As part of their visitation to the Henley Beach parish, Administrator Delegate Fr Philip Marshall, acting Chancellor Sarah Moffatt and Teresa Lynch from the Office for Renewing Parishes toured the centre, the only coastal and marine educational facility for students and broader community in South Australia.
Fr Marshall commented that the displays and information on offer were very much in keeping with number six of the Gospel pathways ‘to be ‘witness to God’s love for all creatures’ and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.
“It is wonderful to see how the centre provides young and old the opportunity to learn interactively about the local marine environment,” he said.
Recently appointed partnerships and marketing manager, Carmen Bishop, said one of the big takeaways for MDC visitors was understanding their “human footprint”.
“They also really enjoy being able to see SA marine creatures so closely. They don’t realise the creatures that are in our tanks are exactly what is in the ocean right here. Our tanks feature local marine wildlife species such as the Port Jackson Shark, Big-Bellied Seahorses, Shaw’s Cowfish, Western Smooth Boxfish and Spiny-Tail Leatherjacket and more,” Ms Bishop said.
“The Kaurna education room is also very popular as students learn a little bit of the Kaurna language, gain knowledge of the Aboriginal culture and an understanding of our marine and coastal habitats.”
Ms Bishop said the 150m Marine Trail from the centre to Henley Beach was probably the “favourite” activity.
“The children get the opportunity to beachcomb and discover shells, plants and animals the tide has left and they are quite amazed at what they find. They see sea urchins, seahorses, Neptune’s Necklace, sea sponges, sand cockles and cuttlefish. One group recently came across a seastar. They also learn about the importance of the sand dunes.”
Established 21 years ago by Tim Hoile, a teacher at the adjacent Star of the Sea School, the centre has undergone a major refurbishment in the past year and now offers many more hands-on interactive learning stations covering topics such as sustainable fishing, responsible water use, recycling and the importance of preserving marine environments.
Currently between 5000-6000 students from government, Independent and Catholic schools pass through the doors each year and Ms Bishop said steps were being taken to make it accessible to a wider cross section of the community.
“We had an aged care group come recently and they loved it. There were some mobility issues – they were men aged 70 to 90 – so instead of the Marine Trail we brought the beach to them.
“A group of teenage students from the APY Lands also visited and they had never been to the beach before, so that was a wonderful opportunity for them.”
The MDC has registered Fringe and SALA events and is preparing programs to attract international students and Out of School Hours Care groups.
On Saturday September 21 it will hold an open day which Ms Bishop hopes will give local residents who “often walk past but have never been inside” the chance to experience what is on offer.
The Diocesan team’s visit to the MDC was one of many activities undertaken during its ‘long day’ in the parish on July 23.
There was a particular focus on schools, with team members engaged with students and staff of St Michael’s College and Star of the Sea School, as well as the much acclaimed parish-school playgroup.
A highlight of the program was being able to listen, speak and pray with young people involved with Antioch.
Other opportunities during the day included meeting with parish staff and volunteers who support the parish administration, Mission Engagement Team, Rosary Group, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Associates, refugees and asylum seekers and those who assist with altar ministry.
Fr Marshall said Henley Beach had long been recognised as a “very active parish, facilitated by leadership which is encouraging, empowering, enabling and brave”.
“It is a parish that is prepared to take risks and try new approaches,” he said.
Jump to next article