Youth Ambassadors on South Stradbroke Island

Youth Ambassadors – It’s Our Turn to Change the Tide!

South Stradbroke Island – Marine Debris Project

by Charlie-Jane Hamblyn and Zara McConachy

South Stradbroke Island is a destination for tourists and locals alike. Located on the South East coast of Queensland within the Moreton Bay Region (Quandamooka Country), this beautiful and unique island ecosystem has fallen victim to a devastating and increasing marine debris problem. Earlier this year, Cyclone Oma caused severe weather that resulted in parts of the island that usually remain untouched becoming overwhelmed with marine debris. Large amounts of remains created by the waste habits of humans were pushed by the cyclone above the tide line and alongside the litter left from travellers. This waste is now wreaking havoc on the islands’ beautiful and unique ecosystems.

Cue Silkwood School Youth Ambassadors. Our Youth Ambassadors are a group of diverse and dedicated young people, with a passion for environmental conservation. Having previously conducted conservation project work in the Great Barrier Reef Islands, Norfolk Island and Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand, we decided that we wanted to focus our efforts on a pressing local issue in the area of island conservation. We are stepping up to protect and preserve the South Stradbroke Island region.

On the 28th of February 2019, a pilot group of Youth Ambassadors set out on a project scoping expedition to South Stradbroke Island, conducting an initial beach clean-up and audit. We were able to collect 1002 pieces of debris with the help of 12 students and 2 mentors. We saw first-hand the amount of debris requiring removal in the cyclone-impacted sand dunes. It was going to be a BIG project.

On the 19th of June, a group of 40 including Youth Ambassadors, student volunteers, environmental mentors, and partners, travelled to South Stradbroke Island to conduct a sand dune clean-up and audit. This event marked the official launch of our project.  Partnered with Jacobs Well Environmental Education Centre, Gold Coast Catchment Association, Panamuna Project, Reef Check Australia and supported by the City of Gold Coast, we were able to collect just under nine thousand pieces of debris, including 4522 hard plastics, 496 pieces of broken glass and 980 soft plastics. This data collected was sent to the Tangaroa Blue Marine Debris Database. This collated data is used to target businesses and governments with the aim of stopping waste at its source and enacting measurable change.

The South Stradbroke Island Marine Debris project, backed by $12,000 in grant funding, is beginning to gain momentum. The island was visited again on the 6th of September, with volunteers collecting a further 5,180 items. And to complete the 2019 leg of this campaign, we returned to the island on the 4th of November. On this trip, we were able to collect 9,350 items of debris (including 2,530 pieces of microplastic), which brings our current total to a shocking 24,195 items removed from the sand dunes this year. We will be venturing back to South Stradbroke Island in 2020 to continue with our large-scale clean-ups and audits.

We are proud and excited about the change this project can make, inspiring others to step up in the community and become changemakers. We hope to open the project to other schools to get more youth out there on the frontlines tackling the conservation issues facing us today and taking action to preserve our precious marine ecosystems.  Protect the sea, Pick up debris.

Here is a short promo video showing our project in action – https://youtu.be/P6FqQG9ln5M

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