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MOUA in partnership with MTQ launches next stage of sculptures at special exhibit

Pictured above: Dr Ric Braley, muse for a statue to be placed at a yet to be determined location. Photo Courtesy Denise Secomb

Ultimately destined for the Great Barrier Reef, five of the Museum of Underwater Art’s next stage of sculptures were launched at an exciting display at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, in Townsville North Queensland on Friday evening, before they are installed in their underwater home.

Museum of Tropical Queensland presents the Museum of Underwater Art’s Ocean Sentinels above the surface exhibit provides a unique opportunity for locals and visitors to connect with the artworks and experience their grandeur before they begin to transform into their own micro reefs when placed on the Great Barrier Reef.

MOUA Board Director, Paul Victory, said the exhibit is about connecting with as many people as possible, to spark meaningful conversation around the Great Barrier Reef and its future.

“The chance to see the world-class sculptures in the flesh and learn about their stories, promoting reef conservation and the link between art and science to a wider audience, is incredible,” Mr Victory said.

“This unique exhibit allows the public to enjoy and experience the next stage of the Museum of Underwater Art and learn about the important work we’ve been doing with coral planting, reef health surveys, providing education and work opportunities for Indigenous guides, and more,” he said.

“These are thought-provoking sculptures, they tell a story and have been created to highlight the important work of world-leading marine scientists,” he said.

World-renowned artist Jason deCaires Taylor designed and created the hybrid form sculptures that celebrate the work of eight incredible marine scientists and community members, who have been influential in our understanding of reef protection.

“I hope that in years to come a variety of endemic species such as corals, sponges and hydroids will change the sculptures’ appearance in vibrant and unpredictable ways,” Mr deCaires Taylor said.

“Like the Great Barrier Reef itself, they will become a living and evolving part of the ecosystem, emphasising both its fragility and its endurance,” he said.

The second stage of the Museum of Underwater Art project offers a unique tourism experience in Townsville North Queensland, and with the state’s borders open to international travellers the sky is the limit.

Member for Mundingburra Les Walker said the Museum of Underwater Art was shaping up to be one of Queensland’s great new tourism attractions.

“This unique North Queensland tourism experience is predicted to generate more than $22 million each year for Townsville’s visitor economy,” Mr Walker said.

“The Palaszczuk Government has invested $4 million in the Museum of Underwater Art because we know how important it is to invest in projects to bring visitors to Townsville.

“We know the Museum of Underwater Art has great potential to attract divers and snorkelers from across Australia and the world.

“The timing of this new investment in tourism is welcome after the economic impact of Covid-19.

“This is a fantastic addition to the region’s tourism attractions as we show North Queensland to the world ahead of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

The global pandemic meant artist Jason deCaires Taylor was unable to create the pieces on Australian soil, instead creating them in his studio in the United Kingdom.

The artworks were carefully loaded and shipped to Townsville where a selection of them have been installed in the Museum of Tropical Queensland where they will be on display to the public from 12 March to 15 May.

Queensland Museum Network CEO Dr Jim Thompson said that it’s been a wonderful collaboration between Museum of Tropical Queensland and the Museum of Underwater Art to produce this unique display for visitors.

“These sculptures are destined for the ocean, so for people to see them in the museum and learn about them before they are installed underwater is something really special.” Dr Thompson said

Townsville Enterprise Director Visitor Economy and Marketing, Lisa Woolfe, said it’s projects like the Museum of Underwater Art that really set a region apart and ensures a strong future for the local tourism industry.

“To have the world-class Museum of Underwater Art on our doorstep, located in the best reef in the world is a priceless experience. And soon our region will have yet another major drawcard to attract people to Townsville North Queensland,” Mrs Woolfe said.

The Museum of Underwater Art is making the exhibit as immersive as possible with a ‘Meet the Muse’ series where people can meet the scientists the sculptures are based on, learn about their work in the field and ask questions, as well as creating an online webinar series so people from across the globe can hear from them and ask questions in a digital capacity.

The eight ‘muse’ have made outstanding contributions in the fields of science and education and the Museum of Underwater Art is proud to have worked with them and Jason deCaires Taylor to create the ‘Ocean Sentinel’ series, which shines a light on their important work.

The Museum of Underwater Art also owns the ‘Ocean Siren’ along The Strand and the ‘Coral Greenhouse’ at John Brewer Reef, which can be visited by booking a trip with one of the approved commercial tourism operators.

It is envisaged that the sculptures will be installed by June 2022 with the final location to be decided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The pieces will be installed in shallow depths, providing the perfect experience for snorkellers to get up close to the sculptures, broadening MOUA’s offering to a larger group of people, who are more inclined to snorkel.

The sculptures are based on the following 8 people:

  • Dr Richard Braley, also known as the ‘Giant Clam Man’ of Magnetic Island who has been researching the spawning of giant clams since 1986 and is an integral part of North Queensland’s group of marine scientists

  • Dr Katharina Fabricius, is a key researcher from the Australian Institute of Marine Science who studies the ecological processes in coral reefs. She has spent more than 3,000 hours under water looking at how coral reefs can recover from acute and chronic disturbances.

  • Professor Peter Harrison, an internationally recognised leader in coral reproduction and coral IVF methods, Professor Harrison has dedicated more than 40 years to understanding the incredible underwater world.

  • Jayme Marshall, is a proud Wulgurukaba and Yunbenun woman who represents the next generation and the highlights the important connection Traditional Owners have to Land and Sea Country.

  • Molly Steer, is a young Cairns girl who founded the Straw No More project, an initiative which aims to educate the community of the impact plastic straws have on our oceans. Since the project began close to 800,000 people around the globe have taken the pledge to stop using plastic straws.

  • Dr David Vaughan founded the Plant a Million Corals Foundation, which looks to restore and revive coral populations in reefs around the world. Dr Vaughan is also the Director of the Aquaculture Division at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in the USA.

  • Professor Charlie Veron, or otherwise known as the ‘Godfather of Coral’ is an internationally renowned scientist for his work in discovering and describing over one third of the world’s coral species. He is also creating a biobank of coral to futureproof the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Sir Maurice Yonge was a marine zoologist who forged research on marine invertebrate feeding and digestion whish saw him go on to lead the highly successful Great Barrier Reef Expedition in the 1920’s

For more details on the MOUA project visit For information on visiting the exhibition including Museum of Tropical Queensland admission and opening hours head to

Pictured above: Jayme Marshall (daughter of Wulgurukaba woman Shirley Johnson) muse for the statue to be placed at John Brewer Reef. Photo courtesy Denise Secomb

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