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This Is Northern New South Wales

Yertle’s Protector: Turtle Conservation @ Mandala

Awareness is a funny thing. You can go your whole life with absolutely no idea that a particular concept, philosophy or issue even exists. And then, one day, out of the blue, seemingly projected upon you by some far-off, intangible, altruistic higher power, you will reach an awakening and suddenly become aware.

I guess that’s why they call it awareness.

A little while ago, a young girl by the name of Forsythia became the source of that awakening in my life. I met her on the beach. She lay there, unfathomably beautiful, wet, glistening, exhausted and helpless, and the split second I saw her she captured my heart completely.

Forsythia was a green turtle. High seas had washed her far up the beach and left her stranded, unable to muster the energy to return to her home. I gathered her in my arms and, with the help of some kind-hearted locals, took her to my car. The ocean was too rough and her energy too drained to cast her back out, so I called Ballina’s Australian Seabird Rescue.

Kiss and Tell

They collected her, informing that the barnacles covering her back suggested she had floating syndrome. Usually caused by plastic consumption, this condition prevents turtles from submerging; for food, for protection or to be able to swim beyond the breakers.

Forsythia, despite Australian Seabird Rescue‘s best efforts, passed away, the victim of man’s ignorance.

She and her kind have been on my mind and in my heart ever since. So it was as if their patron saint had called out to me when I heard about the launch and fundraiser of The Turtle Conservation Project at the Gold Coast’s Mandala Organic Arts Cafe.


A year or so ago, artist Jhana Bowen had a similar awakening. One day, after his regular surf, Jhana found a plastic bag on the beach. Collecting it up, the devastating potential effects of that one item suddenly dawned on him and he decided then that he would make a difference.

“When I saw that first piece of plastic I became inspired,” Jhana recalls. “With that one bag, and the inspiration I had from painting turtles, I realised I needed to find ways to link up with organisations such as Take 3, Yeskandoo, Healthy Waterways Queensland, the Surfrider Foundation and Sea Shepherd and get all of these people onboard with turtle conservation.”


Since his younger days learning to surf in Noosa and sharing the ocean with turtles, Jhana has viewed the graceful creatures with somewhere between awe and reverence. As well as being the primary source of his artistic inspiration and subject matter, they have become his totem. Indeed, his first turtle artwork was entitled ‘Totem’.

Establishing the Turtle Conservation Project, Jhana connected with Mandala‘s co-owner, Vladimir, and orchestrated a project launch party.

An ethical oasis in the heart of consumerism, Mandala is a breath of fresh air to the Gold Coast’s more conscientious residents, and its mouthwatering menu of delicious dishes nourished the attendees throughout the day’s presentations, film screenings and music from Byron’s Kit Bray and Dustin Thomas of Medicine For The People. Jhana rallied representatives of various organisations, including Sea Shepherd, Queensland Waterways, Yeskandoo and  Australian Seabird Rescue, for the fund and awareness raising event. Featuring the artwork of Jhana and fellow oceanic-inspired artists donated for a silent auction, a host of raffle prizes and an afternoon and evening of music, film and presentations, the day was a heartwarming show of consciousness. As well as those who had donated their time, efforts and talents to the cause, the passion of attendees was a show of solidarity, an affirmation that we are not alone and that change can and will be made.


“There are a lot of different organisations that we are working with that have helped to inspire me and make me realise that we’re not doing this alone, that human beings do care and we are shifting, we are growing,” says Jhana. “It might be uninspiring to see that there is so much plastic out there and there is so much to be done, but there are a lot of people that are changing and growing and we are making a difference.

The Turtle Conservation Project links all these organisations up. This fundraiser event is helping to bring people together and it’s helping to keep us inspired about the differences we can make.”


It is a single step that begins an epic journey. This wasn’t a grandiose festival attended by thousands, but that made each and everyone there no less passionate to the cause.

Jhana’s work has only just begun but, from this inaugural event, it is clear that he is not working alone. Little efforts do make a big difference, and it is the responsibility of us all to be that change.

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