By Jemma Craig, dive instructor, Great Barrier Reef
I’m very lucky to have a special connection to the Great Barrier Reef. I grew up in the tropical paradise of Green Island – a small coral cay, about an hour boat ride out of Cairns.
I was remote schooled through correspondence, allowing me to snorkel, free dive and explore the reef since I was a little girl.
Until recently, my parents owned and operated a crocodile and marine life habitat on the island, called Marineland Melanesia. My extended family still live and work on the island and I worked with them for many years. I always wanted to be on the water, so eventually I
moved to scuba diving and working on tourist boats.
The Pandemic has been a disaster for the tourism industry here in Far North Queensland. I lost my job and my parents lost their business. Luckily for mum and dad they were going into retirement anyway; but a lot of us have a long, hard road ahead.
Losing my job gave me time to think about my career and priorities, and it gave me a new determination to do all I can to help protect our wonderful Reef that we all rely on for our livelihood. It has made me realise how important it is, and I am thankful for everything it has
given to me.
I want to see Far North Queensland candidates in this election really commit to and fight for policies that will help our Reef, at the same time as creating jobs for people like me in the Cairns community.
Most importantly, we should be tackling the global warming that has caused our Reef to bleach three times in the last five years. By advocating for and committing to renewable energy projects both big and small that bring in jobs and skills, our
local politicians can ensure our city and region plays its role in protecting our Reef.
Transitioning from the burning of dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy will also help futureproof the tens of thousands of tourism jobs our Reef supports.
In the short and medium term, while our tourism recovers, we need to find alternative employment for thousands. Divers like myself and boat captains can help with important scientific monitoring projects so we can build an accurate picture of how our reef is recovering from the latest mass bleaching event.
Work on restoring reef catchments will also improve water quality, addressing one of the major threats to our Reef.
The technology already exists, we can make these transitions happen if we have the support of those in our community and of our local politicians. We need to let them know what’s important to us as Cairns locals, as Queenslanders, and as those that rely on the Great
Barrier Reef for our livelihood. We need to make sure our candidates are on board, and that they are making steps in the right direction that will benefit us all.
I cannot even begin to describe some of the wonderful things I’ve seen on the Great Barrier Reef, it is absolute magic. If there is one message I would like to share with others, it’s to go and see this place with your own eyes, because if people are never able to see how special this place is, why should they choose to protect it?
As a representative of the tourism industry, I can safely say we all will be proud to be your guides on this journey of discovery, towards a more sustainable future. We know more than most what is at stake.
You have a vote, and you have a voice. So vote for the candidate or party that will do the most for our Reef and by extension, the most for our community.
A version of this article has been published across Fairfax titles.