GYMPIE'S Jacob Ryan has relished a rare opportunity to discuss his concerns for the Great Barrier Reef with one of the world's highest profile environmental crusaders.
The Year 7 Gympie East State School student won the Shine Lawyers' Essay to Erin competition, meeting with the real Erin Brockovich last weekend to talk about protecting the environment.
Jacob won the competition with his essay entitled, Save Our World, in which he wrote about the Great Barrier Reef becoming a "desolate wasteland of bleached coral and rubbish-strewn waters".
"Many big businesses have little regard for long-term environmental consequences, focusing instead on rapidly maximising profit," he wrote.
"I love my country, and I want it to be as beautiful and productive as it can be, but I cannot do it alone."
Shine Lawyers ambassador Erin Brockovich has been in Australia and met the Ryan family to present the prizes in person.
"It's inspiring when I see young people already so passionate about environmental issues," she said.
"This is the future generation and an early understanding of the need to balance development and industry with protection of our environment is crucial on a global scale."
Hundreds of primary schools across Queensland participated in the competition, writing a persuasive essay on the topic: Should big business do more to protect our environment?
Shine Lawyers Central Queensland manager Rebecca Johnson said the Gympie office was thrilled to see a winner from their local area.
"From what I understand, Gympie East are already ahead of the pack with their environmental teachings," she said.
"It's great to get the kids involved in significant issues which affect Queensland at such a young age.
"With our ambassador Erin Brockovich in Queensland, we wanted to give local school students the opportunity to meet her in person and be inspired to think about and protect our environment as our most precious resource."
As winner of the competition, Jacob also received a new iPad as well as one for his school.