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Changing The Fate Of The Great Barrier Reef Through The Kids

In the hope the next generation will better protect the reef.

"It's amazing, having national park in our backyards. Everyone comes up to us and asks, "Oh, are you guests here? And we're like, 'No, we live here!'"

This is the collective statement from Isobel and Emily, both 13, who live in the heart of The Great Barrier Reef on Queensland's Hamilton Island.

They're amongst a small number of children living on the doorstep of the world's largest reef, and they're well aware of the trauma it's facing.

Through a government funded program, Reef Guardians, schools like Hamilton Island State School are taking a proactive step in changing the attitudes and behaviours of the next generation, in the hope they'll be smarter at protecting the reef and reverse the damage done so far.

"Overwhelmingly, we see from the students that they can empathise with what's going on. They're willing to get onboard all these clean up initiatives. They say 'Hey Mum, hey Dad, can we do wrapper free Wednesday?'" Daniel Farrawell, a Senior Teacher at The Hamilton Island State School, told HuffPost Australia.

"With the change in perception and authentic experiences, that's where we're going with the Reef Guardian program, going out and seeing potential problems and going out and seeing how great it is... they do then see it as their responsibility."

Because of this program, these kids know the Northern end struggles under the weight of coral bleaching, while the Whitsunday Islands, in the belly of the reef, is concerned about water clarity and the misuse of plastic.

"The reef is a plant so you need clear water to survive. Water clarity goes back to dredging, goes back to water temperatures, which goes back to the global issue," David Stielow, local operator and reef expert tells The Huffington Post Australia.

Steilow has lived on the Island for over 20 years and has children who attend the local school. He's passionate about passing on better habits to the next generation.

"If the kids learn it today it'll be a part of their whole life. It's been part of my whole life but I'm lucky.

"If it's natural to the kids, their actions will be natural and they won't think twice about preserving the environment, in any facet.

"The kids now are getting taught about the reef in Queensland certainly, but hopefully in Australia and all around the world they can learn about preserving the environment."

Emily Verdouw travelled to The Great Barrier Reef courtesy of Hamilton Island.

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