Building the capacity of the world's coral reef managers and leaders

Fostering leadership for the world's coral reefs was the aim of a three-week immersive course conducted in Townsville and at nearby Great Barrier Reef sites.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is a partner in the prestigious Australia Awards International Coral Reef Management and Leadership Fellowship conducted by Reef Ecologic in collaboration with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and James Cook University.

Fourteen marine area managers from the Caribbean, Pacific, South-East Asia and Indian Ocean island nations were selected to learn about coral reef management and leadership from experts — many of them from the Marine Park Authority which hosted the fellows over two days to provide insights into how the Reef is managed.

The program taps into Australia’s unique experience and leadership in coral reef management, and is a practical illustration of Australia’s commitment to capacity building in developing coral reef nations throughout the world.

The fellowship offers Australian organisations the opportunity to strengthen their links with leaders and professionals in developing countries by hosting fellows from partner organisations.

For the first time, two staff from the Authority joined the program to learn about the challenges faced by coral reef managers in other parts of the world.  

Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt recognised the program as an important activity enabling the Marine Park Authority to “extend its reach into the international community, an integral responsibility under the Authority’s Act”.

“One of the hallmarks of good leadership is adaptability”, Dr Reichelt said. “Building adaptive capacity and improving the confidence and personal resilience of coral reef leaders from the around the world are key aims of the Coral Reef Management and Leadership program, which is critically important as reefs and the people who depend on them confront the global challenge of climate change."

The program was launched at the Authority’s Reef HQ Aquarium and included an excursion to John Brewer Reef off the coast of Townsville as well as a field trip to James Cook University’s Orpheus Island Research Station where Fellows snorkeled among giant clams, tropical fish and mangroves.

Fellows had the opportunity to engage with citizen science volunteers conducting reef health surveys using Reef Check Australia and Eye on the Reef monitoring programs.