My name is Madison Stewart, to my friends ‘pip’ (dads a pirate, mums a hippy, and so I became ‘pippy’) but probably now known better as ‘shark girl’. I began scuba diving at age 12, left school at age 14 to begin home schooling and picked up an underwater camera for the first time. I have always grown up in the oceans, living on a yacht form the age of two and then growing up on the water in Australia’s Gold Coast. At 12 years old I was a certified open water diver at Sundive in Byron Bay, where I now live. My next view of the underwater world was the Great Barrier Reef. Everyone has a special memory of wonder from their childhood, my obsession quickly became the Great Barrier Reef. I left school to start home schooling at age 14 and in an agreement with my father I traded my school fees for an underwater video system, a simple tape camera in a housing. From that point on, the sharks, the Great Barrier Reef, and the oceans worldwide became my normality, my classroom and my home.
I work for sharks, they are everything to me, and my story is one of loss at the hands of environmental injustice, and I work to take back what I believe is mine, and that is a future in an ocean that has sharks. The most important career I can hope to be involved in, is the protection of this planet, and thus my own future. I want a future with sharks in it, this is the end I am fighting for. I have seen a change in my lifetime, I am not an activist, or a conservationist, I am just a person, who refuses to believe they will loose their home in their lifetime, at the hands of governments and worldwide neglect of this species. Not now, nor has it ever been impossible for one person to make a difference.
Photo: Ernst Stewart