Ocean Youth participant and passionate ocean warrior, 14 year-old Isla Barry from Mountain Creek with Australian female sea lion, Teiko.
Ocean Youth participant and passionate ocean warrior, 14 year-old Isla Barry from Mountain Creek with Australian female sea lion, Teiko. Patrick Woods

Mentoring program helps kids turn passion to action

THE question for Isla Barry, 14, was never "if" she would fight for the rights of wild animals and their habitats, but "how".

Living close to the ocean, Isla said she had always wanted to help "keep it healthy for my generation and my children's generation" but a youth program at Sea Life Sunshine Coast was giving her tips and tools to take action.

Isla is one of 70 young people to participate in Sea Life Sunshine Coast's Ocean Youth program.

"It's a really great way to get involved and get our voices heard," Isla said.

"When we're all together, we realise the impact we can have together."

Ocean Youth has seen a more than fivefold increase in participation, from 13 last year to 70 this year, and facilitator Mathew Lynn wants to see 100 kids in next year's cohort.

The program is run by Sea Life Sunshine Coast's non-profit wing, Sea Life Trust, and has grown "hugely" in popularity over the last year.

With monthly four-hour workshops on themes from turtle and shark conservation to reef clean-ups, the youngsters are provided plenty of food for thought.

But the teen participants also have impressive knowledge of their own, Mr Lynn said.

One 13-year-old girl, who travels from Brisbane to attend, has even contacted 180 schools asking them to stop using plastic straws in tuckshops because of the damage of plastics to marine life.

"These kids, they love the program and they love being heard. They've got great ideas," Mr Lynn said.

"We focus on the conservation side of it and empowering the kids to go out into their communities and take action."

He said rather than an education program, Ocean Youth was more about mentoring, and "helping them get the confidence to go into their communities and speak in their communities".

The cost is $250 per year, with some discounts soon to be available for youngsters who can't afford to pay, Mr Lynn said.

For more information visit www.oceanyouth.org.



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