A school principal who fosters activism in the next generation and a doctor prescribing a strong connection with nature for community health are the region’s latest sustainability champions.
These community representatives are the newest who have been chosen to help lead the sustainability movement since the Sunshine Coast local government area was declared a UNESCO Biosphere in June 2022, gaining official recognition of the region’s status as a place where active conservation and responsible development sits alongside people living sustainably.
Sunshine Coast Grammar School principal Anna Owen and gynaecology specialist Dr Beverley Powell have been selected to join the Sunshine Coast Biosphere Community Advisory Group, following an expressions of interest process to fill the education and health sector positions.
The group advises Biosphere implementation matters and includes representatives of First Nations Traditional Custodians and people across sectors and interest areas including tourism, environmental conservation, youth, agriculture, business, residents, academic and residential property development.
Educating the future of sustainability
Mrs Owen was instrumental in weaving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through Sunshine Coast Grammar’s student advocacy programs and curriculum, with her students pursuing their passions for taking down fast fashion, saving native bees or increasing opportunities for neurodiverse education and leadership.
"I know the biggest difference I can make is to motivate the next generation,” Mrs Owen said.
She was excited by the advisory group’s collaborative nature, and hopes to see a day when Biosphere values are engrained in everyday life and advisory groups are no longer required.
"It won't have to be an activism piece; it's just embedded in the whole community.
"We get to chart a change in direction. I love that young people are directing the course."
Nature’s impact on health
Dr Powell represents the health sector as a medical practitioner on the Sunshine Coast for 22 years, and described the advisory group as the perfect new challenge to make a difference in the community.
She said the health sector faced its own sustainability issues, including medical waste, and health was a vital aspect for a sustainable community and for improving connections between people and nature.
"The health sector is a huge generator of good and bad,” Dr Powell said.
"We know that nature has a huge impact on your mental health, so being a Biosphere can be a positive thing for the whole population to enhance health physically, mentally and emotionally.
“This is something I can sink my teeth into and make a difference.”
After she was raised on a peanut farm in rural Queensland, Dr Powell studied in Brisbane and worked across Australia and the UK before moving to the Sunshine Coast, where she has served as a public and private health medical practitioner since 2001, specialising in women’s health and gynaecology.
As well as supporting community health across the region, Dr Powell has built a personal connection with nature though regenerating her property as a member of the Land for Wildlife Program.
"It's very gratifying to see,” Dr Powell said.
“We've got heaps of bird life, we get visiting kangaroos and wallabies and koalas, and it's really nice to provide a sanctuary for them."
Biosphere Community Advisory Group chair Will Shrapnel said the group’s strength came from its members’ strong representation across the values of the community and the expertise of their sectors.
“Diversity of knowledge and experience has been a strength of the advisory group representation to date, and we look forward to the unique insights our new members will provide,” Mr Shrapnel said.