• Culture

How a community event in Bondi became a blueprint for ocean conservation

The Volvo Ocean Lover’s Festival founders on hope and ocean conservation

In partnership with Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival 

A community event in Bondi, aimed at educating and empowering its community on the profound impact the ocean has on our existence, has slowly been making inroads, surprising even its founders on just how much hope it has created for the future.

The Volvo Ocean Lover’s Festival, now in its fourth year, after two false starts thanks to COVID celebrates the ocean as the lifeforce of our planet.

“The ocean is the blue heart of our planet and essential to our very existence. If we can hang on to hope our planet is capable of miraculous things and if we give it time, it will heal,’’ says Bondi local and festival founder Anita Kolni.

This year’s program is bigger and more integrated than ever, with panel talks, workshops, kids art exhibitions, a beach clean up, free diving lessons and more.

Here we hear from Anita and her co-founder Carolyn Grant on what makes the Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival so special.

Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival founder Anita Kolni

Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival founder Anita Kolni

Anita Kolni with Carolyn Grant

Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival founder Anita Kolni with Carolyn Grant

What does the Ocean Lovers Festival mean to you?

The ocean is actually the life source and force of our planet so to know it is under stress is enough motivation to want to protect and nurture it. That was why establishing the festival felt timely as it has become urgent. This journey of discovery for Anita and I has been inspirational when you find out how much hope and love for the ocean is in the community. Bondi is such a brilliant place to host this festival and help inspire others, especially future generations to nurture a healthy ocean.

Hope is the fuel that powers the world and the Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival is about sharing hope and solutions to inspire and empower our community to take better care of our ocean. The ocean is the blue heart of our planet and essential to our very existence. If we can hang on to hope our planet is capable of miraculous things and if we give it time, it will heal.

What is the ultimate aim of the festival? 

When we love something, we are more inclined to protect it. So our ultimate aim is to share awareness and educate as many people as possible to drive the behaviour change needed to safeguard our planet for future generations.

Tell us about how important our oceans are? Why should we be fighting to save them? 

Well that is asking, “do you love your family?”.  Humanity’s existence and future is tied to the ocean as it was tied to our evolution. It is the source of the air we breath, the food we eat, the weather we live with, so many livelihoods and also the sheer joy the ocean brings, not to mention our responsibility for the life it nurtures directly in the ocean.

Inspiring change is such a critical part of solving the climate crisis, do you have any examples of times or instances where you have felt like you have affected real change? 

If you just visit our Litterarty exhibition and read what the school children write to us about their learning and love of the ocean – that right there is worth it. I’ve had visitors to the exhibition ask for a tissue box in the venue as it brings them to tears. I’ve been told by people listening to our talks program that it was life-changing, and we have seen real collaborations for good being formed.

So many. From the stories the students have shared in our Litterarty waste art competition to the feedback of the teachers both in the competition and our school excursions day. I have also had so many parents thanking me for creating such a fun and educational learning experience and that they have learnt such valuable information and would never have been able to teach this to their kids in such a fun and engaging way.

There have also been some wonderful collaborations that have come from people connecting at the festival, like the Gamay Rangers who connected with UNSW and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science who are now doing amazing restoration projects and training their young rangers with UNSW just to name one example.

What are your top events at this year’s festival? 

Ha too many to name – but special this year will be our first Fish Tank presentation – dozens of clever ideas from school students whittled down to 10 finalists we will present – just inspirational what these students have dreamed up as ideas to protect the ocean – so that will be on stage at our Talks on Sunday afternoon. 

The Ocean Lovers Talks program overall is just amazing thanks to the work of Lorna and our team. Litterarty always makes me happy (and teary) and I can’t wait to enjoy Nic Wilkinson and Claudia Leonard’s interactive moving photographic art exhibition Tidal Traces with some cool DJ sets by Nic in the Ocean Lovers Balcony bar. The Sand Sculpture Competition on Sunday is also such a great way to get the community being beachy and collaborating but also thinking about the sea creatures they are keen to see protected.

The workshops – there is something for everyone from cool kids workshops to ones targeted at the bigger ocean lovers like a Paint & Splash class to a Mind Hack workshop, a Hypnotic Journey to expand your purpose and possibilities, to Healing with Water and Sound, or a freediving class. We also have a fabulous art offering this year with several exhibitions from the immersive Out Of Sight Out Of Mind photographic exhibition by Underwater Earth, to The Ocean Sentinals and Their Creators exhibition, A Beach Couture – A Haute Mess, by Marina Debris  and Tidal Traces an AI moving art exhibition with DJ sets by Nic Wilkinson and Claudia Leonard. And of course our school waste art competition finalists in the Litterarty Exhibition.

*Green + Simple is a media partner of the Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival

Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival, Bondi, March 29-24


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