GOOD TIMES: Julie Beattie and Nicole Sklenars at the former Underwater World employees gathering at the Mooloolaba Bowls Club.
GOOD TIMES: Julie Beattie and Nicole Sklenars at the former Underwater World employees gathering at the Mooloolaba Bowls Club. Iain Curry

Former staff of aquarium celebrate 25th year

A LOT has changed since Leonie O'Neill first started working at Underwater World 25 years ago.

Back then, the international standard aquarium caused major waves of excitement in what was a "little beachside town".

"It was a big leap for the Sunshine Coast to have something of that standard at that time," Miss O'Neill said.

"It was really special."

But for the original employees of the now iconic tourist attraction the best things in life, such as lasting friendships, have stayed the same.

On Saturday night about 40 of the aquarium's staff members, who worked at the attraction between 1989 and 2009, gathered for their 25-year reunion.

Their common bond? A love for their work and respect for each other.

"I think the deep and enduring friendships that came out of that place is one of the most important things of the entire business," Miss O'Neill said.

As well as a chance to catch up on old times, the event brought back memories of stand-out moments in the business's history.

"You have to get the water absolutely balanced before creatures in captivity can perform their natural functions like reproduce," Miss O'Neill said.

"We regularly had firsts - the first grey nurse shark pup born in captivity ... corals growing, fish breeding, all sorts of things.

"They were very, very good times."

Like many of her colleagues, Miss O'Neill grew along with the business.

She credits the job as being a kick-start for youngsters who dreamt of a career in tourism.

"People who started there when they were 15 went on to ... pursue a career in tourism, the sciences or study marine biology," Miss O'Neill said.

Julie Beattie, who worked at Underwater World for 17 years from 1992, organised the weekend's reunion and said they had former employees travel from interstate for the occasion.

"During the time we were there, the staff we worked with were like family," she said.

The reunion was such a success the group plans to hold another in two years.


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