Chantelle Blackwell

With her passion for the ocean starting at young age, it seems that Chantelle Blackwell was destined to be out on the water.

”Growing up I loved everything about the ocean. It started with my Dad taking my sisters and I fishing, snorkeling and camping at Nelson Bay in NSW. I was fascinated by the diversity of organisms in the ocean, their rich colours and characteristics,” said Chantelle.

Chantelle’s high schooling years taught her more about the challenges our oceans face which inspired her even more to reconnect with her culture and protect the sea country.

“As a child of the land, I feel is essential to learn of God’s creation in order to protect, conserve and share the beauty of life underwater.”

Chantelle in her happy place

Chantelle in her happy place

While growing up in the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith, Chantelle knew she had to be closer to the Great Barrier Reef to fulfill her career aspirations. After discovering James Cook University being advertised as the number one university for Marine Biology, Chantelle knew the next step for her was to relocate to Townsville to undertake her studies. This is when she enrolled in a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Marine Biology.

Currently in her second year of study, Chantelle has always had a thirst for knowledge and new experiences. Desperate to undertake a summer internship, Chantelle asked her lecturer for suggestions. This led her to apply for the Aurora Internship Program.

“The placement was four weeks at the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA)’s office in Darwin, Northern Territory. I wasn’t appointed a specific project to work on, instead I served through completing various small tasks, such as an annotated bibliography and government report write ups, which contributed to broader aspects of the company’s work. I served to be an active observer at meetings and government hearings, learning of the complexities in the Indigenous sector regarding community engagement and project funding. During the last week I was honoured to go on a trip to Cairns to meet with members of the Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation. This mob is working on a Savanna Burning project in the bushlands of Mareeba.

Chantelle with the Western Yalanji mob

Chantelle (second from right) with the Western Yalanji mob

Working with NAILSMA allowed me to learn of the complexities in the interface between government legislation, traditional practice, and Indigenous knowledge – a balance that is relevant for management of the oceans flora and fauna. The experience assisted in providing me with crucial knowledge of the practical application of intertwining western science with traditional Indigenous knowledge. The collaboration between the two is very relevant for my core subjects in Marine Biology and elective Indigenous Studies subjects, which discuss sustainable, culturally appropriate management.”

Since completing the internship, Chantelle’s desire for a career has become even more apparent. She claims that, “the internship has cemented my hopes of working in the Indigenous sector.”

Chantelle now wants to seek out more practical experiences within the field to better equip her for her career. Her advice to other students considering applying for the Aurora Internship Program is,

“Don’t have any expectations, just go for it. Be willing to be challenged and move out of your comfort zone. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions! You’ll learn so much about the employees, the company and larger issues surrounding your field of study.”

Chantelle’s plans after graduation include getting onto the Dive register and growing her confidence in diving. She’s considering completing her dive certificates in Western Australia, and also has plans to further her qualifications by undertaking an Honours of Masters degree.

Chantelle’s strong drive and determination to make a change in this world will see her succeed in life. Her passion has been engrained in her throughout her life.

I would not have had the abundance of opportunities and successes I’ve had without the love, support, generosity, and wisdom of my Dad. He is my biggest hero and influence. His passion and joy-filled spirit has made life into a wild adventure. The imparting of his knowledge and stories has been intrinsic in getting me to where I am today.”