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Free the reef


bOsCnxb3DvFpWG5U-WneGAlQZGzTLPBCAQZE_KlxhXQThis is not the first time the Great Barrier Reef has been threatened, few of us will be aware of the 20 year struggle to prevent the most wondrous coral reef in the world from being destroyed by the unlikely trio of a poet, an artist and a forester — Judith Wright, John Busst and Len Webb in the late 1960’s.

It’s difficult to believe in spite of all their efforts, the creation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and it’s inscription on the World Heritage List that the Reef should be under dire threat again. However, the environment and especially the sea is an indicator of a deeper and more predominant reality, the treatment of it an indicator of our values, or rather of our lack of.

Leading conservation groups the Australian Marine Conservation Society and World Wildlife Foundation are at the forefront in the fight to protect the reef with campaigns like Fight for the Reef, but they can’t do it alone. Drawing on the strength and determination of predecessors, such as Wright, Busst and Webb, we all have an obligation to step up to protect the greatest and most beautiful marine environment that this planet has known and in turn change the course of humanity.

“The Reef is beautiful, fragile and threatened by global warming, industrial development and farm chemical pollution. We can all do our bit to protect it, but we need the Federal government to show leadership by rapidly moving Australia to renewable energy, rejecting the Adani coal port development at Abbot Point and putting a regulatory cap on farm pollution with financial incentives for farmers”, states Fight for the Reef, campaign director Imogen Zethoven.

Grassroot project FREE THE REEF is one example of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to support the work of those at the front line. Using the power of art to generate awareness about the threats the Great Barrier Reef, FREE THE REEF have combined the best of 3 sectors; conscious business (SMART), inspired artists (ARTISAN) and purpose driven not-for-profits (ACTIVISTS) in a movement they call SMARTIVISM.

“For most of us the reef is out of sight and out of mind, so the first step in the project was to bring the reef to the people via art. We’ve been travelling the eastern coast of Australia hosting a series of live screen printing events in support of the reef ” says founder Stu Bowen.

“We have engaged influential artists from around the country to contribute inspired artworks to the cause and like artist John Busst and poet Judith Wright we know that artist are natural social commentators and can act as a powerful catalyst for change. Smartivism aims to inspire and activate the next generation of responsible global citizens to be the solution”

Printing on 100% organic cotton, fair trade and climate neutral t-shirts and tote bags from Earth Positive and using enviro-friendly inks from Permaset Aqua, FREE THE REEF ask you to contribute to the cause by creating a one-off wearable artwork, where you simply choose a design, pick your favourite colours and your bespoke hand-printed item is created on the spot.

If you’re still wondering what YOU can do to help free the reef, here’s a list they put together of 5 things that everyone from young children through to CEO’s can do to create collective change and to play their vital role;


  1. Start a conversation with your friends, family, workmate or board of directors about the issues affecting the reef. Acknowledging that there is an environmental crisis and raising awareness is the first step.
  2. Stop your bank or super company from funding destructive projects that harm the reef by divesting your money or email the organisation directly about your concerns.
  3. Embrace clean renewable energy; look for alternative sources of power for your home or business.
  4. Do a personal or business environmental audit and find ways to radically reduce your waste footprint. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  5. Vote with your wallet, support responsible business that operates in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner.The Great Barrier Reef is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ indicative of the rapid health decline of our entire planet and we all have an obligation directly and indirectly to participate in implementing the necessary changes and solutions. What will you contribute?

A FREE THE REEF event will be held on the 31st of October, Main Beach – Apex Park, Byron Bay from 11am-3pm. For more information visit www.freethereef.org

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The Common Ground of Byron Bay. If you wish to contribute, please contact: Kirra Pendergast P: 0408 068 824 E: kirra@commongroundaustralia.com


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