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Every day is women’s day at this company!

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DID YOU know that according to the BIMCO/ICS 2021 Seafarer Workforce Report, women represent only 1.2 per cent of the international maritime industry?

It’s safe to say that as a multi award-winning, high standard Whitsunday marine tourism operator, Ocean Rafting has consistently bucked this trend over the years, generally maintaining an employment rate of 50 per cent male to 50 per cent female.

Owned by long-term locals, Peter and Jan Claxton, not only is Ocean Rafting also 50 per cent female owned and operated, but the company offers many on-water roles for women as Skippers and Eco Hosts, as well as environmental research activities and land-based roles including Marketing Managers, Accounts Managers, Office Managers, Training Managers and many other positions throughout the company from check in to catering.

With such a strong diversity of skills and talent throughout the team, Peter and Jan proudly encouraged their staff to celebrate International Women’s Day, on Wednesday, March 8.

“We have always taken ownership and action for driving gender parity, and we understand the importance of what women bring to our organisation in so many different ways. The best thing about our team is that no matter what their role or gender, they always have the utmost respect for our guests, and very importantly, for each other. We wouldn’t want it any other way,” Jan said.  

“From running our tours behind the scenes, to inspiring the future female leaders onboard, our incredible team of women continue to showcase the wonders of the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef.

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Description automatically generatedThese women are not only a huge part of our business, but they are mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, colleagues, friends and inspirations,” Peter said.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Ocean Rafting took to the water for a Charlie’s Angels themed shoot, reflecting the company’s support and encouragement of female empowerment and gender parity, featuring Senior Skipper and Master Reef Guide, Merran Gunn, Office Manager and Eco Host, Jaki Dearson and Skipper and Eco Host, Kate Riley.

“It’s not every day we glam up but it sure was fun doing this shoot and celebrating something so important. It is wonderful to be in a position where we can express ourselves like this and do something a little different, while sharing a message and supporting awareness,” Merran said.

“Last week I overheard a seven-year-old girl on my boat say to her mum, “Mum, I want to do what she does”, which made me smile. Every day I aim to inspire, encourage, uplift and empower the women and girls around me.  I want to be a positive female maritime role model who ignites and build women’s confidence and self-worth. I want to encourage women to dream big, be bold, be brave and reach for the stars. As Serena Williams says, we’re strongest when we cheer each other on.”

With six years of experience with Ocean Rafting and another ten years prior to that as a White-Water Rafting Guide and Dive Instructor, Merran knows her way around the company’s fleet of high speed, semi-inflatable rigid vessels better than anyone.

It is little surprise that Merran is well respected by her colleagues in her role as Senior Skipper, mentoring female crewmates on the water, not only in marine skills training, but in igniting their confidence and in turn empowering other women and creating positive female role models who pave the way for future female leaders.

She loves exciting guests with an exhilarating adventure through the Whitsundays and as a shining light for all women in the marine industry, a tour with her at the helm is much more than a day trip around the beautiful Whitsunday Islands. It also becomes an inspiring insight into the wealth of knowledge and vibrant culture women are increasingly bringing into the marine industry.

Merran is dedicated to sharing her passion for the ocean and empowering other females to embark on a career on the water after noticing a lack of female role models over the years, acting as the “sea of change” in raising the visibility of women in a male-dominated industry.

Joining Merran on the shoot was Jaki Dearson, Ocean Rafting’s Office Manager, who has been an integral part of the Ocean Rafting team for four years and is responsible for leading the Office/Reservations/Check-in team.

Having started with Ocean Rafting as an Eco Host, Jaki’s adaptability and skills saw her soon working in the busy check-in office and now, as an adaptable team all-rounder, she oversees the ‘nerve centre’, managing the Front Office team and covering as an Eco Host on the vessels as needed.

“I’ve worked in the Hospitality and Tourism industry for over 16 years now which has allowed me to work and travel throughout Australia and overseas. Throughout this time, I have worked alongside and gained so much experience from many strong and successful women, and by sharing these experiences, while continuing to grow, I can also hopefully encourage women to learn and diversify,” Jaki said.

After over two years as an Eco Host with Ocean Rafting, late last year, Kate Riley had the opportunity to progress into a Skipper position and hasn’t looked back. Originally from Melbourne, Kate has worked and lived in the Whitsundays for over ten years and is a much-loved member of the of Ocean Rafting team.

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Description automatically generated“I’m very proud to work for Ocean Rafting. For as long as anyone can remember, there has always been female crew at Ocean Rafting. I love working in an environment where they support and motivate women to reach their full potential and I am in a position to do the same, which is really fulfilling,” Kate said.

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