Anna Van Vliet​

young woman with long brown hair tied back smiling leaning in from the left

Anna Van Vliet

Woodleigh School student’s vision for a sustainable future

Anna Van Vliet from Woodleigh School doesn't just care about sanitation and the environment – she 'gives a crap'. In 2017, she campaigned for her school to change the resourcing of their toilet paper to Who Gives a Crap, an Australian-run eco-friendly social enterprise raising funds to improve access to toilets and hygiene practices in the developing world. She is committed to making the world a better place, starting with her own community – 'I have a responsibility to use my privilege to benefit the lives of others', she says.

Anna is a dedicated community leader and volunteer, coaching young people at the Brotherhood of St Laurence Homework and Learning Club, working with the South Sudanese community providing homework help and organising activities such as community concerts, fundraisers for reading programs and summer camps. She raised more than $7300 for Live Below the Line, an international initiative raising awareness of extreme poverty, and more than $4700 for the rural Cambodian Chumkriel Language School in Cambodia.

To achieve that last goal, Anna co-organised Woodleigh's Cambodia Music Night. She contacted local organisations and worked with students to gain donations and raffle items for an auction, and with music staff to organise entertainment, and promoted the event through local newsletters and advertisements.

Gabrielle O'Loghlen, Co-Head of Studies at Woodleigh School, says Anna's drive, determination and social conscience is well beyond her years.  'Anna will make a difference to the world. There is nothing she won't try. If she sees something that needs to change, she gets on to it'.

The VCAA caught up with Anna to hear about her achievements in her own words.

Tell us how you were able to get Woodleigh School to become more environmentally friendly?

Climate change and sustainability are important to me and I wanted to help my school be more environmentally friendly. After researching Who Gives a Crap I presented a proposal to my school detailing the potential of the initiative and the impact our change would have on the environment. I also launched a promotional campaign and presented talks at assemblies, to prompt action and a rethinking of sustainability within my school.

It's wonderful to know the legacy of this change will continue to benefit the environment for years to come.

You were determined to eliminate financial barriers so that three talented athletes were able to chase their dreams – how did you help them?

Three of my tutees from the Homework and Learning Club were given the opportunity to attend the Gold Coast Netball tournament. Having attended the tournament previously, I was excited for them to have the chance to represent the school. I co-developed a fundraiser plan to assist the girls and their families with the trip, including a staff vs student netball game and a movie night fundraiser.

We raised over $1500 and it was really rewarding to hear their stories when they returned.

How do you encourage other young people to make a difference?

I want to empower other students to become leaders in their own right and help them uncover their own unique strengths.

As a student leader, I voluntarily organised school assemblies where we could celebrate initiatives and showcase the action that was being taken by other students. I used my skill and passion for public speaking to assist others in communicating personal messages at these events.

It was astounding; students were able to come out of their shell and deliver passionate, selfless messages to the wider community. With our combined strengths and teamwork we were able to make these assemblies really special events and increase awareness on issues such as gender equity and environmental sustainability.

What are your plans for the future?

Next year I'm hoping to travel to Europe to see family, as well as immerse myself in new cultures. During this time I want to volunteer again at the Chumkriel Language School in Cambodia for at least 4 months, working as a partner with the community to continue the amazing work that they are doing to support the education of their younger generations.