37 Years of our National Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef

24th June 2024

On 24 June 1987, The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authorities National Education Centre officially opened its doors. Following its historic opening, the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium quickly became a world-class education facility, a globally recognised tourism attraction, and an important scientific and research centre, welcoming more than 4 million people through its doors and educating students globally.  

37 years on and the entire facility is closed and at risk of permanent closure due to a government funding shortfall.  

Townsville Enterprise CEO Claudia Brumme-Smith said the goal is to secure an additional $100 million dollars to rebuild this facility.  

“We must remember that it’s not just Townsville’s aquarium; this is the national reef education centre for Australia representing the world’s most well-known reef ecosystem; a facility that is owned by the Federal government - who needs to take responsibility for reopening it,” Ms Brumme-Smith said.  

“The next generation of Australians deserve this education facility to be reopened, and the timing could not be more important as pressures on the reef continue to grow and education remains to be one of the key enablers for change,” Ms Brumme-Smith said.  

"At a time when coral bleaching and reef conservation is part of the national and international news cycle; when urgent action should be taken to protect our national treasure - the need for quality expert-led education intertwined with rich tapestry of Indigenous knowledge of sea country, cannot be underestimated or deferred - generations of children are missing a critical opportunity to be the next wave of reef guardians.” 

Steve ‘Pricey’ Price, retired radio veteran who spent more than 50 years on air over his career recalls the moment that the Aquarium opened, and its significance to not just the Townsville community – but the world.  

“This glorious time machine of reef evolution and protection cannot be lost to us, more so to our future. This is not a goldfish bowl to admire because it's pretty, this has to be the greatest reef education in the world,” said Pricey.  

“It's for our future reef champions, for the kids who after seeing the reef firsthand, want to save it, protect it, love it. Everyone has the right to see, learn, and marvel at our great reef. To see exactly why we must save it. Not on a screen, not in a book, it must be experienced as it is, alive, colourful, evolving. That's what wonderland now reef HQ was. The most wonderful education to kids all over the world, no other facility does this.” 

“This world within a world can be enjoyed for all abilities, the night reef life, the different species from mangroves to the outer reef for all to enjoy and learn. The only home is the Reef World of Townsville. For our Future.” 

Wilson Ryan Grose Lawyers was one of the initial community donors that supported the ongoing operational cost of the Great Barrier Aquarium when it first opened its doors.  

WRG Lawyers, Principal Partner, Peter Duffy, believes it's not good enough that it's still closed.  

“There were almost 100 local businesses who put their hands in their pockets to support the operational costs of Reef HQ when it was first opened. This was a community driven project that supported global reef education,” said Mr. Duffy.  

“At the end of the day this is the National Education Centre of the Great Barrier Reef, it is a federal asset, and it needs to be funded.”  

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