Gold Coast students organise South Stradbroke beach clean up

On 4 November, Gold Coast independent school Silkwood School embarked on a journey to South Stradbroke Island for their second beach clean-up this year. Joined by Steven Rowel, principal of Jacobs Well Environmental Education Centre, the young volunteers and organisers prepared for a day filled with sun, sand and hard work.

The project was led by Silkwood School Real World Learning Manager, Kalindi Brennan, along with the Silkwood Alumni and Youth Ambassadors, with the group of volunteers comprised of 14 to 18-year-old students and graduates.

We chatted to Kalindi Brennan about why the project was so critical for South Stradbroke in particular.

“The amount of marine debris that has built up in sand dunes on South Stradbroke Island is significant,” she tells us.  “With king tides and flood events earlier in the year, we found this local site requires a large-scale clean-up focus and ongoing monitoring.

“During our scoping process, we discovered debris that must have been floating in oceans or buried in sands for decades,” she continues. “In our last clean-up, we found a Milky Way chocolate bar wrapper with a use by date from 1984!”

And this last clean-up wasn’t the school’s first, with four clean ups done this year already. Organisers feel that consistency is definitely key to the long-term success of the project.

“The main outcome from the project this year has been four successful clean-up events led by senior Youth Ambassadors mentoring younger students and conservation enthusiasts,” explains Kalindi.

“We’ve had great support from environmental partners and mentors attending these events and championing the project through their extended networks.”

In particular, Steve from Jacobs Well Environmental Education Centre has been exceptional in his leadership; providing use of the EDUCAT vessel and centre resources to the group, plus sharing his in-depth understanding of South Stradbroke Island’s ecosystems.

Ultimately however, it’s the degree of youth participation and initiative shown by the youth that really drives the project. We ask Kalindi about her thoughts on the contributions made by the students.

“I have been impressed that we’ve had Silkwood alumni Youth Ambassadors turning up to each clean-up and helping lead the event and auditing processes,” she says.

“Along with senior students, they have been excellent role models and mentors to the younger students… it has been rewarding and inspiring to see the enthusiasm of young people keen to engage in this project.”

One of the Silkwood Alumni that led the event on the day was Waimarie Brand, a Silkwood Youth Ambassador. She explains what that means.

“My role as a Silkwood Alumni is to look over and oversee the project, help with developing the project, and then go out and actually make it into something tangible so we can get more students involved in the Youth Ambassadors Program.

“I really do love pioneering environmental conservation, so this really makes me really happy to see other students out there are making a difference too.”

Since this project is looking at improving things for the future, we want to know what’s in store for the South Stradbroke Island Beach Clean-ups from now on. Kalindi describes her vision moving forward.

“We hope to engage even more young people in this project, extending to other schools and to more islands in the Moreton Bay Region.  Our grant funding allows us to continue our current project into 2020, with another 4 events already scheduled. Our current Youth Ambassadors are keen to work more closely with Tangaroa Blue and explore options to become formally accredited as event organisers and auditors.”

INTERESTING FACT: The Silkwood School Beach Clean-Ups project collected and audited 24,195 individual items of rubbish this year and uploaded this data to Tangaroa Blue’s marine debris database., tipping Tangaroa Blue’s data collection over the 15 million items mark.

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