Whitsundays Reef Recovery and Public Art Project


Reef Ecologic’s Whitsundays Tourism Recovery Project will lead in the design, creation and installation of underwater and inter-tidal interpretive art pieces across the Whitsunday region, coral restoration and educational activities. These projects are designed to support tourism in the region.

A year after Cyclone Debbie devastated the Whitsundays, Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones announced $2 million to fund six tourism projects in the region. Reef Ecologic have been fortunate to secure funding as part of a $7 million joint State and Federal government funding package set up to help the tourism industry bounce back from Tropical Cyclone Debbie after it crossed the Whitsunday coast on March 28, 2017.

The Whitsundays is one of Australia’s most popular and beautiful tourist destinations. Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors from Australia and abroad flock to the region to enjoy the tropical Queensland sunshine, swim in the sparkling blue waters of the Coral Sea, relax on bright white sandy beaches and explore the kaleidoscopic world of colourful coral and reef fish which lies beneath the water.

Reef Ecologic have identified some great opportunities to improve existing tourism products and attractions and link these with new products and attractions through the development of the Whitsundays reef and island learning trial involving art installations combined with marine rehabilitation. We propose a range of locations and infrastructure. The final locations and details of each product will be decided in partnership and through collaboration with government, industry and the local community as we go through the developmental process.


The public call to artists as part of the Whitsundays Public Art and Research Project was a huge success. The response was fantastic with 73 separate submissions of public artworks for consideration. An independent selection panel considered all the applications and agreed on six sculptures to be commissioned.

The subjects of the sculptures include Turtle, Manta rays, Maori wrasse, Coral polyp and an indigenous sculpture ‘Bwya’ containing 12 local species of fish and sharks. The largest sculpture is 6m. The sculptures are made from a variety of materials including concrete, stainless steel and aluminium. The plan is to locate the sculptures underwater where they can be viewed by snorkelers and SCUBA divers. There is ongoing discussion with GBRMPA, QPWS and stakeholders about the preferred location(s) of the artworks in the Whitsunday’s region. One of the objectives of the public art project is to provide new or enhanced tourism experiences at sites damaged by Cyclone Debbie. With the art pieces having a marine wildlife theme, we believe they will provoke conversation, education and deeper consideration of the marine environment.


A key component of this project is for the community and key stakeholders to be involved and empowered. Throughout the month of June we have continued our extensive consultations with key stakeholders throughout the region by phone, email, conference calls and face-to-face meetings. We have participated in over 100 consultation activities involving over 200 people so far.

PUBLIC ART INSTALLATIONS: Marine public art is well known and admired in the Whitsundays region. Underwater art installations are increasingly being considered as a strategy for increasing public engagement and awareness around coral reefs and the challenges they face, and for complementing the range of tourism opportunities provided by natural features.

UPDATE JUNE 12, 2018

In May 2018 we consulted widely with the community and conducted site assessments at 11 sites across Bowen and the Whitsundays. The video below briefly summarises some of the findings from our site assessments. Please also read the communique for a current update on the project progress and status.


The ‘extended video of site assessments’ is an extended mix of underwater and above water footage from our site assessments in the Whitsundays which may be useful to artists or other individuals interested in developing ideas for this project.

Media Releases

2 October 2018

Tourism Whitsundays and Reef Ecologic have welcomed the appointment of three individual artists and a team of three for the design of six artworks for the Whitsundays Reef Recovery and Public Art Project. Read the press release HERE

4 August 2018

Great news for the Whitsunday region with collaboration by government, industry and stakeholders for a new reef research project and tourism attraction to be installed at Langford Reef. Read the minister’s press release HERE

Art research project at Langford Reef

Video of detailed reef restoration site inspections.

Coral in West Butterfly Bay

Dr Adam Smith conducting site assessments

Bare reef rock in Manta Ray Bay

Key Partners

This project was funded as part of the joint Queensland and Australian Government’s Tourism Recovery Fund.

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