Finalist - Inspiring community engagement and education

(Community volunteer groups / individuals)

Two Bays Project

Saltwater Projects

Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay

For the past 15 years, Saltwater Projects, in partnership with Parks Victoria, the Environment Protection Authority and other organisations, has coordinated an annual project in Port Phillip and Western Port Bays – the ‘Two Bays project’.  Aboard Pelican 1, a 62-foot catamaran, the Saltwater Project team conduct marine research, marine education, community engagement activities, and provide opportunities for dialogue and information sharing on key bay environmental themes. Each year in February and March, the vessel has a busy schedule of trips with participants including school groups, bay stakeholders, management agencies and more. There has been a particular emphasis to target and promote participation of groups who may have limited opportunity to experience the marine environment in this unique way. This has included indigenous students, refugee groups, newly arrive migrants, and disadvantaged groups.

The Two Bays project provides unique opportunity for bay managers, stakeholders, students and educators to build knowledge, engage coastal communities, form partnerships to better understand and protect bay values. The program is designed to develop deeper cross-collaboration and knowledge sharing. Participants explore and understand the bays' natural and cultural values, and the threats to these values posed by poor water quality and climate change. Citizen science activities further engage local communities and schools in understanding their marine environment, collecting baseline data about the local marine biodiversity and water quality. Partnership and collaboration have been integral to the projects ongoing success, with all partners in some way facilitating the experiential process of sharing marine knowledge. The program attracts a broad range of marine experts who contribute to the wealth of knowledge shared on board, and acts as a conduit between marine management organisations to further inspire and encourage deeper collaboration.

This intentional multi-partner design of the program allows the alignment of goals of all partners involved, and builds a rich network delivering deeper engagement for the community with participating agencies.

On a single day aboard Pelican 1 the Two Bays project can be researching seagrass in a marine park, engaging locals in citizen science to help collect data, linking Parks Victoria to the people they need to inform, connecting scientists interested with managers, and sharing knowledge with a wider community. The fact that all these relationships are built or strengthened, knowledge shared and gained, while in the context of experiencing the beauty of our local marine world, has enhanced and strengthened the outcomes and engagements the project aims for. Similarly, the schools focus links students to expert knowledge, inspires young people with a sea classroom and provides schools with ongoing partnerships. The program particularly suits Indigenous engagement due to the on-country nature of the work, and importance placed in Traditional Owner custodianship and knowledge.

Over the 15 years of the program, Two Bays has reached and given active and experiential marine awareness to over 10,000 people in the community. Further reach has been achieved through sharing with partner networks, or in media coverage of the program. The often-unmeasurable impact of engaging young people with marine ecosystems has also been observed, through ongoing relationships with the schools and accounts of students continuing their connection to the health of the bays through return visits with their families.  The experiential approach of the program has seen a shift in participants recognition and understanding of their connection and impact to their local waters.

Page last updated: 23/11/20