COVID-19 Advice for the JCU Community - Last updated: 20 October 2021, 8am (AEST)

Merinda Walters

Born and raised in the small town of Karumba in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Merinda Walters has always had a key interest in nature. Merinda has been a self-confessed ‘bush-kid’ from the day she was born and knew she wanted to be a palaeontologist since the age of five.

Merinda, who also goes by Mindy, and her family moved to Cairns during her primary school years, where she developed a strong love of science that was inspired by Sir David Attenborough and the great Steve Irwin. The passion didn’t stop there.

Merinda enrolled in a Bachelor of Environmental Practice, majoring in Biodiversity on the JCU Cairns campus. Currently in her third year of study, Merinda admits that studying locally has helped her in many ways.

“Having been brought up in a small town, staying connected with my family has always been very important to me,” said the proud Gomeroi woman. “This has also fuelled my determination to make a difference as it was my family who immersed me in my culture and taught me about connection to country. This strong sense of connection has always influenced my interests in conservation and preservation.”

Mindy with her Great Pop

Mindy with her Great Pop

Balancing full-time university, casual employment and running her own business as a local and international artists has been nothing short of a challenge for this determined student. “I am immensely grateful for the support that is available to me at the Indigenous Education and Research Centre. Their lovely staff helped me settle into university life and have truly made my journey an enjoyable one.”

Last year, Merinda was the recipient of the Arrow Energy Indigenous Scholarship as well as the Indigenous Cadetship Scholarship through an internship-based program she undertook during her university holidays. “I have been very fortunate to earn these scholarships which have eased the financial stress of balancing study and part-time work immeasurably.”

Knowing experience is just as important as academic qualifications, Merinda signed up for a not-for-profit organisation called CareerTrackers to improve employability options after graduation. “Thanks to the help of the CareerTrackers advisory team, I embarked on a four week internship in Brisbane as an environmental consultant with GHD. This experience taught me so much about the life of an environmental professional, as well as about myself and what I am capable of.

Mindy during her internship

Mindy during her internship

Majoring in biodiversity has opened many opportunities for Merinda, providing a good balance between specialising in an important area whilst maintaining a generalist approach. “My degree is essential for where I’d like to take my future career. I’ve often been told that the key to employability is flexibility – having both broad and specific knowledge in the field can be the difference between getting a job, and not.

So what does life after university look like for Merinda? Well, the world is her oyster. At this stage she’s considering various career pathways ranging from an Environmentalist Specialist within the mining industry, to transitioning into a myriad of pathway options as an Environmental Professional using the connections she made throughout her internship at GHD. Then there’s the consideration of taking a gap year opportunity to travel around Australia, and go cage diving with Great White Sharks in South Australia.

“The one piece of advice I would give to students thinking about studying a Bachelor of Environmental Practice would be to never give up. We live in a world where pollution, climate change and human impact have painted the future in uncertainty. We are the generation that will change it and this degree will help you to be part of that change.”

Mindy with one of her paintings

Mindy with one of her paintings

MORE ABOUT MERINDA:

During her first year at university, Merinda opened up her own business called ‘Mindy’s Art Thawun Wandabaa’ [Earth Spirit] https://www.facebook.com/merindalily/

Initially established to help fund her way through university, Merinda never expected what it would turn into. She has sold almost a thousand original, hand-painted pieces to people all over the world including Greece, England, Norway, America, Sweden, and of course Australia. The Midnight Emporium in Karumba, Ancient Journeys in Cairns and Tjapukai Cultural Park all feature pieces of Merinda’s art in their shops.

“I feel truly honoured and proud that I have been able to share my culture with the world in such a personal and creative way” – Merinda Walters

Busniess card (front) Business card (back)