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Frequently asked questions

Reef Check Australia course

1. How much is the Reef Check Australia training course?

Modules Price Students

Course introduction

Substrate surveys

Invertebrate surveys


Photo transect

Fish surveys


Modules 1, 2 and 3 are normally taken together at a total cost of $495 ($395 for students). This includes 7 days training with 8 dives - a value of $1495, heavily subsidised by Reef Check Australia to allow more volunteer surveyors to take part.

The course costs cover the training manuals, tuition and training dives (tanks and weights are provided but you must supply your own diving equipment).  

2. Are there student discounts?

Student discounts are available.  Upon presentation of a valid student card, the combined cost of the Course Introduction (Module 1), Substrate (Module 2) and Invertebrate (Module 3) identification is $395.  There is also a $20 discount available to students on Modules 4 and 5.

3. Does Reef Check Australia offer scholarships?

If you are on a Reef Check Australia volunteer placement for 4 months or more, Reef Check Australia will cover the cost of your training. Unfortunately, we are no longer able to offer scholarships for our training courses.

4. What are the course pre-requisites?

To take part in a Reef Check Australia training course you must be qualified to Advanced Open Water Diver level or equivalent and have a minimum of 25 logged dives.  You must also supply your own diving equipment (excluding tank & weights). You dive kit must also include a dive knife, dive computer, whistle and inflatable safety sausage.  You must be able to understand and communicate in verbal and written English.

Please note that due to Queensland Government and insurance requirements all Reef Check volunteer surveyors must be qualified to Rescue Diver level or equivalent, have documentary proof of a minimum of 30 dives, and we recommend current senior first aid (or equivalent), CPR and oxygen provider certificates (although not required). Volunteer surveyors must also have a current occupational medical certificate (AS2299) and evidence of regular gear servicing (as recommended by the manufacturers).

5. Do Reef Check Australia conduct diver training?

Reef Check Australia is a registered PADI resort but we DO NOT conduct general diver training.  However we have close affiliation with many dive shops who do conduct training. (See our Supporters section for contacts.) Our course is accredited by PADI as a Reef Health Surveyor Distinctive Speciality and on completing your course you will receive both a PADI and Reef Check EcoDiver certification card.

6. Where are Reef Check Australia training courses held?

Reef Check training courses are currently held in Townsville, Cairns, Port Douglas, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. 

7. Do I need prior knowledge of marine biology to participate in a Reef Check Australia training course?

No. The Reef Check Australia training courses have been designed to allow anyone with the required qualifications (see Question 5) to participate.  In the Course Introduction you will become familiar with coral reef ecology and, through a series of classroom sessions and training dives, you will learn everything you need to know to be able to accurately identify Reef Check Australia target organisms.

8. Do I need to speak English?

Yes.  Reef Check Australia courses are conducted in English.  You must be able to understand and communicate in written and verbal English.

9. Is the course difficult?

The Reef Check Australia training courses have been designed to allow anyone with the required qualifications (see question 5) to participate.  Modules 1, 2, 3 and 5 require some home study and to pass a classroom and practical test at the end.  If you don't pass first time, don't worry, we will go over the areas you are having difficulty with and allow you to take the test again. The training programs have been specifically designed to ensure participants will be able to collect valuable high quality monitoring data on coral reef health upon completion of the course regardless of their prior knowledge of coral reef ecosystems.

Surveying with Reef Check Australia

10. Is there a Reef Check Australia team in my area?

Reef Check Australia teams currently operate in Townsville, Cairns/Port Douglas, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. 

11. Is there a minimum time commitment when you become a Reef Check Australia volunteer?

Reef Check Australia relies on its volunteers to complete its surveys, therefore once trained, we hope you will be actively involved.  However, we understand that volunteers will have other commitments and therefore do not require a minimum time commitment from them; you can volunteer as little or as often as you like. 

12. How much does it cost to go diving with Reef Check Australia?

Once you are qualified to become part of a Reef Check Australia many of our survey expeditions are free-of-charge.  Where fees apply towards food or fuel we aim to keep these as low as possible.  We are supported by many of the dive operators along the Great Barrier Reef coast and therefore you will get the opportunity to visit many spectacular dive sites.  Please note that expenses such as food, travel and accommodation are not covered by Reef Check Australia. Certain liveaboards trips do attract additional charges to cover fuel and food costs, however the vast majority of our operators provide free of charge berth space.

13. Do I need my own dive equipment?

Reef Check Australia advises that you purchase your own dive equipment.  Not only will this be less expensive and easier than hiring equipment in the long-run, but your familiarity with your equipment will help you to maintain the good buoyancy control necessary to complete a Reef Check survey.

14. Do I need my own insurance?

You must have dive insurance (for example, as a DAN member) or which covers you against emergency evacuation from a dive site.  Please note that medical insurance is offered by DAN at an additional cost to cover you against diving injuries and accidents.  QLD Ambulance cover will provide emergency evacuation from the scene if you can prove that you are a QLD resident.

15. Do I need to speak English?

Yes.  Reef Check Australia survey briefings are given in English therefore you will need to understand and communicate in verbal and written English.

16. I don't dive, can I still get involved?


Soon, we'll be launching our REEFSearch reef identification and observation program, allowing snorkelers, divers and reef-walkers to engage in our programs.

Through purchasing an underwater guide you can learn to recognise the types of coral, invertebrate and fish that we monitor whilst in the water.  Once you are familiar with these organisms you can complete surveys on the attached slate and assist Reef Check Australia scientists by submitting your data online.

Please also visit our Help Reefs from Home page to learn more about everyday actions YOU can take to help protect our reefs and oceans. 

If water isn't your thing, Reef Check Australia headquarters is always in need of people who have specific skills or can help towards organizing an event.  If you are keen to get involved please email support@reefcheckaustralia.org.

17. Can I join other Reef Check teams once trained?

Yes.  If you are planning to move within Australia then just let us know and we can put you in touch with your nearest coordinator.  As the Australian course is the most comprehensive Reef Check course in the world, you will also be prepared to join Reef Check teams in other countries, but you may to to learn a few new regional indicators. Please visit www.reefcheck.org for details of Reef Check activities in your intended location.

18. Do I have to pay to join other Reef Check teams once trained?

Once trained, diving with Reef Check Australia is free-of-charge (bar expenses such as food, travel, fuel and accommodation in some cases).  This is because we have a unique arrangement with many of the dive operators who provide us with in-kind berth space.  Diving with international Reef Check teams will usually incur a local charge to cover costs. Please note Reef Check teams survey coral reefs in more than 80 countries around the world including many developing nations. Whilst access to dive sites is often free-of-charge in Australia (with some exceptions in SEQ and the GBR where there is a small cost to cover transport to the reef), this may not be the case in other countries.

19. How do I find out about international Reef Check expeditions?

Please visit www.reefcheck.org for details of Reef Check activities in your intended location.

Reef Check Australia volunteer placements and internships

20. How long does a volunteer placement/internship last?

Reef Check Australia usually asks that you make a 3-6 month commitment to working with us. This may be on a full-time or part time basis and individual circumstances will be considered.

21. When is the best time to do a Reef Check Australia volunteer placement/internship?

Reef Check Australia has two intakes each year (one in January, one in July) although individual circumstances will be considered.  The Reef Check Great Barrier Reef survey season takes place between January and June each year, then for the rest of the year surveys are done in South East Queensland, as well as on local inshore reefs in the Townsville and Palm Islands region. 

22. Do you take applications from outside Australia?

Reef Check Australia welcomes applications from outside Australia.

23. Do I need to speak English?

Yes.  Reef Check Australia volunteers are required to be able to understand and communicate in verbal and written English.

24. What are the visa requirements?

Reef Check Australia has arrangements with the Department of Immigration as a Special Program so you may be eligible to apply for a Special Program visa to volunteer with us for the duration of your placement.  This type of visa does not allow you to work during your stay in Australia.  Please contact us for further information. 

Other individuals (in eligible countries) choose chose to apply for their own Casual Working visa to enable them to fund their stay (conditions apply).  Visit the Australian Immigration website to find out more about visas.

25. How much will it cost?

Reef Check Australia is unable to provide financial support or housing to its volunteers.  You will need to consider if you have sufficient funds to support yourself whilst volunteering with Reef Check Australia and to fund your travel to and from Australia if you are coming from overseas.  Rent in shared accommodation is around $80-100 AUD per week.  We recommend that you budget for $200-$250 AUD per week.

We encourage applicants to source funds for their stay though local grants, rotary or lions clubs.  We are unable to advise you on potential sources of funding for your local situation but can provide a letter of support for your application.  Please see our fundraising guide for some general advice.


26. Where can I buy EcoAction products?

Our EcoAction program will be available through local dive operators and shops once launched. The Underwater Reef Guide is also available to purchase online

Project setup and collaboration

27. How do I go about setting up a new Reef Check Australia project?

Whilst the Reef Check protocol is an open source tool to enable community members to participate in coral reef monitoring. All projects in Australia that bear the Reef Check and Reef Check Australia trademarks must be coordinated through our head office in Townsville, Queensland. These requirements are essential to ensure that all Reef Check projects in Australia are fully compliant with accredited Reef Check Australia training standards, data collection procedures, dive safety, insurance and legal requirements.   

To set up a new project you must submit a project proposal and be prepared to raise your own funds through grant applications, partnerships with local organisations, community groups and dive operators to gain in-kind support.  If you would like to establish a new Reef Check Australia project then please thoroughly review all the information on this website, and consider the following factors before drafting your proposal for consideration.

Draft proposals should include the following information:

  • A description of the proposed project (circa 500 words)
  • The location of your proposed project
  • The duration of your proposed project
  • Details of how the project will be coordinated/managed
  • The project coordinators qualifications and previous experience
  • An approximate budget for the proposed project and how you intend to raise funds (please note that Reef Check Australia Headquarters requires a minimum of 15% of total the project budget to cover administration, marketing and data management).
28. How do I go about conducting some collaborative research?

Contact your local academic institution for further advice.

29. I would like to conduct my Honours/Masters/PhD project in conjunction with Reef Check Australia?

Reef Check Australia has several partnerships with academic institutions and works with students and staff on mutually beneficial research projects. We do not have the administrative capacity to provide a brokerage service for research projects hence please only submit proposals that already have the funding and backing of an accredited academic institution. Reef Check Australia has limited funds to conduct our established monitoring activities. Whilst we may be able to include in-kind support for research projects where they clearly align with our Vision / Mission and research aims we are unable to provide financial support for these proposals. If you have a proposal that you believe meets the preceding criteria please provide a brief description of your area of interest along with a copy of your academic resume. Please include information on your proposed supervisors and the proposed budget for the research.

We are particularly interested in collaborating with researchers whose projects focus on:

GIS ~ as a communication tool for community participation.
Advanced data analysis - review of our current long-term data set.


30. Where is the Reef Check Australia head office situated?

The Reef Check Australia headquarters is situated in the Brisbane CBD.  Our office is on the second floor in the SEQ Catchments office at 183 North Quay.

31. Not found what you are looking for?

We are delighted that you are interested in Reef Check Australia and want to answer your question, however, please bear in mind that we have limited administrative resources.  We ask you to help us by making sure that you have searched the website fully and read the FAQs before contacting us directly.  If your question still isn't answered then please email us at support@reefcheckaustralia.org and we will do our best to get back to you as soon as possible.