At just seven and a half years old, Charlie Erlewein was the youngest community member to present to councillors at Wodonga Council’s second community forum on Monday night.
Charlie, who is a turtle ambassador, would like to see council adopt the single-use plastics policy that will be on the agenda at the November 18 council meeting.
Last year she joined Straw No More, a campaign to encourage every school in Australia (and one day, across the world) to stop using single-use plastic straws in their school tuckshops and canteens.
She is also a StrawBassador, the youngest in Australia, and is a member of Turtles Albury Wodonga, which is a group bringing awareness to the plight of turtles living at Sumsion Gardens.
Charlies says, in her own words, “Turtles are in danger with plastic straws. Why? Because plastic straws can get stuck in their nose or in their stomach”.
Charlie’s school, Victory Lutheran College, have stopped using plastic straws thanks to Charlie.
Kirstin Erlewein said her daughter’s passion for turtles started when she first saw one on holiday in Fiji at just 15 months old.
“She has been obsessed ever since and kids go through phases but this has just stuck with her,” she said.
“We got her three life-like turtles and put them in a tank and she was great at taking care of them.”
Charlie was three years old when she received a pet turtle that she named Franklin.
“Franklin was originally the size of a 50c piece but is now the size of a small dinner plate,” Mrs Erlewein said.
Upon researching turtles, Charlie came across a distressing video featuring the removal of a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nostril.
About 50 people at the community forum watched the video and Charlie presented the councillors in attendance with a metal straw.
Mrs Erlewein and Charlie will attend the November council meeting where they hope council will unanimously adopt the single-use plastics policy and be committed to going single-use plastic free earlier than 2023.
“We would like to work with council in coming up with strategies to implement, such as going to schools to educate students and other people in our community,” Mrs Erlewein said.
“We want to inform people how the use of plastic straws and other single use plastics affect the environment and the turtles that frequent our waterways in Wodonga.”