The Centre for Ecological Learning Incorporated (CEL) provides Earth-based, immersive, and meaningful education experiences about the natural world and our relationship with it.

We work with  young people and adults, offering hands-on, facilitated experiences in nature, bushcraft and survival skills training, practical education for sustainable living, and education/advocacy skills on a range of crucial environmental issues.

In 2011, a group of environmental educators formed the Centre for Ecological Learning Incorporated (CEL) in order to take the successful local youth program, Bellingen EYE (Environmental Youth Experience) under its wing, and formalise its management structure. CEL is incorporated as a not-for-profit association, is listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations, and has been granted Deductible Gift Recipient status by the Australian Tax Office. CEL has established the Ecological Learning Fund, a Public Fund for the specific purpose of supporting our environmental education objectives through donations and gift funding.

Since 2011, CEL has received $150,000 in grant funding from the NSW Youth Opportunities program to run youth camps and leadership projects with Bellingen EYE. We have had more than 600 high school aged participants participate in our Bellingen EYE camps and projects since 2007.

In 2013, CEL began offering workshops and retreats for adults, partly funded by a small grant from Bellingen Shire Council. CEL also became a major force in establishing the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance (BSLA), a network of 15 local groups who are working towards sustainability, and is now a leading member group.

CEL has worked with a range of partners over the years, including Bellingen High School, Bellingen Urban Landcare, Taronga Zoo, VicZoos, Cascade Environmental Education Centre, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Bellingen Shire Council.

In 2015, the Centre for Ecological Learning Inc became registered on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and was endorsed as a Tax Concession Charity (TCC).

CEL for Young People

Bellingen EYE (Environmental Youth Experience)

Camps are the heart and soul of EYE. Imagine a weekend full of beautiful nature, fun and games with new and old friends, and cool skills like fire making, bushcraft, and camouflage. Bellingen EYE Senior camps are for anyone in Year 9 and up, and Junior EYE camps for Year 7 and 8. Click here for details of upcoming camps. We always welcome new people to our camps – in fact, we save some spots and give discounts for new participants! Also, financial challenges should never prevent anyone from attending an EYE camp. We have a Financial Assistance Fund that anyone can apply for- confidentiality is strictly observed.

Since 2007, EYE has run over 40 camps and bushwalks with more than 600 young people (aged 12-25) participating, including Leadership Retreats , Bush Skills camps, and Art in Nature camps. One of the keys to its success is that EYE maintains a successful youth-adult community mentoring system in which adults and young people work together to run camps and community projects.

EYE offers a range of environmentally focused extra-curricular activities – members have constructed works of public art, participated in countless Landcare working bees, and helped create a Community Garden at our local high school. EYE has been running a long term campaign for a “Plastic Bag Free Bellingen”, and is currently involved in a project called “Eat the Street”, creating and maintaining a number of Edible Gardens in the middle of town.

EYE meets at the Youth Hub in Bellingen to plan activities, learn leadership skills, socialise, and eat good food. From there we go out into the community to do all sorts of things like bush regen, garden building, mural painting, and anti-plastic bag campaigning. New people always welcome!

NATURE CONNECT School Programs

We offer specially tailored camps and programs for both primary and high schools, facilitated by experienced and qualified environmental educators. We work with two interconnected themes -“Knowledge of our Wild Places” and “Connecting with our Wild Places”. Not only do students explore the scientific concepts of ecology, biodiversity, and conservation, but they have the opportunity to connect with the natural world around them in a positive and profound manner, thus affecting their long term values, behaviours, and lifelong learning. Programs are mapped to Key Learning Areas of the NSW/National Curriculum to allow schools to incorporate our programs into their Learning Programs.

CEL for Adults

Nature connection is not just for young people! CEL began offering retreats and workshops for adults in 2013. Our “Active Hope” workshops and “Buddha Touched the Earth” retreats offer a combination of Deep Ecology and Dharma, while day and overnight bushwalks let adults experience bush skills and deep time in nature. CEL also supports healthy, creative, and sustainable local living through workshops such as our “Eco Living and Learning Workshops” that ranged in topic from “Natural Cosmetics” to “Charcoal Making for Cooking”. We are always looking to expand our range of offerings for adults, so contact us if you have a topic up your sleeve!

Our Story

  • 2007

    Bellingen EYE (Environmental Youth Experience) began in 2007 when a small group of high school students decided to “go bush”, under the mentorship of two of their former teachers. Weekend camps and bushwalks led to a deepening connection to nature…which inspired them to want to do something more. Self-education about urgent environmental issues, plus guidance from inspirational community mentors, soon saw the group evolve into an active environmental youth group. EYE has been an integral part of our community ever since, helping our young people gain knowledge on ecological issues, build leadership skill, and express their creativity, as well as finding their voice and becoming empowered community change agents. Hundreds of young people have participated in EYE camps and events since the first camp in 2007.

  • 2011

    In 2011, a group of EYE mentors formed the Centre for Ecological Learning (CEL) in order to take Bellingen EYE under its wing.  One of the keys to EYE’s success has been its successful youth-adult community mentoring system in which adults and young people work together to run camps and community projects. This system began to grow and flourish under CEL as more adult mentors started working with EYE. CEL incorporated as a not-for-profit association, was listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations, and was granted Deductible Gift Recipient status by the ATO. CEL established the Ecological Learning Fund, a Public Fund for the specific purpose of supporting our environmental education objectives.

  • 2013

    In 2013, CEL received a large grant from NSW Youth Opportunities to run EYE’s “Gen2Gen” leadership and camp program. CEL also began offering workshops and retreats for adults – on topics that include everything from “Beekeeping” to “Buddha Touched the Earth”.  CEL is also became a leading member of the Bellingen Shire Learning Alliance (BSLA), a network of 10 local groups who are working towards sustainability, and whose mission is “to work collectively and independently to create a culture of lifelong learning for sustainability and ecological balance”.

  • 2014

    In 2014, CEL rolled out its first set of Eco Learning and Living Workshops. Supported in part by the Bellingen Shire Council Environmental Levy Community Fund, these workshops covered a variety of sustainability topics and issues and were facilitated by passionate local experts, with some special guest facilitators joining us from further afield. The workshops educated participants about crucial environmental challenges that face us, while empowering them to take actions that address these challenges. CEL also introduced “Active Hope” workshops exploring Deep Ecology and Joanna Macy’s “The Work That Reconnects”.

  • 2015

    In 2015, the Centre for Ecological Learning Inc became registered on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and was endorsed as a Tax Concession Charity (TCC).   We have continued our work with NSW Youth Opportunities with our “Eat the Street” program for the local young people and Bellingen EYE.

From the Blog…

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bushwalk for teens CEL
bushwalk for teens CEL