Education and Interpretation

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is, without doubt, one of the most remarkable, awe-inspiring classrooms on the planet.

As a marine tourism operator, you provide tourists with the opportunity to explore one of the world’s greatest living treasures and play a very crucial role in teaching them about its incredible ecosystem and World Heritage values.

Thanks to the internet, there’s a vast body of knowledge, fascinating facts, and interesting research about the Reef at your very fingertips. But remember, there is more to interpretation than just facts – the more you can inspire and involve your audience, the more they will connect with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Responsible Reef Practices

For guides

When gathering information:

  • Learn about the Marine Park and its amazing marine life using a range of sources including reference books, magazines, journals, the internet, documentaries, scientific experts, newsletters, and locally-run educational presentations and courses.
  • Only use accurate, correct information which has been verified through research material, experts and scientific websites – if in doubt, do not use the information.
  • Join a local environmental group or dive club.

When presenting information:

  • Brief your clients early in their trip so they are well informed throughout their visit.
  • Be interesting, entertaining and passionate in your presentations, keep it short, involve your audience and enjoy yourself.
  • Use a variety of interpretative methods to get the message across (for example, brochures, signs, posters, talks, videos, guided tours).
  • Include interpretation as part of as many aspects of the operation as possible (for example while you’re onboard the vessel, in glass-bottom boats and semi submersibles, or during snorkelling/diving briefs and on deck talks).
  • Use props and hands-on teaching aides to help increase audience participation and interest levels.
  • Include information about the Great Barrier Reef, how special it is and how it is managed. Discuss some of the threats such as climate change and declining water quality and ways to address those threats.
  • Include at least one key ‘call to action’ message in your presentation so that your clients are encouraged to help the Marine Park when they return home.
  • Advise on rules of the Marine Park, best practices and any dangers relevant to your destination.
  • Include cultural, historical and environmental information relevant to your destination. Use specific examples of marine life that will be seen during the trip.
  • Be aware of cultural sensitivities (contact the region’s Traditional Owners as appropriate).
  • Tailor the presentation to your audience – be aware of the different nationalities, languages, ages, physical abilities, phobias and interests.
  • Keep group sizes small (less than 20 people).
  • Spend time with your clients to ensure they have received the interpretative message.
  • Provide onboard reference materials for your clients.
  • Review and update your interpretation program at least annually.

For operators

  • Emphasise interpretation as a required skill in job descriptions and look for well-qualified staff with a passion for interpretation.
  • Provide on-site training opportunities.
  • Train enough staff to ensure all clients have access to reef interpretation.
  • Encourage staff to become accredited guides (for example, under the EcoGuide Program of Ecotourism Australia) or complete relevant training courses.
  • Develop a documented interpretation plan detailing your interpretative resources, the major interpretive themes or messages, a risk assessment, and your evaluation techniques.
  • Encourage staff to keep their skills up-to-date by joining professional associations.
  • Include basic reef awareness in your staff induction program and staff handbook.
  • Have an internal system to keep staff up-to-date with Marine Park issues (for example, emails, notice boards, newsletters).
  • Free zoning app

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    If you're heading out on the water, download and use the free zoning app so you know where you can go and what you can do.

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