Hazelbrook Public School has become the first in the country to have fair trade school polo shirts.
The school’s uniform shop co-ordinator, Cheryl Griswold, heard from a parent about Anna Dohnt’s Changed Threads organisation, which sources Fairtrade certified products.
Ms Dohnt, from Warrimoo, has travelled to India to personally ensure that every worker involved – from the farmers who grow the cotton, to the spinners, weavers, dyers, even button-makers – is treated and paid fairly.
She said some of the workers were women conned into virtual slave labour with promises that their dowries would be paid. The promises are never kept.
Ms Dohnt, who has four daughters, said she didn’t like taking her children to school “in something made by a child living in misery”.
“We need to make our children understand ethical supply chains and what better way to do that than with a uniform,” she said.
Ms Griswold feared the process of buying Fairtrade would be difficult but Ms Dohnt “did everything she could to make it happen”.
She had to order a minimum 300 shirts and come up with 50 per cent of the payment up front. But the P & C committee was keen and it had money in the bank.
“It was just the effort of coming up with a different purchasing scheme,” Ms Griswold said. Other than that, it had been smooth sailing. And the finished product was “just the softest shirt”.
Hazelbrook principal, David Nosworthy, said the school now has a teachers committee looking at Fairtrade and the issues will be taught to the children.
“We’re looking at better sourcing of Fairtrade products, from the school room to the staff room. We’re very excited about it.”
Fairtrade Australia’s CEO, Molly Harriss Olson, congratulated the school, saying it was “a great milestone”.
Ms Dohnt said the story had gone crazy on Facebook.
“It’s been massive. And we’ve had an influx of inquiries from schools in the Mountains. We’re starting with the polo shirts and then move on to other garments.”
- Students are (front) Olive Costa, Kai Chesterman, Tallulah Costa and Abbey Crompton; (back) Alec Gleeson, Olivia Lee-Griswold and Maddy Storniolo.