Young Conservationist Award showcases region’s eco-warriors

Image: Ella Woodburne, winner Les Hall Conservationist Award 2020 and Darren Grover, representative from the WFF discussing the prize win at the World Environment Day online event, Sunday 7 June 2020.

A secondary school student who has worked tirelessly to make her school a more environmentally-friendly place has been awarded the inaugural Les Hall Conservationist Award 2020.

Ella Woodborne was recognised for her work starting a Green Team at her school Sunshine Coast Grammar, which grew from a few students to a large team working on sustainability projects like waste reduction, eliminating single use plastics and introducing recycling programs, as well as fundraising to sponsor a local sea turtle.

As a tribute to Dr Les Hall OAM, who passed away in February 2019 after 40 years of major achievements in the zoology world, Sunshine Coast Council partnered with the Hall family for this inaugural award.

Mr Hall’s daughter and wildlife biologist Clancy Hall was proud to make the announcement.

The entries were judged over five criteria – leadership, innovation, environmental impacts/outcomes, social impacts and reach, and vision.

The judging panel which includes Clancy and Rae Hall representing the Hall family, Tom Murphy (Sunshine Coast Council Community Development Officer – youth) and Gabriel Conroy (University of the Sunshine Coast researcher) also acknowledged runners-up Zac McEwen and Olivia Allen who used their technical knowledge to raise the profile of marine conservation.

Their project SeaFrame aims to reduce rubbish on our beaches and in our waterways by encouraging people to share photos of themselves cleaning up the beach on social media, inspiring others to join the movement.

Ms Hall said the future was looking bright with young eco-warriors developing innovative solutions to protect our environment.

“What Ella has achieved with the Green Team, in both action and intention shows incredible passion, grit, awareness and understanding of both environmental problems and their solutions,” Ms Hall said.

“As my father offered his brightest charges, Ella will receive an opportunity to participate in a wildlife conservation field experience.

“The World Wildlife Fund Australia is supporting this award, and this year they have generously offered the winner access to a wildlife activity such as a Queensland marine turtle research project, valued up to $2000.

“I offer my congratulations and appreciation to Ella and to all the finalists who put in a submission and who are making a difference to their local environments.

“We had some fantastic entries including seven-year-old Logan who has been working hard to protect the blue tongue lizard population at his school; Caitlyn Turner, who highlighted marine pollution through art; a team of young coastal guardians who organise beach clean-up events in their spare time; and our runners up with the innovative SeaFrame,”

“Your community supports you and thanks you for everything you’ve done.

“As a respected researcher and conservationist, my father would be proud of the young citizen scientists in our community who are developing their own passion for the environment and taking that extra step to look after it.

“It will be wonderful to share the achievements of those who are following in his footsteps and to recognise youth who are making a difference in their local environments.”

Environment and Liveability Portfolio Councillor Maria Suarez said she was proud council was able to support these young conservationists.

“It’s fantastic to be able to support these passionate children who have applied some creative and innovate solutions to make a positive change in our world,” Cr Suarez said.

This is the second award Ella has won for her work starting the Grammar Green Team – she was also named the Young Citizen of the Year in the 2020 Sunshine Coast Australia Day Awards.

Environment and Liveability Portfolio Councillor Peter Cox said the award aligned with Council’s Environment and Liveability strategy and he hoped our community was inspired by the winner’s and finalists’ actions.

“Nature and our environment is an important part of our lifestyle here on the Sunshine Coast and together we need to look after it to ensure we keep it this way for our future generations,” Cr Cox said.

“The Les Hall Award is consistent with council’s aspirational vision for the Sunshine Coast to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative.”

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