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Thursday, November 30, 2023

School Kids Go Green at Eco Conference

Australian and international students will have the opportunity to learn how to implement sustainable change and work towards a greener future at the Great Barrier Reef Academy’s Smart Green Economy Student Conference from 14-16 June 2023. 

Supported by the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland initiative, the conference will host approximately 100 students in person as well as many more virtually, some of whom will be attending from overseas. The full program includes a 2-day conference or a 5-day program including edu-tourism experiences, all meals, and accommodation at the Cairns Colonial Club Resort. Virtual bookings remain open. 

Banora International Group managing director Janine Bowmaker was approached by the Queensland Government to run the conference through the Great Barrier Reef Academy, and Janine jumped at the chance.

“Imagine in a room with 100 students, and more online, we create a ripple effect that becomes a wave as they take everything they have learned back to their schools,” Ms Bowmaker said. 

Ms Bowmaker won an Australian Junior Citizen award at age 17 for establishing recycling at her school.

“Why do we need to use plastic? Why can’t we substitute it with things that are not harmful to our environment?” she said.

“I want to know that the people who are looking after our world are doing the right thing and that they actually have the skills, the tools, and the knowledge to be able to do it right.”

The conference aims to redesign the thinking around sustainability and empower students as young as 13 to implement change in their homes and schools. 

Students will attend expert-led workshops on reef restoration, how to separate household rubbish effectively, taking apart old laptops to monetise e-waste, and building hydrogen-fuel-celled race cars. There will also be an Australian Marine Conservation Society Workshop, a biodiversity mobile phone game, and a Think Tank with JCU. The two-day event will begin with an opening night tour at the Cairns Aquarium, to which the students will be transported by electric buses. 

No one, yet, has managed to run a zero-waste event. And that is what we’re aiming for

The Great Barrier Reef Academy will be planting trees as part of the Tablelands Mabi rainforest reforestation project and in an effort to offset the carbon emissions of every student’s attendance at the event. 

The Great Barrier Reef Academy is owned by Banora International Group, an inbound tour operator here in Cairns that had to shift to virtual programs when the global pandemic shut down international travel. Janine shared that during Covid-19, they took their academic sustainability programs online. They taught international students about the environment, a circular economy, and sustainability development goals virtually. Students were inspired, resolving to reduce their consumption of single-use coffee cups and bring reusable bags shopping. 

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