When it comes to the future of our environment, a feeling of hope swells up when you talk to primary-school aged children.

While parents and grandparents have been laying the foundation for an eco-friendlier society, it is the rising Generation Alpha who will be the ones to make the substantial changes needed to ensure the future of the environment.

Picking up rubbish is not met with eyerolls, but urgency and cries of ‘save the turtles’. It is something they are not only taught, but they believe – that small changes they make can have a lasting impact.

In the Bundaberg Region, 20 schools proudly call themselves Reef Guardian Schools – a program that includes 288 schools, more than 132,000 students and 8700 teachers along the Queensland coast from Cooktown to Bundaberg.

The program creates awareness, understanding and appreciation of the reef and helps children take ownership of protecting it. It takes many forms such as classwork, waste or package-free lunchboxes, recycling, reusing and upcycling projects, revegetation and composting.

The Year 6 reef guardian leaders of St Patrick’s Catholic School in Bundaberg spoke to Crush Magazine about what being a Reef Guardian means to them:

“We dedicate our lunch time to go into the eating areas of each grade and if a student has limited rubbish, we then place their name into a draw where they can earn prizes at the end of each term.” Riley Thorne

“We encourage that single use plastic is not used.” Ruby Wilson

“As reef guardians, we try and make sure that our school does the right things for the environment. We try and make sure rubbish goes in the right bins and that there’s not litter in our playgrounds or school grounds. We try and make sure that even the youngest years are aware of keeping the environment healthy.” Desilva Dickson

“Reef guardians have to take care of all the animals and we have to be careful with our rubbish. It doesn’t matter if it is only a little bit of rubbish – it can go a long way. Amelia Mather

“It’s making sure rubbish goes in the right bins and making sure we are not littering,” Megan Cefai

“Being reef guardians means we are looking after the environment and the turtles. And that we are not using as much single-use plastic and using more reusable things. Shyla Grogan

“Being a reef guardian means you protect the animals that can’t protect themselves from the rubbish we create.” Lillian King-Siem


Find out more about the Reef Guardian Program here.

IMAGE: Back Row: Riley Thorne, Ruby Wilson, Emily Cullinan, Desilva Dickson, Keira Hawe. Front Row: Amelia Mather, Megan Cefai, Shyla Grogan, Lillian King-Siem.