By Melissa Grant
You could say Sunshine Coast teen Ella Woodborne was born to be an eco-warrior.
Ella’s dad is a veterinarian who worked as a bushranger in his younger days, tracking, tagging and monitoring many different forms of wildlife. He also worked on shark tagging boats where he tracked great whites, tiger and bull sharks, and helped rescue seals trapped in plastic and netting.
The 16-year-old’s mum volunteered for animal welfare and busted dog fighting rings. When she was younger and living in Kenya, she spent time out in the bush and often helped with cattle work in both Kenya and Uganda.
Ella grew up alongside pitbulls and boxers that had been rescued from the townships or the fighting rings.
She also spent some of her childhood living next to an elephant reserve in South Africa.
But it was in Year 5 that she became really passionate about the environment.
It was then that she learned the basics of recycling and composting and, for the first time, heard the term climate change.
After spending a lot of time researching climate change and deforestation, Ella knew she had to do something.
“It was terrible for me … I realised how much the world I loved was in danger,” she said.
Three years ago, Ella started her own “Green Team” at Sunshine Coast Grammar.
The team started off as a few friends getting together at lunchtime to focus on environmentalism.
They worked on sustainability projects like waste reduction and eliminating single use plastics.
There were rubbish runs, where students would compete to see who could collect the most rubbish on the school campus.
As the team grew, there were fundraisers for Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
So far, they have raised around $1000 and have sponsored a sea turtle and snow leopard through the WWF.
The Green Team is now run by teachers and has really become part of the Sunshine Coast Grammar community.
Ella’s work with The Green Team led to her being named the winner of the inaugural Les Hall Conservationist Award.
The Award is a tribute to Dr Les Hall OAM, who died in February last year after 40 years of major achievements in the zoology world.
The Sunshine Coast Council partnered with the Hall family for the award.
Entries were judged over five criteria – leadership, innovation, environmental impacts/outcomes, social impacts and reach, and vision.
Mr Hall’s daughter, wildlife biologist Clancy Hall, praised Ella’s environmental efforts.
“What Ella has achieved with the Green Team, in both action and intention shows incredible passion, grit, awareness and understanding of both environmental problems and their solutions,” Ms Hall said.
“As my father offered his brightest charges, Ella will receive an opportunity to participate in a wildlife conservation field experience.”
Ella will get to track turtles for a day on the Great Barrier Reef, sometime during spring.
It’s not the first time Ella has been recognised for her efforts to improve the environment.
She was named Sunshine Coast’s Young Citizen of the Year in the 2020 Sunshine Coast Australia Day Awards.
Ella, who currently resides on a property in Kenilworth, plans to pursue a career in the environment.
The Year 11 student has already started subjects for a University of the Sunshine Coast arts degree, focusing on literature.
She wants to do a second degree focusing on ecology and conservation biology.
“My home is Africa, so I would like to head back over there and help wherever I can,” she said.
“It’s in the third world countries where the change really needs to be made.
“If we can teach those who are uneducated (about environmental issues) we can create change.”