Every year Reef Ecologic hosts an enthusiastic group of coral reef conservationists and advocates for change at Goolbodhi (Orpheus) Island. This year’s iteration of the reef restoration and leadership workshop was no different. We had an amazing group of people from far and wide. Traditional owners from the Torres Strait Islands and around Babinda, university students from the Gold Coast, independent consultants and researchers from Townsville, and NRM representatives from Rockhampton

Over the course of four days we had the pleasure of participating in a range of really cool, interesting and exciting activities. Presentations in the lecture theatre on coral reef restoration methods and techniques based on The Nature Conservancy’s online reef restoration training course were augmented by practical simulation of different Reef Restoration methods and  techniques. A number of leadership presentations led  by Reef Ecologic staff, but really presented by everybody. Reef Ecologic director Dr Adam Smith encouraged people to bring a book about leadership, or somebody who they represent as a strong leader. Everybody got up and shared a bit of a story about leadership either based on their book or their life history, and it was a really enlightening moment to hear people share about the things that they value in their life and what they look up to other people for. This session really set the tone for knowledge sharing, camaraderie, and generally coalescing the group together during the workshop.

A big part of going to Goolboodhi (Orpheus) Island is getting people into the water. We undertook a number of snorkels at a variety of different locations where people learned about the coral and the fish and the other marine life that we were seeing. Through this immersive approach the participants were able to conceptualise the reef restoration concepts we were sharing at the workshop and see how they may be implemented back in their home locations. Fringing coral reefs and deep drop offs were the order of most days, with the addition of sunset and sunrise snorkels just to see what was happening at the start and the finish of each day.

One of the highlights for many people was the opportunity to snorkel on Muga Dhanbi, the giant Porites coral Bommie that researchers studied and wrote a paper on just a couple of years ago. This coral was measured at 10 m in diameter and estimated to be well over 400 years old. It is symbolic of the long history of health and resilience across the Great Barrier Reef, and what we found was it became a symbol of hope for the future of this amazingly diverse, complex, but Fragile and threatened ecosystem.

In the past the collaboration from this workshop has resulted in ongoing projects instigated by proponents. Just a couple of years ago we started a Ridge to Reef Alliance project co-led by traditional owners around the Clareview region of Koinmerburra land. Over the past year we’ve been partnering with companies farming macro algae (Asparagopsis taxiformis) to supplement or include in cattle feed to reduce their methane output, just one of many possible solutions to address the effects of climate change.

But no matter how good the snorkelling is or how much we enjoy the food or how interesting we find the presentations and the lectures, our passion and love for these events comes back to the people. Its the special time spent with like minded individuals from diverse backgrounds that makes our annual Reef Restoration and Leadership workshop such and enjoyable inspirational and rewarding experience. Thank you to everyone who joined this year and made it so special. We leave Goolboodhi this year full of hope and optimism having made new friends and connections to people and the Reef that will help inspire actions that can help support the ongoing health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.  

Reef Ecologic would like to acknowledge and thank our supporters James Cook University and Tropwater. We would also like to thank and acknowledge the support of the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre who for many years have sponsored the participation of traditional owners and indigenous participants across the Great Barrier Reef region.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where these activities take place, the Manbarra and Bwgcolman people of Palm Island. We pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in our community today.