Best in show

The recent 12th International Coral Reef Symposium held in Cairns was a win-win for the 2000 participants and the destination.


With visitors from more than 82 countries, 50 media correspondents, and partners, Cairns was abuzz when it hosted the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, organised by ICMS Australasia.
Given the proximity of Cairns to the world’s largest coral reef system and home to some of the world’s leading reef scientists, it was no wonder the city was chosen as the destination for this, the largest global forum for discussing coral reef science, management and conservation.
Host venue was the Cairns Convention Centre with additional meetings held at the nearby Sebel Cairns. A series of field trips were also available, giving participants a better understanding of the biology and geology of coral reefs in the region. Centred on the Great Barrier Reef, trips included those to research stations on Lizard Island, Orpheus Island and One Tree Island.
In addition, an extensive trade exhibition was a feature, providing an opportunity for delegates to source the latest tools, services, technology, educational programs and publications available in the discipline.
Symposium convenor and James Cook University Professor, Terry Hughes, described Cairns as an ideal city to host the event and predicted the city and surrounds would receive a major economic boost from the five day conference, estimated at around $14 million.
A welcome reception at the Cairns Convention Centre and an evening of outdoor entertainment at Fogarty Park in the city centre, with catering by Ochre Catering, were just some of the highlights.
Held under the stars, the cocktail extravaganza was an opportunity for delegates to truly relax after four days of meetings. Fogarty Park was dramatically transformed into an outdoor taste of Australia with three themed areas – reef, rainforest and outback, showcasing some of the best local performers who had been carefully selected to support and complement these particular regions.
The menu was tailor-made for the themed areas and included fresh seafood (reef), Asian-influenced cuisine (rainforest), and hearty meat (outback).
The entire park was professionally lit and a central bar area was purpose-built to dispense beverages and replenish the trays of the 30 wait staff who roamed the park serving drinks directly to delegates.
As guests entered the park they were greeted by a guard of honour of junior Australian lifesavers.
The main stage became a backdrop for a vibrant performance of Torres Strait Islanders in their traditional costumes. As the evening progressed the mood changed when a group of female dance warriors gave a stunning and dramatic performance of both traditional and contemporary dance. Just before the final stage act of the night, the nationally acclaimed Hip 2 Soul cover band, the duo known as Twisted Liquid performed their high energy flaming cocktail routine within the strategically located bar area near the front of the stage. At the conclusion of the twisted liquid performance, the band began and played continuous dance music until the end of the evening.
The reef area had a backdrop of blue drapes surrounding a large screen with rear projection to resemble being in an underwater cave.
The rainforest area had the existing trees of Fogarty Park as a natural backdrop with up lighting in various colours as well as icicle lighting and LED trees to add a magical feel to this area. Artificial vines, drapes, hammocks and palm fronds were also used to adorn this area.
The outback area had a 24m x 5m outback themed backdrop with an old style water tank, and 60 different sized piles of hay bales around the immediate area, with wagon wheels and wine barrels in the vicinity. Copper, yellow and amber lighting complemented the theme.
Back to the conference proper, there were numerous highlights, however, one standout was that local children from 41 state schools around Cairns and North Queensland submitted 2000 drawings which were used to decorate every delegate lanyard with artwork representing the coral reef. The child’s name and year were handwritten on the back providing a unique memento for delegates to take home.
A lasting legacy of the event was the launch of a Consensus Statement to help coral reefs recover from the impact of human activity. The Consensus has already been signed by 2800 scientists from throughout the world.
The 50 media correspondents who were in attendance generated more than 3000 stories published in various mediums globally.