DIVING IN TO HELP WORLD
PROTECTING THE OCEAN, SWIMMERS AND THE RIGHTS OF REFUGEES IS WHAT DRIVES THESE THREE INSPIRING YOUNG PEOPLE
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”
Julie Bishop with USC scholars Myles Kreis (left) and Michael Jefferies.
LEFT: Steph Gabriel runs conservation retreats to Tonga. FAR LEFT: Steph’s swimwear range made from recycled plastic.