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Behind the scenes of ‘the island class’

Written by Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Arts student Maeve Moroney.

If I told you that you could spend five days on picturesque North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) for a university class, would you believe me?

If you don’t, you should.

Environmental Field Analysis of Rainforest & Coastal Regions, also known as ‘the island class’, is a subject offered by the Faculty of Society & Design. The class is run as an intensive, meaning that students spend five days on North Stradbroke Island learning about the environmental, social, and cultural issues that arise in environmental management and decision-making. Yes, you heard that right. You can spend five days on North Stradbroke Island for a university class. Sounds pretty great, right? Here’s an overview of my experience taking the island class in the January 2022 semester.

Arriving at North Stradbroke Island

On the first day of this class, we made our way from the Gold Coast to North Stradbroke Island via the ferry departing from Cleveland. When we arrived on the island, we checked into our accommodation and met up with our lecturer, Daryl McPhee, and assistant educator, Krista Mathis, for a group dinner on the waterfront. 

Cultural tour

The second day of the island class was absolutely jam-packed. We began the day with a cultural tour by Elisha Kissick, a Quandamooka woman whose connection to the island dates back generations. Elisha started the tour at Brown Lake (Bummeira), where she shared her knowledge of men’s and women’s business on the island as well as Dreamtime stories from the area.  

After this, Elisha guided us through the former mission site named Terra Bulla, as well as Myora Springs (Capembah) and parts of Point Lookout (Mulumba). We had the opportunity to try different bush foods and learn about the medicinal properties of various native plants.  

This tour was an invaluable experience in developing my understanding of the history and ongoing presence of First Nations people in the Moreton Bay region. The perspectives shared by our tour guide, coupled with the immersive experience of trying different bush foods, is something I cannot recommend enough to all Bondies.  

Adder Rock Camping Ground

Point Lookout (Mulumba) walk

After undertaking the cultural tour, we headed up to Point Lookout (Mulumba) to complete the Gorge Walk. Throughout this walk, we were guided by our lecturer on Dreamtime stories of the area, as well as the native plants and animals present. The views were breathtaking – at some points, we could even see the entire length of Main Beach

Dolphin, kangaroo and koala sightings

North Stradbroke Island is renowned for its diverse range of native animals. Throughout the trip, we saw multiple kangaroos and koalas all over the island. One morning, when walking to buy a coffee, I even saw a kangaroo feeding on the grass of someone’s front yard! 

Our evenings were spent relaxing on the waterfront, watching the sunset. Most evenings, we saw dolphins swim in close to where we were all sitting. The dolphins were Australian humpback dolphins, which are native to our country, which made the experience even more unique. It was incredible to be immersed in nature like this and learn about our surroundings, all while receiving credit for a university class. 

Marine debris collection

One of the most rewarding activities of this trip was the marine debris collection on Main Beach. We broke into two groups and walked a kilometre down the beach in opposite directions, collecting as much rubbish as our bags would allow. The objects we found were wide and varied. There were shoes, water bottles, leather bags, rope, shampoo bottles, hats, and plenty more.  

Later that day, when we regrouped to sort the rubbish, we weighed the rubbish – it was over 55kg! This experience truly opened my eyes to the global waste crisis we are experiencing. It was confronting to see the impacts of consumerism on beautiful landscapes such as North Stradbroke Island. 

After the locals became aware of the work we’d done, we received many kind comments and expressions of gratitude. It was a unique opportunity to give directly back to the community. 

The island class Bondies during their seagrass mapping and yabby assessment

Seagrass mapping and yabby assessment

After our marine debris collection, we headed down to the bay to conduct seagrass mapping and a yabby assessment. These practical activities allowed us to learn about the native flora and fauna in the bays of Stradbroke Island, as well as develop practical skills in survey design, to take with us into our future careers. This was particularly beneficial for the students hoping to work in environmental management and consulting. 

The best part about this activity was that while we were learning, we were surrounded by the stunning blue hues of the Stradbroke waters. 

Fishing expedition

When I signed up for this class, I did not expect to spend an entire morning fishing. Let’s just say this – my expectations were well exceeded. And, it wasn’t just any fishing experience – it was a unique First Nations fishing experience.  

On our fourth day, we spent the morning fishing in Amity Point (Pulan Pulan) with First Nations local leader and fisherman Andrew Watego. Andrew guided us through fishing tips and tricks for Stradbroke Island, reminding us that the cultural aspects of fishing for coastal peoples cannot be underestimated. To my surprise, after we finished fishing, Andrew cooked the fish traditionally on the beach for us to share. This was an absolute personal highlight of the trip – something I simply could not learn inside a classroom. 

Fishing bait used at Amity Point (Pulan Pulan)

Learn from an industry leader

If you’re not already sold on this trip, you probably will be after learning about the Bond University academic who runs the trip to Stradbroke every year. Daryl McPhee, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and lead educator of this subject, is widely recognised as a leading scholar in the industry. His works varies from sharks to worms to resource economics, and his book Environmental History and Ecology of Moreton Bay was nominated for a Queensland literary award for outstanding contributions to Queensland history.  

To put it simply, Daryl knows what he’s talking about. Throughout the entire trip, we were guided by his extensive knowledge on local wildlife, coastal management, weather, and culture. We had every opportunity to ask questions about the subject content, as well as to learn interesting stories about the history of North Stradbroke Island.  

Costs involved

There were hardly any out-of-pocket expenses for this trip. The accommodation, cultural tours, and transportation to the island were all covered in the subject fees students automatically pay to the University. This means that when we got to the island, we could focus on learning everything this class has to offer. 

If you’re looking for a unique adventure in a stunning location with great company, the island class at Bond University is worth exploring. 

To ensure that you don’t miss out on Semester 223 class enrolments, be sure to: 

  • Keep an eye on the subject page for information about future subject offerings 
  • Contact Student Assist to see how this subject can fit into your program structure and sequence 
  • Reach out to the Faculty of Society & Design or Daryl McPhee with any questions 

Interested in Semester 223 enrolments?

Keep exploring Environmental Field Analysis of Rainforest and Coastal Regions, AKA ‘the island class’.


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