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Production   /  Kingsley Griffin

Australia’s “other” reef – the Great Southern Reef

Harnessing the energy from passionate coastal stewards to drive recognition and action to Australia's kelp forests.


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Stefan Andrews

  • PRODUCER Kingsley Griffin



The Great Southern Reef is an extensive kelp forest reef system straddling the entire southern coastline of Australia. Yet few even know it exists.
The fishers, scientists, surfers, divers, educators and artists whose way of life depends on these reefs are the local stewards and custodians of their local environment. These are the individuals playing their part in a larger ecosystem — a concept that’s central to indigenous Australians’ culture, and has been for generations of harmonious living across land and sea country. These personalities are on the front line, experiencing first hand the substantial environmental changes that scientists have been raising the alarm about for decades. Climate change is rapidly warming our oceans and unless it is stopped, dieback of kelp forests will have irreversible consequences for the biodiversity and fisheries of this region, severely impacting coastal economies.

Support this project

2.99% funded
  • $100,000.00

  • $2,985.00

  • February 2021

  • 6

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Ralph Pliner $200.00
Ralph Pliner $200.00
Sue Maxwell $35.00
Tracey Hamilton $50.00
Anonymous $500.00
Anita Jacoby $2,000.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

70% of Australians live within 50km of a vast interconnected network of reefs that fringe our wild southern coast, but for years this environment has been overlooked. Without knowing it, the coastal culture that many recognise as distinctly Australian is under threat. It's time to fully realise what we have, and what we can do to maintain it.
For years, oil giants have applied for permits to drill for oil in the pristine Great Australian Bight region, encouraged by governments. But each time, companies have been rebuffed by powerful community campaigns that prioritise protecting this pristine environment over profit.
Despite these wins, the Great Southern Reef still faces a huge existential threat. Climate change is rapidly warming our oceans and unless it is stopped, dieback of kelp forests will have irreversible consequences for the biodiversity and fisheries of this region, severely impacting coastal economies.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

1. Convey the social-ecological importance of temperate reef ecosystems (the Great Southern Reef) to school children, the wider public, and decision makers.
2. Drive stronger community stewardship, public engagement and scientific awareness of the biodiversity, indigenous significance and threats to Australia’s temperate reef ecosystems.
3. Encourage public involvement at an individual and community level to address negative human impacts.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Raise the global profile of the Great Southern Reef and Australia’s pristine southern waters to benefit the reputation of the region for local and international tourism, community groups, local organisations, regional culture, and cultural history.
To increase public understanding of the broad value (social, economic, cultural) of Australia’s kelp forest ecosystems.
For the film to become a tool to support the work of organisations that are working to protect these ecosystems from the threats of development and climate change.
For Australians to understand, adopt and put into practice the indigenous concept of ‘caring for country’, acting sustainably and taking pride looking after their section of coastline to become stewards of their part of this larger system.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

After 2 years of investment into this project, the team have reverse engineered their impact strategy and have developed a strong network of partnerships and identified key characters and organisations to feature in the web series.

We will:

a) Tour the documentary series around Australia to build community around the project, featuring the work of local organisations, tourism operators, artists and community groups.
b) Run professional development workshops with teachers to build confidence in teaching about temperate marine ecosystems, threats and biodiversity.
c) Use technology to bring temperate reefs to life in the classroom, allowing students to make scientific observations, pose questions, work collaboratively and solve problems.
d) An ongoing web series of mini episodes focusing on key regions, habitats, species and stories of latest science, threats, conservation work will form the base of ongoing communication strategy and educational materials.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Phase I of the project received developmental funding from National Geographic Society and has received in kind support from a broad range of local organisations across the country.

In phase II and III, our 3 web series and impact campaign, our aim is to feature key players within our core themes to stimulate wide scale community involvement and support. We have identified a number of groups doing important work to understand and protect these ecosystems and are currently in the process of locking in official partners to feature in the series and impact campaign.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

For most viewers we believe that simply concreting the identity of the Great Southern Reef will achieve a great deal in regards to raising awareness for this crucial element to Australia's coastal culture. Until there is a recognised identity that represents this overlooked ecosystem, the many efforts made to protect, conserve, or rehabilitate areas under threat will remain very localised, and subjected to large-scale threats that will be difficult to overcome. But to a greater degree we hope that this film will provide a sense of unity and solidarity for the culture of the regions, and the many remote coastal towns, which can otherwise be quite isolated. This social cohesion is likely to be increasingly important for community resilience as the effects of climate change are felt in coming decades.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

The project has already driven fresh momentum for the identity of the Great Southern Reef. After extensive development and pre-production, we have growing support form a range of high-profile organisations from media to education, tourism, and conservation.

The next indicators of success will be recognition on a national and international scale for the GSR, which we expect to act as a launchpad for media interest and stories on national broadcasters. In late 2019 we contributed to a successful effort to have the GSR recognised as a marine "Hope Spot" by Mission Blue.

We are now focussing on campaigning for the uptake of the educational materials in high-schools, with the long-term aim of making the teaching of science concepts using the GSR examples commonplace across the region. Finally, the impact plan is open to expansion and could evolve into a longer-term movement by providing a network for stakeholders across the states neighbouring the GSR.