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MDC in parliament

The Hon. P. CAICA ( Colton ) ( 14:29 ): My question is to the Minister for Education and Child Development. How is the government supporting young South Australians to learn about our precious coastal environment?
The Hon. S.E. CLOSE ( Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:30): I thank the member for the question. I know how dear the ocean is to his heart in more ways than one.
An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE: And what's in it, indeed, and what he can remove from it and enjoy later. But for the purposes of this question, I would like to refer to the Marine Discovery Centre, which is at the Star of the Sea Primary School at Henley Beach. I think twice now I have gone to the Marine Discovery Centre with the member for Colton. This centre has been running for about 15 years and it is teaching our kids about South Australia's coastal and marine world. It is an award-winning centre and it has a unique hands-on approach in how it teaches the kids about the marine environment.


I note that the member for Colton is not only a long-time supporter but also an ambassador for the centre. The centre uses a range of innovative resources, including models, activities, aquariums, trails and experiments, and opens students' eyes to our marine environment, including the state's marine emblem, the leafy sea dragon. Director, Tim Hoile, sums up the centre's approach to learning, saying he prefers children to make a discovery for themselves than to be told 100 facts. Not surprisingly, the centre is in high demand for school excursions, with more than 8,400 children and adults visiting every year.


I am very pleased to inform the house and also the member that the state government will continue to support the delivery of education programs at this centre this year with a grant of $15,000. This funding will support the centre to be more accessible for more children, updating the displays and training of the centre's 43 dedicated volunteers, and allow the centre to continue to employ a marine biologist in residence to work with the students and give them an insight into what marine biology is about.


I note that this is a part of STEM that is less talked about. In talking about STEM, we talk often about the hard sciences and the sciences that play into technology and less about the natural sciences. While our future is largely dependent on students not only being obviously extremely mathematically literate but also being able to manipulate technology, an understanding of the natural environment is absolutely essential.


When we look at the crises we are facing through climate change and loss of biodiversity, and the challenges for our farmers in not only maintaining their standard of living but feeding everyone with that rapidly changing environment, it is absolutely essential that we enthuse kids about the natural world and the way that the world works. That is no less the case for our oceans, where there are deep concerns, not only about the rising temperatures and therefore the rising levels of the ocean, but the increasing acidity that is caused through the carbonisation of water as the oceans have been absorbing the excess carbon that has been produced over the last 150 or so years.


To have a little centre in Henley Beach that is part of invigorating an interest and understanding in children about the importance of our natural environment, the importance of our ocean, but also how it works and how it matters, is fantastic, and I am very proud to be able to be part of supporting it.

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