Dale Martin, a graduate of Parade College in 2005, is a passionate environmentalist who’s led a number of successful campaigns throughout Victoria. Five years ago, he was pictured at the footsteps of State Parliament carrying a petition with 11,600 signatures to ban single use plastic bags at the checkout.

Dale, who holds a Bachelor of Economics and Finance from RMIT, and Masters in Energy Systems from Melbourne University, served as one of Victoria’s youngest Councillors. In addition to being an elected as Councillor of Moreland City Council between 2016-2020, he has worked across private and public organisations advising on environmental policy and programs.

The pandemic hasn’t thwarted Dale’s commitment to the cause either. In November last year, he penned the ‘Local Government Climate Emergency Toolkit’ - a resource for local government councillors and community members who want to take meaningful climate action in their community – and in the past six months he’s completed approximately 40 presentations nationwide on the environmental subject. You can view the toolkit at

The following is Dale’s story, in which he reflects on his time at the College and offers sage advice to today’s students:

Let me paint a picture for you of myself in Year 7 entering high school.
I was tall, lanky and quiet. My teachers would tell you I was average at sports but good at maths. On reflection, I was lucky to have teachers who could see my potential, even if I could not.

When I was caught daydreaming or talking in class, rather than disciplining me, my teachers had the fortitude to see my potential. In Year 9 I was encouraged to study a year ahead through the accelerated maths program. By studying Year 10 maths I started to develop my confidence in myself and my abilities. I still rely on the math skills I learnt at school when completing environmental analysis at work.

In Year 12 I was encouraged to apply to be a Prefect. I remember being so shocked that my teachers thought I could do it. Public speaking was a key requirement for the role of College Events Prefect, and like all quiet kids, public speaking was my worst nightmare.

I have memories of forgetting lines, turning bright red and my voice breaking when I had to speak in front of the class or at school assembly. But sure enough, my teachers had seen something in me I had not, and I fell in love with running fundraisers, organising the formal and MCing events. This is funny to reflect on now, because I had to speak publicly almost every week for four years as a Councillor.

These key events helped me develop my identity, including a sense of leadership and responsibility.

I am the first in my family to go to University, and because of this I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. University can be daunting when no-one else in your family has ever been, but it forced me to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t have otherwise done, such as studying overseas.

In the final year of my Masters in Energy Systems, I went on exchange to Lund University in Sweden. Sweden is ahead of the game when it comes to environmental sustainability. In 1991 it was one of the first countries to introduce a tax on carbon.

It was here I realised the economy and the environment didn’t have to compete. It is also where I got serious about protecting the environment for future generations.

I returned to Australia in 2015 and brought the lessons I had learnt from Sweden with me. I started the campaign ’Plastic Bag Free Victoria’ to phase out lightweight single use plastic bags at the checkout.

Campaigning is hard work, but with a small team, we were able to secure 11,600 physical signatures on a petition to “Ban the Bag”. This resulted in a state-wide inquiry into plastic pollution and the subsequent Victorian ban on lightweight plastic bags at the checkout in 2019.

One of my favourite quotes is from Alice Walker who once said, “Activism is my rent for living on the planet.” I am proud that my activism has saved millions of tonnes of littered plastic from entering our oceans and ecosystems each year.

My journey in environmental activism didn’t stop at the plastic bag. During my term as Councillor, I continued to advocate for a range of environmental initiatives. As a result, Moreland City Council declared a Climate Emergency and through its policies and programs is taking active steps to address this. Some of the policies and programs I have been involved in include: the introduction of an electric vehicle policy, source separated recycling, environmental design in planning, sustainable food systems, pedestrian and cycling improvements, creating new parks and planting tens of thousands of trees.

After my term as Councillor, I know how important it is to have good young leaders in politics. As one of Victoria’s youngest politicians, I brought a unique perspective and I know the decisions I made during my term will still being making an impact in 50 years’ time.

My advice for Parade students wanting to advocate for a cause important to them would be to:

1. Learn to communicate: successful advocacy relies on good communications skills. Practice them whenever you can, no matter how much of a nightmare it may seem.

2. Say “Yes”: when your teachers present you with an opportunity, it’s because they believe you can do it. Believe them and say “yes” you never know where it will lead.

3. Stand up for your beliefs: we are very lucky to live in a country with a strong democracy. Write and call your local politicians on issues you care about.

4. Choose a career in politics: while we often hear about the bad things in politics, there is also so much good happening. It’s a rewarding job where you can help the entire community.

Campaigning is hard work, but with a small team, we were able to secure 11,600 physical signatures on a petition to “Ban the Bag”. This resulted in a state-wide inquiry into plastic pollution and the subsequent Victorian ban on lightweight plastic bags at the checkout in 2019.