DIV­ING IN TO HELP WORLD

PRO­TECT­ING THE OCEAN, SWIM­MERS AND THE RIGHTS OF REFUGEES IS WHAT DRIVES THESE THREE IN­SPIR­ING YOUNG PEO­PLE

Life & Style Weekend - - COVER STORY - WORDS: AN­NIE CAUGHEY

In need of some week­end in­spi­ra­tion for that pas­sion project? Well, this is guar­an­teed to have you pulling out the draw­ing books again. The Sunshine Coast is home to many tal­ented and in­spir­ing youth, who are kick­ing goals and mak­ing some se­ri­ous tracks in the world. From en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion to world refugee pro­tec­tion, this lo­cal gen­er­a­tion is truly some­thing to be proud of. While the list could go on for­ever, here are just a few ex­tra impressive lo­cal per­son­al­i­ties in the first of our two-part in­spi­ra­tion se­ries.

STEPH GABRIEL SCI­EN­TIST, EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR, OCEAN CON­SER­VA­TION­IST

At 20 years of age, Steph didn’t know what she wanted to do or who she was, so she packed her bags and headed off, ex­plor­ing the world in search of the an­swer. Her jour­ney led her to the Cay­man Is­lands where she worked on board tourist boats. Her job? To swim down to the depths and lure stingrays towards the sur­face with live squid, so tourists could see and touch them. She soon fell in love with the ocean and de­cided to study a Bach­e­lor of En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence at the Univer­sity of the Sunshine Coast. Steph is well known for her lo­cal fash­ion la­bel Oceanzen. Her biki­nis are made from old fishing nets and plas­tic wa­ter bot­tles found in the ocean. She is passionate about pro­tect­ing our wa­ters and runs con­ser­va­tion trips in Tonga, al­low­ing tourists and lo­cals to swim with whales and other marine life to show first-hand the im­pact plas­tic pol­lu­tion is hav­ing on our oceans.

Why is the ocean so im­por­tant to you?

The ocean is home to in­cred­i­ble marine life. I’ve been so lucky to be in­volved in re­search­ing hump­back whales, sea lions, sharks and coral reefs and it’s through these ex­pe­ri­ences that have made me fall more in love with them and their home.

Where did your idea to de­sign swimwear from ma­te­ri­als such as plas­tic, fishing ropes and other pol­lu­tion that is threat­en­ing the health of our oceans stem from?

I was in my fi­nal year of study­ing for my de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and wanted a voice for sus­tain­abil­ity. I wanted to share ev­ery­thing that I had learned and more so draw aware­ness to some of the se­ri­ous is­sues I had learned about plas­tic pol­lu­tion. Eight years ear­lier, I was trav­el­ling South Amer­ica and was sit­ting around a bon­fire one night chat­ting with folk from around the world, and some­one had men­tioned some­thing about a fabric made from re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles and fishing nets from the ocean. At the time I hadn’t be­gun my sus­tain­able jour­ney but it was this same con­ver­sa­tion that got me think­ing all those years later when study­ing my de­gree. I loved surf­ing and I’m a scuba dive mas­ter, so I was al­ways wear­ing biki­nis, and so af­ter lots of re­search I de­cided to com­bine both of my pas­sions – marine con­ser­va­tion and swimwear – to­gether. I was work­ing two ca­sual jobs and study­ing full-time at uni, so it wasn’t an easy launch, but through lots of hard work and re­silience, it has or­gan­i­cally grown into a global com­mu­nity of sup­port­ers.

How do you think this type of fash­ion is pos­i­tively in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple?

It’s amaz­ing that tech­nol­ogy is al­low­ing us to re­gen­er­ate waste, but the real so­lu­tion comes from stop­ping waste at the source. Through our plat­form Ocean Zen we go to schools and events and share aware­ness on plas­tic pol­lu­tion and the neg­a­tive im­pact it is hav­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment and hu­man health. We are more than just a swimwear brand, we are in­spir­ing our con­sumers to live more sus­tain­ably and shop eth­i­cally and to think about the foot­print that they leave be­hind when shop­ping. Our com­mu­nity of 40,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers alone be­lieve in our cause for a cleaner ocean and con­nect with our pas­sion.

MICHAEL JEF­FERIES LAW STU­DENT, HU­MAN RIGHTS AD­VO­CATE

Michael Jef­feries is a mo­ti­vated self-starter who is passionate about hu­man rights. Re­cently he was an­nounced as the Aus­tralian Law Stu­dent of the Year at the Aus­tralian Law Awards. This award was de­ter­mined on aca­demic re­sults, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and lead­er­ship in the com­mu­nity. Michael has been heav­ily in­volved with the cul­ture at the Univer­sity of the Sunshine Coast as a stu­dent leader, in­clud­ing co-chair­ing the univer­sity’s Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil for three years. Even more impressive is his re­cent

in­flu­ence as a key leader of a youth-based in­ter­na­tional refugee ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tion, World for Refugees, in­clud­ing as its global chair­man in late-2017. In Au­gust Michael rep­re­sented USC at the Univer­sity Schol­ars Lead­er­ship Sym­po­sium at the United Na­tions Con­fer­ence Cen­tre in Bangkok, Thai­land. He is now study­ing his fi­nal se­mes­ter of law at the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore as a New Colombo Plan scholar. Next year he will start his ca­reer in cor­po­rate law at Price­wa­ter­house­c­oop­ers in Syd­ney.

You have achieved so much for a per­son your age. When did you first dis­cover your pas­sion for hu­man rights and law?

Through proac­tively seek­ing out lots of dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties. My strongest early in­flu­ences were prob­a­bly my in­volve­ment with UN Youth Aus­tralia dur­ing school as well as later at­tend­ing the 2014 Har­vard Model United Na­tions.

How do you find the time to jug­gle ev­ery­thing?

De­velop clear pri­or­i­ties and max­imise your pro­duc­tiv­ity. I have two favourite quotes re­lat­ing to this: “Suc­cess is rented rather than owned, and the rent is due ev­ery day.” “Tell me what you value and I might be­lieve you, but show me your cal­en­dar and your bank state­ment, and I’ll show you what you re­ally value.” – Peter Drucker

If you could give your 18-year-old-self one bit of ad­vice what would it be?

Sorry, I can’t keep it to just one. Be mi­cro-am­bi­tious and work hard in pur­suit of what is im­me­di­ately in front of you. The path to your fu­ture achieve­ments will emerge in the wake of your cur­rent ones. Be fully present and avoid the un­con­scious sen­ti­ment that the next mo­ment will be more im­por­tant than the cur­rent one; your life is only ever “now”. At the same time, vi­su­alise your­self where you want to be. Have sight of long-term goals and fre­quently re­visit them, but pur­sue their ex­act ful­fil­ment lightly. Be adapt­able, be­cause the next best op­por­tu­nity could eas­ily be in your pe­riph­ery. Fi­nally, be thank­ful for “closed doors” and missed op­por­tu­ni­ties. Fo­cus on what you can change; if it didn’t hap­pen, it wasn’t meant to be. Keep learn­ing, keep grow­ing, stay true to your­self, and keep striv­ing; some­thing even bet­ter (and more suit­able for you) will be just around the cor­ner.

“WE ARE MORE THAN JUST A SWIMWEAR BRAND, WE ARE IN­SPIR­ING OUR CON­SUMERS TO LIVE MORE SUS­TAIN­ABLY AND SHOP ETH­I­CALLY”

PHOTO: IRENE DOWDY

Julie Bishop with USC schol­ars Myles Kreis (left) and Michael Jef­feries.

POR­TRAIT PHOTO: PA­TRICK WOODS

LEFT: Steph Gabriel runs con­ser­va­tion re­treats to Tonga. FAR LEFT: Steph’s swimwear range made from re­cy­cled plas­tic.

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