environment.

He learnt through guest speakers about adapting to climate change and strategies for energy efficiency, and through that he was inspired to get involved in the Zayed Huon Energy Futures Team; an initiative of parents, community groups and private businesses in conjunction with some of the great staff - Nel Smit, and the Huonville High School principal at the time, Alison Grant. 

Together they worked on a submission that they applied to the Zayed Prize.  They were announced finalists and they flew over to Abu Dhabi, still not knowing what the outcome of that would be.  Toby went over there with the Principal, Geoff Williamson, and his mum, and Nel Smit.  Through the experience he met 50 students from around the world and is now in regular contact with students from other countries, such as Fiji, Samoa, Bali, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Brazil and Mexico to name a few.

He describes seeing himself on the big screen talking about his passion to over 3500 world leaders and delegates as truly inspiring.  He realised something incredible was happening when they were announced as the winners, and he was filled with emotion.  The Principal was in shock, and Toby said his mum was probably the most excited person in the whole auditorium, jumping up and down and cheering very loudly.  When he went on the stage to receive the prize from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the President of Kazakhstan he said it was something that he will never forget and:

I look back on that experience now as an honour and inspiration to my school, community and state.  Being surrounded by world leaders was something surreal.

He got so much media attention after that.  He was interviewed by some of the world's biggest outlets like CNN, the Gulf News.  He was interviewed live on Sky News, and because of his social media work with the other students they have been in contact with 103 000 people who are talking about Huonville High and their project.  It is incredible.  What is happening down there is transformative.  He is more confident.  He has gained more communication and management skills, grant writing skills and the whole lot.  It has expanded his horizons.  He hopes to be an engineer in the renewable energy area and this is real learning, and:

I am proud to say I attend Huonville High School.  I attend a school doing amazing things.  I attend a school that cares.