As the fourth generation on a South Australian dairy farm living way too far from the coast, I always knew I wanted to be paid to go fishing and scuba diving. Study and work at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville provided an amazing range of opportunities to visit reefs from the Swains to north of Lizard Island. The work ranged from diving on reefs to count fish, to using commercial fishing gear to obtain fish samples. It also included an opportunity to help train future Pacific Island leaders to age and determine the reproductive status of reef fish species.
I completed a Master of Science degree in 1993 using citizen science to monitor Great Barrier Reef reef fish populations, before moving to the Queensland Government where I managed several programs including a fisheries assessment and monitoring team, and marine planning unit. These roles included opportunities to work with Traditional Owners on a number of projects, to capturing the aspirations of the Quandamooka Traditional Owners during the rezoning of the Moreton Bay Marine Park.
My original role in WWF Australia was focussed on improving Queensland’s fisheries and aquaculture management. My current role as Senior Specialist, Coast Communities provides technical advice to WWF offices, and fisheries and conservation departments, in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji. It’s an amazing opportunity which brings me back to my early career days at JCU providing training to future Pacific Island leaders.
Growing up as a fourth-generation dairy farmer in South Australia I was aware of how adaptive and resilient Aussie farmers were to changing weather events and external shocks. Pacific coastal communities leave Aussie farmers in the dust when it comes to resilience and ingenuity, but their capacity to adapt is reaching breaking point as they battle against external factors including climate change and marine plastics.