Ever wondered what our Youth Coastal Ambassadors program is like? Read on to get a taste of what our ambassadors learn about while exploring our coast over 2 jam-packed days of fun. Plus, discover interesting facts about Adelaide’s precious coast and marine environment.

One of last year's ambassadors snorkelling at Pt Noarlunga. Photo: Stefan Andrews, Ocean Imaging.
One of last year's ambassadors snorkelling at Pt Noarlunga. Photo: Stefan Andrews, Ocean Imaging.

Youth Coastal Ambassadors is a free program for young people to learn about and be immersed in Adelaide’s coast and marine environment, so that they can spread the word to help protect it.

It’s set on the Adelaide coast and is open to Year 8 and 9 students living in the Green Adelaide region, which stretches from Sellicks in the south to the Gawler River, north of Adelaide.

It’s a highly competitive and sought-after program – only 32 students are accepted – and it’s held once a year in the autumn school holidays.

Here’s 3 things our Youth Coastal Ambassadors get to learn about:

A fish underwater at Pt Noarlunga.
Underwater at Pt Noarlunga. Photo: Stefan Andrews, Ocean Imaging.

1. Marine ecology

Sounds complicated but essentially this means looking at everything underwater – plants, animals and all the things surrounding them, even the non-living stuff – to see how they interact.

You might not realise that off the Adelaide coast, there’s a whole underwater world brimming with amazing living things that are constantly interacting.

There’s seagrass meadows, estuaries and rocky reefs that support cool plants, like golden kelp (an algae), and a whole range of fish, crustaceans (such as crabs) and marine mammals.

The location of the program – which can change from year to year – determines exactly what is covered in the marine ecology component, but it often includes topics like food webs, aka ‘who eats who’. This could mean exploring:

  • sharks as an apex predator, in other words: top of the food chain
  • what southern calamari eat
  • the important role sunshine plays in the ocean!

It’s a great taster for anyone considering being a marine biologist.

Youth Coastal Ambassadors kayaking at Pt Noarlunga.
Youth Coastal Ambassadors kayaking at Pt Noarlunga. Photo: Claire Lock.

2. Environments and organisms of the Adelaide coast

Adelaide has lots of different coastal environments – from mangroves and wetlands, to coastal dunes and sandy sea floors.

Our ambassadors-to-be dive – or more accurately, kayak and snorkel – straight into some of these special places, such as the Port Noarlunga reef.

This reef forms part of the Great Southern Reef, which stretches 8000 km along the southern part of Australia – not just South Australia – and is just as diverse and important as the Great Barrier Reef!

Kayaking the Onkaparinga River also gives ambassadors first-hand experience of where the salty sea water meets the river, in what’s called an estuary.

Indoors, the exploration continues with a 3D virtual reality ‘snorkel’ with Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries (EMS) – a chance to get up close and personal with marine wildlife like giant Australian cuttlefish, sea dragons, jellyfish and sea lions!

Burka-Senior Man Karl Winda Telfer sharing fire ceremony with Youth Coastal Ambassadors
Burka-Senior Man Karl Winda Telfer sharing fire ceremony with Youth Coastal Ambassadors. Photo: Claire Lock.

3. Tirkandi – Country, Culture and Connection

This part of the Youth Coastal Ambassador program is delivered by Burka-Senior Man Karl Winda Telfer, founder of Yellaka – Old Wisdom-New Ways.

This is a critical component of the course, giving our Youth Coastal Ambassadors an understanding of Sea Country and living Cultural landscapes.

Our 2022 ambassadors participated in cultural education on Country, with Karl guiding cultural knowledge and connection through story, fire ceremonies, and native foods.

When do applications open?

Applications for the Youth Coastal Ambassadors program generally open in early February.

They’re only open for a couple of weeks, so it’s important to have your finger on the pulse by:

We do occasionally post about the program on our YouTube channel too.

Is there a program for adults?

Yes! We also run a Coastal Ambassadors program for people aged 18 and above, who live in metropolitan Adelaide.

It’s also free and runs once a year – usually applications for this program open in November, and the program starts in January / February.

It’s a longer program though and generally runs one day a week for 7 or 8 weeks.

Can I get involved on the coast when the program is not running?

Absolutely! There are lots of ways to get involved in our blue backyard. You could sign up to go snorkelling with EMS, join a volunteer group working along the coast, or simply grab a pair of flip flops or flippers and visit some of Adelaide’s best beaches or snorkelling spots.

If you live along the coast, you could even transform your yard into a stunning native plant garden that’s low maintenance and provides food and shelter for local wildlife using our coastal garden guides for design and planting.

Hear from past adult and youth ambassadors

The Green Adelaide Youth Coastal Ambassadors program is led by Ocean Imaging marine biologist and filmmaker Stefan Andrews, and Burka-Senior Man Karl Winda Telfer, founder of Yellaka – Old Wisdom-New Ways, and coordinated and funded by Green Adelaide.

To check if you live in the region and are eligible for the program, enter your address in the search function of this map.

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