Lifestyle

LET’S TICK THE BOX

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QANTAS FOR EARTH DAY

Today is international Earth Day, and for Liz Owen and Yidinjii Aboriginal Elder Dennis Ah-Kee, it’s a particularly special day. Today is the start of a partnership that links them with a new weapon in their fight to help save the Great Barrier Reef: you.

I know that when I’ve seen pictures of bleached coral and heard about the challenges facing the Reef, I’ve found it overwhelming. The problems are big, and I’ve found it hard to believe that there’s anything I can do to really help.

Meeting Liz and Dennis completely changed my mind.

Through their organisation Jaragun Natural Resource Management, Liz and Dennis have joined forces with Australian conservation-for-profit investor -  GreenCollar - to start an innovative venture called the Babinda Reef Project.

In a nut shell, declining water quality is one of the most significant threats to the Reef.

The Babinda Reef Project will improve this, reducing fertiliser and soil runoff from bordering farms and restoring coastal ecosystems. Liz and Dennis are replanting endangered rainforest and rebuilding wetlands - creating a natural filtration system that reduces pollutants and improves the quality of the water before it reaches the Reef, 20km downstream. On top of this, the project is supporting local employment and skills development of Aboriginal people.

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Along with local farmers and conservation groups, Qantas are proud to be a new partner supporting this project. What has this got to do with you, I hear you ask?

When you book a flight with Qantas, you probably tick that box that says “Fly Carbon Neutral with Qantas.” And if you’re like me, you’ve probably thought to yourself ‘I know this is doing something good but I’m not really sure what.’ Or maybe you’ve wondered if it’s actually doing any good at all.

When you tick the box to Fly Carbon Neutral with Qantas, your money goes directly to projects like the Babinda Reef project, that are making a real difference to our planet. Spending time up in Babinda I started to get a true understanding of what it means to make a real difference. Listening to Liz talk about their life commitment to help the Reef by restoring lost wetlands and native rainforests, it hit home how our actions - big or small - do make positive change.

And as Dennis said, it’s not all about the Reef. With each new tree planted, we’re one step closer to restoring a critical habitat for unique wildlife and plants, including 70 threatened species of flora and fauna. Liz recounts the day they spotted a Southern Cassowary - now an endangered species - with its chick amongst the newly planted habitat. It’s a place they once roamed in the hundreds, but hadn’t been seen in the area for years. She also tells the beautiful story of the day a single Ulysses butterfly landed gently on a nearby leaf, as if to say “it’s working, we are coming home”. This is something Dennis and the butterfly have in common. Born and raised in the area, he knew that there would be time when his ancestors would call him home to protect the land.

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“Water quality is important to Jubbun (eel) which keeps the rainbow serpent quiet. If Jubbun is not looked after, the rainbow serpent will wreak havoc. That’s one of the reasons my mother asked me to come back home - to look after Babinda Creek’s water quality"

Dennis Ah-Kee

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Liz and Dennis are doing their bit for the Reef. You, me and every Australian has a responsibility to give the Reef a fighting chance too. We owe it to our children and their children to look after this irreplaceable, natural treasure that sits at our front door. For that reason, I’m definitely going to keep ‘ticking-the-box.’

Read more about the Qantas carbon offset program and what they have achieved over the past decade HERE.

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Photography by Sam Elsom

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