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Featured News Students strengthen connections with marine world

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Mon, 19 Jun 2023

Students strengthen connections with marine world

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Marine Science program coordinator Dr Allison Paley with Year 10 Pimlico State High School student Tabreesha Surha.
Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Marine Science program coordinator Dr Allison Paley with Year 10 Pimlico State High School student Tabreesha Surha.

Almost 90 local First Nations’ high school students have been given a taste of the wonderful world of marine science after graduating from a James Cook University program on Monday afternoon.

The long-running Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Marine Science (ATSIMS) program aims to build connections between traditional ecological knowledge and western science knowledge to offer a two-way learning experience for all participants.

ATSIMS program coordinator Dr Allison Paley said students enjoyed several activities over the past month, including a trip to JCU’s Orpheus Island Research Station, engagement with local Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger groups and Traditional Owners, a visit to the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and participating in mini-practical exercises at JCU’s Science Place.

“The highlight for many students is the trip to Orpheus Island where they spend three nights on Country,” Dr Paley said.

“We get in the water, go to the Reef, go on hikes and spend a lot of time outdoors. Our participation in multiple citizen science initiatives makes science engagement accessible for all students whether they are more practically-minded or prefer more theory-based learning styles.

“It’s quite a challenging trip, both physically and mentally, so hearing their personal reflections around the campfire on the last night on Goolboodi (Orpheus Island), it’s clear the program has a profound impact on them.”

Dr Paley said it was critical to connect students with Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers, Traditional Owners, and First Nations’ marine scientists as mentors during the program.

“They are role models for the students in that they see them working in the marine industry and are able to share their own personal journey of how they got there,” she said.

“One message that the students constantly hear is it’s not always a straightforward journey from leaving school to embarking on your dream job. Even if you struggle in school, it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue some of these exciting careers.”

13 state and private schools participated in the program this year, with Year 10 students hailing from Abergowrie, Ingham, Townsville and Palm Island’s Bwgcolman Community School.

Dr Paley said students also made a draft plan for their senior school subjects in years 11 and 12.

“That’s something new to the program this year where we are encouraging students to think about what subjects they might take in their senior years at school, in the hope they select science and math-based subjects,” she said.

Southern Cross Catholic College Year 10 student Aiden Raciti said his participation in the ATSIMS program was extremely worthwhile.

“A personal highlight for me in the ATSIMS program is both the relationships I’ve developed and all the activities we did,” he said.

“The snorkelling was excellent and so was the hiking. This helped me create bonds with new friends.”

Aiden said he particularly enjoyed learning about the diversity of coral reefs and encouraged any student considering applying for the program to give it a go.

“It was such an enjoyable experience and it’s opened up my eyes to completely new pathways that I never even considered,” he said.

“Everything we did on Orpheus (Goolboodi) Island was so enjoyable”

The program concluded with a visit to JCU’s Indigenous Education and Research Centre on the Bebegu Yumba Campus in Townsville, followed by a graduation ceremony at Science Place on Monday afternoon.

For more information about the ATSIMS program, head to


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