Environmental protection from the next generation of coastal innovators


On Wednesday 5 September, around 160 students from five local schools gathered in Torquay to learn, work-shop ideas and celebrate coastal conservation at the annual Coast Guardians Forum hosted by the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee.

The year 9 students from Northern Bay College, Surf Coast Secondary College, Geelong Lutheran College, Lorne Aireys Inlet P-12 College, and Sacred Heart College had a day of guest presenters, exciting activities and prizes as part of the Great Ocean Road Coast’s award-winning Environmental Education Program.

The day featured special presentations from Corrina Eccles, Wadawurrung Aboriginal Corporation; Meg Cullen, Birdlife Australia; Deidre Murphy, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority; Alan Beckhurst, Queenscliff Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre, Victorian Fisheries Authority; Lachlan McKenzie, Eco Logic; Luke Hynes, Jan Juc Coast Action and Sam Marwood, Edge Pledge.

Great Ocean Road Coast Chairman Ken Northwood said educating the next generation about the precious coastal environment was a major priority for the organisation.

“The Coast Guardians program is aimed at increasing awareness around environmental issues and encouraging social responsibility and environmental stewardship. Ultimately, we hope that participants will be able to walk along a well-cared for coastline and enjoy the benefits of their hard work.  The program is also aimed at fostering partnerships between the schools, GORCC, local community organisations and local environmental volunteer groups.

“We’re incredibly proud of the achievements of our education program, which has been celebrated with awards by the Victorian Coastal Council and was a finalist in the recent VicParks Awards in the Community Category.”

“These students are making a real contribution to our coastal landscape and support our conservation team, and the tireless efforts of local volunteers.”

GORCC Education Activity Leader Hilary Bouma said the forum will encourage students to reflect on their achievements throughout the year and share their experiences with other schools.

“Each school protects a different environment along the coast and has a different experience to share with the other schools,” she said.  “This forum celebrates the students’ personal development and their hands-on contribution to the enhancement of the coast.”

BACKGROUND: COAST GUARDIANS PROGRAM

The Coast Guardians Program is a Great Ocean Road Coast Committee educational opportunity for year 9 students.  Every year, the schools involved each take ownership of the rehabilitation and conservation of a coastal site.   Schools involved are:

  • Lorne Aireys P-12 College
  • Geelong Lutheran College
  • Northern Bay College
  • Surf Coast Secondary College
  • Sacred Heart College.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee is a State Government Agency responsible for protecting, enhancing, and developing coastal Crown land from Point Impossible to Cumberland River. All funds raised through our commercial endeavours are reinvested back into the coast.

For more information on the Coast Guardians Program visit www.gorcc.com.au.

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Corrina Eccles began the proceedings to the Coast Guardians Forum with a special welcome to Wadawurrung country and smoking ceremony.
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Our Coast Guardians got up close and personal with EcoLogic’s preserved collection of actual bush animals. Lachlan McKenzie showed our students where native animals live, how they survive, and how to detect the evidence of who’s been where.
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What is every colour of the rainbow, made up of crystals, boulders, and pieces of shell? What has 330,000 pieces of plastic in it that gets flushed out into the ocean every time you wash your face? Our Coast Guardians learned all this and more looking at things up close using Great Ocean Road Coast’s digital microscopes.
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Our Coast Guardians learned about the threatened species on our doorstep such as the Hooded Plover and how they and other beach nesting birds survive and are adapted to coastal life. Thanks to Meg Cullen from BirdLife Australia for running this great session.
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The Coast Guardians explored the wonders of the sea with Alan Beckhurst from the Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre. They also learned about how important it is to fish sustainably and care for our marine ecosystem so there are fish and marine and coastal habitats in the future.
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Deidre Murphy from Waterwatch led an interactive workshop allowing the Coast Guardians to explore the features of freshwater creatures, how they survive and why they are an important part of a biodiverse habitat.
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Corrina Eccles introduced our Coast Guardians to the way of life of the original coast guardians of the Surf Coast, the Wadawurrung. Corrina shared her family history, traditions, culture, and connection to country.
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Sam Marwood was our special guest speaker – entrepreneur, speaker, consultant and creator of Cultivate Farms and Edge Pledge. Sam inspired our Coast Guardians to harness the power of social media to pursue their passions for making social and environmental change.

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