close icon

Production   /  Kingsley Griffin

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

Australia’s long-overlooked kelp forests are revealed through personal stories from this wild and rapidly changing coast


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Stefan Andrews

  • PRODUCER Kingsley Griffin



The Great Southern Reef (GSR) fringes over 8000 km of Australia’s temperate southern coast, from Kalbarri, WA to Moreton Bay, QLD. Despite approximately 70% of Australians living nearby this interconnected reef system, few know what it’s diverse environments look like and how important they are. The audience will journey the length of this spectacular coastline and reef, delving deeply into the stories and science that make this ecosystem so vital from an environmental, socio-economic, and cultural perspective.

The fragility of humans’ dependent relationship with natural environments is central to the storyline. For a foundation we will explore Australian First Nations’ culture, environmental identities in song and story, and the concept of country as one interconnected system. This core will be linked to biological, social, and cultural connections to the Great Southern Reef in contemporary Australia. We draw on personal accounts from across the region for the narrative of the film.

Support this project

0% funded
  • $80,000.00

  • $0.00

  • October 2020

  • 0

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $




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.

The overlooked value of kelp forests was highlighted and the name ‘Great Southern Reef’ proposed by Dr. Scott Bennett and other marine scientists in 2016. This garnered short-term interest from media, and has broad support among scientists, but the GSR identity is only now getting a ‘second wave’ of interest. In part this fresh momentum has been due to alarming changes to Great Southern Reef environments in WA, NSW, SA, VIC and Tasmania, largely driven by climate change - and new attempts at drilling for oil in the Bight. However, the Australian public, media and political groups still lack a deep awareness and appreciation of what is at stake.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The three overarching goals of this project are to:
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?

This project explicitly aims to illuminate public knowledge of an oft-overlooked environment, embed the identity of the Great Southern Reef in modern Australian culture, and promote stewardship in individuals and communities.
Three specific objectives are to:
- Raise the profile of Australia's kelp forest systems by establishing the identity of the Great Southern Reef in the public eye.
- Pioneer new technologies and assess their effectiveness to better teach high school students about the changing temperate reefs of Australia.
- Communicate locally relevant issues and demonstrate the value of the GSR environment at a local, regional and national scale.
We hope that these objectives will translate to greater appreciation of the GSR environment, investment in research and development, and economic stability in the region.


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

We have received/are receiving in-kind support from: The University of Western Australia Oceans Institute, The University of New South Wales, University of Tasmania/Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, The Balu Blue Foundation, Greenpeace Asia-Pacific, The Wilderness Society, Reef Life Survey, Australian National Surfing Museum, Diving Adelaide, Dive Victoria, ScubaBo, Eaglehawk Neck Dive Center, OpenROV, Nat Geo Open Explorer, Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries, and others.

Many of these groups are involved in some aspect of our issue area already, and we are actively facilitating this network wherever possible.

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. A grant from National Geographic allowed us to begin development, and 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.