WRL wrapped up 4th Annual Development Education Capacity Knowledge (DECK) Program 2022

Last month, WRL conducted its fourth edition of the annual DECK Program, the interactive industry forum designed to deliver quality professional development and learning opportunities for industry’s next generation of leaders.

The event was held from midday on Tuesday 11th of October until midday Wednesday 12th of October at the Geraldton Multipurpose Centre in Geraldton.

Rachel King, Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries Executive Officer, shared her professional experience and insights on social licence and wild-caught fishing.


WRL is proud to have brought together such a knowledgeable and experienced mix of experts from diverse backgrounds and experiences to cover a wide range of topics including technology, markets, governance, safety, science, and industry management as well as business-related topics such as financial planning, crew management, and succession planning.


Tom Thuijs, founder of Encompass Financial, provided an overview on minimising tax for business and family trusts.


The DECK program focuses primarily on developing leadership amongst younger participants in the western rock lobster industry by observing and learning from more experienced leaders.

Nathan Cockman, one of the participants from Dongara who has joined the DECK for the third time this year, commented that the things he enjoyed the most about this DECK were “Learning about the history of the industry with John Fitzhardinge from Dongara Marine and also Simon de Lestang, Principal Research Scientist, DPIRD talk about research“.

This year we welcomed 26 participants from up and down the coast as well as current industry professionals and subject-matter experts who participate in the program to foster peer-to-peer exchange.


Gaby Bracks and Christina Ware from GC Lawyers WA talked about the importance of state planning in the fishing industry.


Shortly after the DECK Program concluded, WRL conducted a survey to gather some constructive feedback to help improve future events and to develop new educational opportunities for our industry. Overall, the feedback received was extremely positive, with 100 percent of participants saying they would recommend the DECK Program to others, and all of them affirming they were very or extremely likely to attend a similar event again in the future.

Rhys Towers, one of the participants from Geraldton, commented that “After the Program, I realised I’m part of an evolving industry and have to be involved far more than a lot of fishers are willing to be. It’s not a case of throwing a few pots in the water and calling yourself a fisherman, these days, to stay on top of things you have to be actively involved in the evolving industry via a leadership role”.

Emerson Nugent, also from Geraldton said that “All of it was great information to take in and a good spread of different aspects into the industry. It has given me more confidence to get more involved with my family business”.

“Wonderful to see a consistent program to develop people which people attend multiple times. Highlighting industry pathways was great and showcasing previous DECK participants in these roles brought this to life. Participants were curious, well-informed and engaged”, said Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) Capability, Capacity & Culture Change Manager, Sally Roberts, who came from Melbourne to join the group in Geraldton.


The DECK Program also fostered new relationships and networks through a relaxing dinner held between the two half-day sessions at the Old Man & the Sea rooftop bar.



Lara Dalton, MLA Member for Geraldton and Nils Hay, CEO of the Mid West Development Commission, joined the group dinner.


“I liked how the event was split into 2, giving us the opportunity to have a group dinner in between sessions. This strengthens new bonds and allows connections to be made and ideas and info presented during day 1 of the program to be discussed which is very important for younger Fishers/skippers who want to become industry leaders”, commented Rhys Towers.


During dinner, participants had the opportunity to share their perspectives on the Program and the future of the industry.


At the conclusion of the Program, Nathan Cockman said that he had a great time getting to meet some new people as well as catch up with some people he wouldn’t normally run into. He also highlighted that one of the most important takeaways from this year was “knowing that there should be a good future for the western rock lobster because the Council is so powerful in the government and there is so much research on the crays as well”.

Those who complete the Program can and do take a broader interest in their fishery. Whether attending local PFA meetings, nominating to become a member of the Fishing Operations (FOC) Committee, attending the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program (NSILP), or participating in industry conferences such as the Trans Tasman Rock Lobster Congress, participants share their passion and new-found knowledge.

Participants interested in continuing their professional development were also encouraged to contact the WRL Council and express their interest in attending classes, sessions, or conferences focusing on essential skills that are linked to the industry.


WRL plans to offer the next DECK in Fremantle on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th of October 2023. Interested applicants or those who know of young active fishers who are interested in becoming more involved in the lobster industry are encouraged to contact Natalia at natalia@westernrocklobster.org

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