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Memoriam to Eric Bottomley

Environmental educators across Australia are mourning the loss of one of their champions, Eric Bottomley. Eric died peacefully, aged 69, at Caritas Christi Hospice, after suffering from cancer for a number of years.



Eric was involved with waste education for almost 20 years, through CERES Environmental Park. Even then, Eric was a legend, having set up his own style of fun, interactive environmental education programs in the grounds of the environmental park on the old tip site at CERES, in East Brunswick. In the mid 1990s, CERES and Gould League joined forces to partner with other organisations to tender for the EcoRecycle Victoria funded, Waste Wise Schools program, in a partnership that lasted for over 9 years. Eric was a driving force in that partnership, helping to write materials and delivering countless workshops to hundreds of teachers from hundreds of schools. He was a brilliant presenter; well prepared, expert, funny, articulate, engaging and passionate. He would go to extraordinary lengths to fit the workshops into his busy schedule, often getting up early to travel to country workshops or to help judge the Waste Wise School Awards. Evaluation of the Waste Wise Schools showed that it had made a major impact with schools' waste programs and these impacts are still being felt today. Eric made a huge contribution to the success of this groundbreaking program.

Learning from the success of the Waste Wise Schools Program, Eric pioneered school programs that dealt with other areas of sustainability; water, energy and biodiversity. Again, CERES joined forces with the Gould League to develop and pilot a new approach to sustainability in schools, which became known as Sustainable Schools. Eric was tireless in his advocacy and work in those early pilot days with Sustainable Schools, driving all over Victoria to visit and assist schools through their modules. Two of Eric's proudest days were, firstly, when Sustainable Schools won a National Eureka Award and, secondly, when it became a National framework, the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI). A large part of this success was due to Eric's amazing ability to inspire people and build strong, supportive teams and partnerships.

Sustainable Schools, under Eric's leadership and passion, grew into Resource Smart Schools (AuSSI, Vic), with grants from the Victorian government. In 2012, Eric and his team at CERES managed a masterstroke of negotiation to bring together a large number of stakeholders (councils, education groups, not for profit organisations and sustainability businesses) in tenders for three Melbourne metro regions. In Eric's inimitable style, he called this collaborative group The Grand Alliance. All three tenders were successful, and the Alliance has since been enthusiastically rolling out the program to schools across the three regions.

Eric made an original and outstanding contribution to Environmental and Waste Education in this country; he touched the lives of so many people, inspired countless staff at CERES and in schools and other organisations, while remaining a genuinely kind, funny, generous and humble man. He was remembered by hundreds of family and friends at a funeral service in Lilydale, followed by a twilight celebration of his life at his loved CERES.

Written by Pat Armstrong

Feb 2014

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