Cassowary Awards showcases future Wet Tropics stars

A field of persuasive and passionate Cassowary Awards nominees’ shows that the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area’s future is in good hands, says teacher and former winner Sandra Charlton.

The Wet Tropics Management Authority today announced nominees in the Education and Young Cassowary categories at the upcoming Cassowary Awards.

Ms Charlton, who won the 2009 Cassowary Award for Education, wears many hats teaching at Gordonvale State School and Tinaroo and Holloways Beach environmental education centres. She says recognising young people and their mentors is important to the future of the Wet Tropics.

“Younger generations will spend more time living with the consequences of decisions around the environment than older generations,” Ms Charlton said.

“Young people are vitally important to the future of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and play an active role in protecting this area.

“Their behaviours and attitudes often influence their parents and the general public,” she said.

The Young Cassowary Award—sponsored by Daintree Discovery Centre—highlights two schools that are leading the way in environmental sustainability and education in the Wet Tropics.

Mission Beach State School students are so passionate about their natural environment that they literally sing its praises.

‘Mission Beach naturally—a magic place’, their own composition, celebrates the student’s appreciation of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, from a ‘rainforest canopy that never ends’ to ‘vibrant blue butterflies’ and cassowaries looking for ripe mangoes.

The students have also raised awareness for cassowary road safety, and in the process of establishing a sustainable garden, attracted a family of cassowaries: an opportunity they used to learn about co-existing with the ancient species.

Malanda State School, behind its mantra of ‘Educating the youth of today to be environmentalists tomorrow’, has inspired students to establish programs promoting reusable bags and educating the community on the importance of native wildlife.

The school is also nominated for the Education Award for its students’ involvement in projects to reduce the school’s carbon footprint, run a community garden and encourage students to ride to school.

Other nominees for the Education Award—sponsored by Terrain Natural Resource Management—include James Cook University’s Professor Hilary Whitehouse, for her contribution to science and environment education, while the Committee for Waste Reduction is nominated for supporting Cairns businesses and individuals to reduce waste.

Local education program Children for Change is nominated in this category for its contribution to fostering children’s attitude change towards the environment, while late writer and wildlife advocate Julia Cooper receives a posthumous nomination.

Ms Charlton congratulated all nominees: “Being a nominee is a powerful means of encouragement. Without even realising it, you have already influenced a lot of people.

“This will be advantageous in encouraging friends, family, colleagues and people you don’t even know in adopting a more caring attitude and behaviour towards the environment.

“I love attending the Cassowary Awards every year. They are a highlight of my calendar where I am inspired listening to the achievements of all the nominees.”

Recipients will be announced at the Cassowary Awards gala event at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park on Saturday 15 June.

A full nominees list for both awards is available below. Nominees in the remaining seven awards categories will be announced in the lead-up to the event.


Young Cassowary Award


Malanda State Primary School

Through its environmentally sustainable school programs and student achievements, Malanda State School is an education leader in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The school emphasises environmental awareness, ‘educating the youth of today to be environmentalists tomorrow’. Students have established programs to promote reusable bags, educate the community on the importance of native wildlife, reduce the school’s carbon footprint, while a community garden supplies the school tuckshop. In addition, Principal Mark Allen’s Bike Bus concept encourages students to ride to school, and the school is working towards going entirely paperless.


Mission Beach State School

Mission Beach State School's roadside sign creations encourage drivers to watch out for cassowaries. In addition to raising awareness for cassowary safety, students are rehabilitating wetlands near their school, students have established a sustainable garden which is visited regularly by a cassowary family—another opportunity for the students to learn about safe coexistence with these birds.


Education Award


Associate Professor Hilary Whitehouse

Professor Hilary Whitehouse has taught, researched and published in the fields of science education, environmental education and education for sustainability for 30 years. In her position as Associate Professor and Deputy Dean of Graduate Research at James Cook University, Professor Whitehouse’s research and project work has supported teachers, schools and organisations in their efforts to educate communities about the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, its Outstanding Universal Value and strategies for its protection into the future.


Children for Change

Sisters Silvia and Mia Conway established Children for Change in 2014 on the belief that education is key for the long-term sustainability of our natural environment. Through their AICE Club (Awareness for Interaction between Children and the Environment) for 7–13 year-olds, the sisters volunteer their time to advocate for the conservation of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area with a series of sessions teaching children how our actions affect ecosystems and biodiversity.


Committee for Waste Reduction

Established and incorporated in 2017, the Committee for Waste Reduction is a diverse membership of more than 70 businesses, community groups and academics. It aims to educate businesses and individuals and equip them with the tools and knowhow to reduce waste. The committee already has some impressive runs on the board: its ‘’ app leads users to water bottle refill points in the region, and the Business WasteWise Membership Program assists businesses to reduce waste by providing resources, training systems and networking opportunities.


Julia Cooper (posthumous)

Writer, wildlife presenter, tour guide, researcher and wildlife advocate: Julia Cooper made it her mission to share her knowledge and passion for the natural world and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area throughout her career. With her partner, Dr Martin Cohen, Julia published a series of popular books that still inform and inspire local guides and tourists alike. Her children's book, Paddy O'Melon: the Irish Kangaroo, was published posthumously and continues to spread her message of wildlife education and rehabilitation.


 Malanda State Primary School

As above.

Cassowary Awards showcases future Wet Tropics stars

Published: 03rd Jun 2019

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