Beyonce iconically said “who runs the world? Girls!” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to tourism in Tropical North Queensland. To celebrate International Women’s Day, meet five iconic ladies making their mark in their fields and inspiring their fellow sisters to do the same.
Reef Education Manager, Experience Co
Undertaking a degree in Marine Biology allowed Samantha to follow her dream of being around the water every day.
In 2021, Samantha completed a Master of Education before moving to the role of Education Manager for Experience Co & GBR Biology, where she oversees the Reef Education Program. This entails delivering immersive education programs to the Great Barrier Reef which are aligned to the Australian curriculum, enhancing hands-on reef education and research, while developing opportunities for students to participate in ongoing field research projects and citizen science.
Samantha co-manages a team of Marine Biologists and Cultural Guides alongside building relationships with schools and marketing Experience Co and GBR Biology as leaders in reef education. She has developed and shared educational programs about the Great Barrier Reef with more than 4000 students from around Australia.
Building up women in the marine science industry is a passion point for Samantha.
“Within GBR Biology, we have a team of 18 Marine Biologists, and of that 16 are women, so we have a very close-knit team that support one another and are proud to represent women in STEM professions.”
“I am always looking to expand on education in the reef space and partnering with some incredible women in our sales team. We have just launched our new Reef Connect program to engage a different type of clientele from the school groups and students I have been working with for the last few years.”
On top of this, Samantha also mentors young people entering the tourism industry as a Young Tourism Leader in 2022 & 2023.
“GBR Biology is really proud to be offering mentorship to young people looking to enter the science tourism industry through internships and work placements. I believe empowerment comes through education and a sense of belonging, and this is what I strive to bring to our team and the wider community through the work of GBR Biology. I hope that I can be a positive role model for the up-and-coming minds that will have incredible opportunities within our industry.”
She has been provided opportunities to be involved in multiple documentaries and marketing campaigns including Down to Earth with Zac Efron in 2023 and Tourism Australia’s international marketing campaign titled ‘PhilAUSophy’ in 2019.
Tour Guide, Mandingalbay Authentic Indigenous Tours
Laurissa is a Djunbunji Ranger with Mandingalbay Authentic Indigenous Tours. She is one of the most experienced Indigenous female rangers in Queensland.
As a Ranger with the Djunbunji Land and Sea Program, Laurissa shares her traditional knowledge with visitors through the Hands on Country tour operated by the 100 percent Indigenous-owned Mandingalbay Yidinji Ancient Tours, just a 10 minute boat ride from the Cairns CBD.
Through the Djunbunji Land and Sea Program, the Rangers have rehabilitated wetlands degraded by farming and documented the many sacred sites, Dreaming tracks, and totemic animal and plant species. This knowledge was used to create an eco-cultural walking tour through the foothills of Greys Peak National Park.
As well as providing economic opportunities for the Mandingalbay Yidinji people, the program allows Laurissa and her kin to maintain their connection to Country on a daily basis.
“Being here carries a lot of memory. Working as a Ranger allows me to be a part of something bigger than myself – my Country, my culture, my people,” Laurissa says.
“On tour I immerse people in how our old people lived on Country. I try to connect people emotionally to Country so they feel that deeper appreciation and understanding of Mandingalby Bulmba (Country). It helps me to connect and to feel that transfer of knowledge – knowledge that has been passed down over generations to help us care for Country”.
“Showing cultural places like the shell midden site during the Hands on Country tour is very significant for me as I am looking at tangible proof of our people utilising the area, reconfirming the stories from our Dreaming.”
Wildlife Manager, CaPTA Group
Rabecca started her career as a wildlife keeper after going to study as a mature aged student. Rabecca always had a love of nature and science and has excelled in this industry ever since she began working for the CaPTA Group ten years ago.
Starting from the ground up, Rabecca has worked with animals on multiple levels. She has managed a domestic animal boarding facility, ran her own dog training business and now manages the wildlife departments at three company-owned facilities for the CaPTA Group. In the lead up to International Women’s Day, Rabecca reflects on how she’s handled her journey in this industry so far.
“So much of what we do is through mentoring. Mentoring is relied upon heavily in this realm of wildlife keeping and care. It’s just as important as study and research. I learn from listening to others and the sharing of information and experience makes this business very unique.”
“If I can teach something and learn something every day – it’s a good day. It’s my goal this year to mentor and guide the incredible up-and-coming staff we have in this field within the business.”
Equality is another important area that Rabecca thinks should be celebrated in the industry.
“I want all women and actually everyone to understand that an individual’s worth is as important as everyone else’s. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for me to reflect that EVERYONE deserves to be treated equally. We all go through life with an innate ability to collate and collect information into a personal “toolbox”. What we do with these tools and information is based on experience and shared knowledge. Don’t ever shut a new idea or opinion down – add it to your toolbox and enrich all future plans with the knowledge of many.”
Ranger, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
As a Skyrail Ranger, it’s Chanel’s responsibility to lead guests through an interpretive tour of the world’s oldest rainforest.
Starting in the Operations Department 5 years ago, it was Chanel’s enthusiasm for nature and the outdoors which led her to the Environment Team as a Ranger.
“I love working in the ancient rainforest and the ecotourism sector of the industry. Being a Skyrail Ranger is the perfect mix of sharing my love for the rainforest with our guests and assisting with implementing sustainable practices and then also getting my hands dirty in the gardens and being in nature. It was through this determination I was given the chance to become a Skyrail Ranger and was taught everything I needed to know. I am continually learning new skills and broadening my knowledge and of course, having so much fun along the way.”
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway was one of the first tourism attractions to achieve Ecotourism Australia Advanced Certification and the first tourism operator in the world to be awarded EarthCheck’s highest accolade – Master Certification – for demonstrating more than 15 years of commitment to the highest standards of sustainable environmental performance.
The immersive rainforest experience was built by helicopter to minimise impact on the World Heritage rainforest and opened in 1995. The cableway was developed by the Chapman family. The family established the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation in 2005 to raise funds for tropical rainforest research.
With close to half of the leadership team at Skyrail being women, and 2/3 of all Skyrail staff being female, Chanel has always felt supported as she progressed into the Ranger Team.
“I am very grateful to have an incredible network and circle of women in my life who are shining brightly and being a lighthouse to inspire women to connect with themselves, their dreams, their passions and their voice.
“Through education and awareness, we are creating advocates of the rainforest and a greater appreciation for a sustainable future. There are so many diverse and rewarding roles within tourism that I would encourage any woman to consider.”
Tour Guide, Mandingalbay Authentic Indigenous Tours
Jamaya is a 24-year-old Mandingalbay Yidinji woman who has joined as a new tour guide following in the footsteps of Laurissa (above) at Mandingalbay Authentic Indigenous Tours. As the only two Indigenous female guides at Mandingalbay, Jamaya is proud to represent and encourage Indigenous women who are moving into the tourism industry to keep their culture strong.
“As a Mandingalbay Yidinji woman, I want to show that I’m not afraid to showcase my culture and to speak confidently to travellers on how our people really are and how they lived. To me, International Women’s Day means women from all around the world have a chance to showcase their talents and skills no matter what culture they are from.”
Connecting to her land and people will be at the forefront when you experience a tour with Jamaya.
“When you come over for a tour, I want you to feel like it’s your home too, not just mine. I always come back to ‘we don’t own the land; it owns us, we are just tenants here. This is the reason why we looked after it for so long; it’s not ours to damage and break.”