Ashton's scholarship success

A scholarship helped Ashton Davenport access the training he needed to take over operating the family fishing vessel.

Saltwater runs through Ashton's veins. For as long as the 19-year-old can remember, he's had a love for being out on the ocean.

"My family operates a commercial fishing vessel and I am the fifth generation on my dad's side to fish in Australia. I have been helping on the boat since I was five years old when I did my first trip during my school holidays. I have spent a lot of holidays on the boat, driving and mooring it under my dad's supervision and helping him to maintain it. I completed a coxswain course while I was at high school and when I finished Year 12, I started working with my dad full time as first mate."

Ashton lives in the small Far North Queensland town of Wonga Beach. He spends anywhere from 10 days to five weeks out on the water catching coral trout for live export. While the freedom of the open water is welcome, Ashton said life in a commercial fishing family was not always smooth sailing.

"There are a lot of challenges in the maritime industry including weather, tides, finding qualified crew, being away from home, staying on top of rules and regulations, and now, impacts from COVID-19. Despite the hardships, I have a good outlook; I don't class what I do as a job, it's a lifestyle. It's peaceful and relaxing to wake up every morning to the sun rising over the water and to watch it go down at the end of the day. Also, there's nothing like the thrill of catching a great fish or seeing a humpback breach."

In recent years, Ashton's parents have suffered poor health, escalating his rise from first mate to skipper.

"I took over running the boat for my family as it's the only source of income we have. I attained my commercial fishing ticket and enrolled at the Great Barrier Reef International Marine College for training."

Ashton completed a Certificate III in Maritime Operations (Master up to 24 metres Near Coastal) MAR30918 and returned to the college in Cairns to undertake a Certificate III in Maritime Operations (Marine Engine Driver Grade 2 Near Coastal) MAR30818 with the help of a TAFE Queensland Scholarship.

"Getting the scholarship was really helpful as it covered fees and my travel expenses to study away from home. It meant I didn't have to work and save that money, especially given how impacted my work and industry have been because of COVID-19."

Ashton said the facilities at the Great Barrier Reef International Marine College are great.

"The simulator is excellent. It was good to have access to hands-on facilities and practical scenarios as it helps to clarify all of the theory. The teachers are like walking maritime encyclopaedias, they know what they're doing and they're really knowledgeable."

When thinking about the future, Ashton is hopeful.

"It's great that I now have two qualifications as it expands my career opportunities. If I ever wanted a change from commercial fishing, my qualifications could help me pursue work in tourism or tug and barge. My ultimate goal is to work internationally on boats."

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Great Barrier Reef International Marine College is part of the TAFE Queensland network. TAFE Queensland RTO No. 0275, CRICOS No. 03020E. Visit tafeqld.edu.au for full RTO details

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