Reimagining the Marine Discovery Centre


On Thursday 23 February 2023 the MDC welcomed invited guests to the ‘Reimagining the Marine Discovery Centre’ event. In 41 degree heat we thank the 100 guests who came to see the upgraded centre.

Matt Cowdrey MP – member for Colton was our distinguished guest wearing many hats including representing the Minister for Education, Blair BoyerCouncillor Kenzie van den Nieuwelaar represented the City of Charles Sturt.

Professor Chris Daniels, MDC’s esteemed Patron, emceed the event introducing Dr Zoe Doubleday as our special guest speaker, sharing her knowledge and expertise, Heaps Good Productions, Michael Mills provided the wonderful pre speech entertainment. Karno Martin welcomed our guests to Countr,y and Carmen Bishop shared with guests the journey of the MDC of the last 25 years from being the brainchild of the original Director, Tim Hoile to what the future holds and how our dedicated team of staff and volunteers will continue to educate 7,000+ students every year about South Australia’s marine environment and MDC's continued reimagined growth.

Thank you to Green Adelaide for supporting this event their continued support of marine education in South Australia

Thank you Patritti Wines and Adelaide Classic Catering for the quality refreshments and catering

The centre wouldn’t be what it is with thanks to our dedicated team of volunteers who have donated 2,280 hours of their time in the last 2 years. This equates to almost $100,000 of labour.

Thank you for attending and your continued support AAEE SA ChapterButterfly Conservation SACatholic Education SACleland Wildlife ParkCommunity Bank West BeachConservation Council SAConservation Volunteers AustraliaDepartment for Environment and WaterDepartment for Education SADepartment for Primary Industries and Regions PIRSA, Experiencing Marine SanctuariesFastbreak FilmsFriends of Gulf St VincentGHDVisit Henley BeachInspiring South AustraliajimlosteJunior Field NaturalistsKESAB, Marine Impressions, Great Southern ReefMarine Life Society of SAMOD. UniSA, Monkeystack, National Science Week SANueplexOcean ImagingOutdoors IndoorsPort Environment CentrePositureAUSMAPSA MuseumSA Science Teachers AssociationScience Alive!Seastar Rock ProductionsStar of the Sea SchoolTAFE SATennyson Dunes GroupThe Science CollectiveUniversity of AdelaideUniSAWACRA, and all of our other supporters.

Carmen Bishop speech

Good afternoon everyone,

Welcome to the Marine Discovery Centre and thank you for taking the time to come and visit us this afternoon, especially on this 41 degree day.

I would firstly like to thank Green Adelaide for their continued support, and their assistance with putting this event on. Also to the many other supporters who align with our mission and are here with us today. Without your continued support, the Marine Discovery Centre wouldn’t be the institution in South Australia that it is today.

I would like to make special mention of our patrons Chris Daniels (who has kindly invited you here and is emceeing todays proceedings) and Karl Telfer (who is unable to be with us today, but we are lucky to have Karno, his nephew as a key part of the team at the MDC and is vital in sharing Aboriginal Culture and knowledge to every visitor here). I would also like to acknowledge the first patrons of the MDC, Barbara Hardy and Andrew McLeod. The original visionaries.

From humble beginnings, the story of the MDC.

The Centre was the brainchild of then Star of the Sea - Marine Studies Coordinator, Tim Hoile. Tim had a vision. His love of the marine environment started with two seahorses in an aquarium outside of his classroom. This grew to a few more aquariums and with the support of then Principal Sister Enid when this property came up for sale she purchased with the support of the Henley Beach Parish.

Tim is unable to be here today but those of you that know him, you’ll be happy to know he is enjoying himself overseas with his love of surfing. But I would like to personally welcome Peter Hoskin who is here today and was central to setting up the centre from that very first day with Tim.

The Marine Discovery Centre was officially opened on October 31 1997, with the project being made possible through funding from Coastcare, Fisheries Action Program, Landcare, KESAB and the Marine and Coastal Schools Program.

On Friday 26 March 2010 Senator Penny Wong, Federal Minister for Climate Change and Water, officially opened a newly refurbished MDC.

In 2018, the centre completed another major redevelopment following the Fund My Neighbourhood grant win of $170,000.

In 2020, the centre was able to upgrade its educational interactive resources  thanks to a $95,000 grant from Green Adelaide. And now in 2023, we welcome you to be part of reimagining the Marine Discovery Centre.

As a vital educational facility, one of the main goals of the centre is to raise awareness about the importance of marine conservation. The centre provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about the diverse marine life that can be found in the waters of South Australia and the Great Southern Reef. They not only learn that 90% of our species are endemic to these waters, they also learn about the impacts of human activities on marine life, such as pollution and overfishing, and how we can all take steps to protect our oceans. Our programs also focus on ecological sustainability and Kaurna culture its connection to land and sea country.

The Centre offers a variety of marine conservation and Aboriginal educational programs for schools and community groups, including excursions and incursions.

More than 7,000 students take part of this program every year and become immersed in discoveries about our local environment.

Improving the quality of learning experiences is vital in an ongoing vision to empower students and the community through inspirational and interactive discovery.

Georgie Kenning our resident marine scientist has been instrumental in not only looking after our marine life but educating the student visitors to the MDC. Her delivery is inspiring the minds of the future environmental leaders of South Australia.

Karno Martin is the MDC’s Cultural Educator who leads the cultural education program to the thousands of visitors every year. He runs his program not only from the Meyunna Wodli inside the centre but also outside on Country, introducing students and community members to the medicinal uses of plants and the sustainable living practices our First Nations people lived by. Learnings that are not taught in the every day classroom, but what every person living on Kaurna land should be inspired to know.

While the Marine Discovery Centre is a valuable resource for the community, it would not be possible without the support of our dedicated volunteers. Volunteers, university interns and work experience students have volunteered 2,280 hours of their time in the last 2 years alone which equals almost $100,000 of labour. This is mutually beneficial program as they are able to secure employment in their fields based on quality work experience they have undertaken here.

This centre wouldn’t be what it is today without the continued support of people who want to educate the South Australian community and we thank our donors, supporters and partners. Their time, money, and effort help the centre to continue its mission of educating the public and protecting marine life.

So why are we here today.

We want to inspire you, showcase the centre and take you on the journey with us for how we can reimagine and grow the MDC for the next 25 years.

I can say the word Nemo, and you all know who I mean. Why can’t we do the same to our Porcupinefish, the Port Jackson Shark, the Southern Fidler Ray, the Leafy Sea Dragon and many more of our other local treasures. Did you know that the majority of Australians think the Great Barrier Reef has more species than the Great Southern Reef, you know their wrong, we are to here educate.

As a child who was educated in South Australia, I knew more about the Great Barrier Reef and Pacific Ocean than I did about our local coast. It seems many visitors are the same. Personally, for the 3 years I have been here I have learnt more about our marine environment than I did than my 40 plus years combined before.  Children and adults alike leave here in awe and a with new-found appreciation for our marine environment and the first steps of taking ownership to protect it.

We’ve had children here that have never seen the ocean, or stepped on sand, children that had no idea the amazing marine life that exist in their own backyard. Children who have taken key facts back home to their families about even the basics of using the right bin for their rubbish, recycling or compost waste. Think of the dinner table discussions we are creating.

We are accessible to all schools, all students. We’re not only educating and showing them our local marine life, we are empowering them to protect it.

But we do have challenges.

Sometimes we feel like we are a victim of our own success.

Challenges include our high visitation but minimal space, we can only fit a certain number of students in at any one time. We also have to turn bookings away during our peak season.

With 3 paid staff and a reliance on volunteers we can only open to the public once a month. Every single Open Day sells out, there is a strong demand for this service.

We currently educate 7000 students, we could easily welcome 30,000 plus annually if we had the capacity to open our doors more.

In today’s economy we can’t increase the cost of excursions. A lot of schools can’t pass on these costs on to families, plus the increasing costs of bus hire. Perhaps we need our own bus?

Excursions only cover 20% of our operating costs. But like I said we can’t increase these costs. The people that need to know the steps to actively protect our environment can’t afford it.

We are making a difference. We are all here today with the same love for our environment and also the knowledge of why it’s so important to empower our next generation to not only follow suit but make it better.

We need to grow

We have high visitation. Already this year we have increased excursions by 400% for the January – April period versus the same period for last year

We not only survived Covid, we thrived, the moment we were closed, not by choice, we changed our game plan. We went online, we created online apps, videos, easily accessible curriculum plans. We got people to enjoy and learn about the local SA environment in their own time. We were also able to reach people in regional areas. We saw not only the need but also the want for more information about the South Australian Coastline. We found new resources to create.

We are not only key for education and marine and environmental conservation, we can be a pivotal part of South Australian tourism. We together can share South Australia’s best kept secret. We can continue the discussion with smart partnerships.

I look forward to welcoming you inside, our dedicated team of staff and volunteers are there to answer all of your questions.

We are also excited to announce our new children’s program: Porcis Ocean Patrol a series we are creating with Fastbreak Films. Kylie Claude the producer of Fastbreak Films has kindly donated her time and will be in the Discovery Room sharing the vision we have of educating the world on the big screen

Georgie, Karno and I will be following up over the next week with phone calls and a survey to get your input and your thoughts of the centre and its next steps. We want your opinion for a shared vision on empowering and educating our future about South Australia’s marine environment.

Together we can make a difference.

Thank you.