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Dr Maddy

Renowned Maritime Archaeologist, AKA Shipwreck Mermaid

Revealing the oceans mysteries, can tell us so much about the past and ourselves.


Dr Maddy McAllister is a renowned maritime archaeologist, bringing underwater mysteries and the science of shipwrecks to people of all ages. For the past decade, Maddy has worked across Australia investigating shipwrecks from some of our most infamous and oldest, to those who remain a mystery.

Maddy grew up on the south coast of Western Australia, spending summers exploring the ocean and coastline before moving interstate to pursue her dream to study shipwrecks. Her early years gave her a deep-seated fascination for history and the oceans. She Completed a Bachelor of Archaeology and a Master of Maritime Archaeology at Flinders University, before moving back to Perth to tale up a prestigious curator role at the Western Australian Museum. In 2018, Maddy completed her PhD at the University of Western Australia where she investigated 3D modelling of underwater shipwrecks and the influences this would have on both archaeologists and the public. This project ran in conjunction with the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project “Shipwrecks of the Roaring Forties: A maritime archaeological reassessment of some of Australia’s earliest shipwrecks.”

In 2018, Maddy moved to Melbourne to work as a state maritime archaeologist, managing shipwrecks and balancing public expectations with those of community and industry stakeholders. For the past 5 years, Maddy has been the Senior Curator of Maritime archaeology at the Queensland Museum and Senior Lecturer at James Cook University.

Maddy represents the UNESCO UNITWIN Network of Underwater Archaeology for both the Queensland Museum and JCU. She is also on the Board of Directors for the International Advisory Council for Underwater Archaeology, where she represents the Asia Pacific region on a global stage. Most recently, Maddy’s childhood and early career were told through the book ‘Maddy McAllister: Shipwreck Detective” as part of the STEM Stars series that tells the inspirational stories of our STEM heroes to audiences aged 9-13 years.

Maddy noticed early on in her career that stories of shipwrecks often revolved around treasure, salvage and glorifying unethical approaches to managing heritage. She became an active voice for shipwrecks and endeavours to enlighten the public on the daily life of underwater archaeologists and show both the adventure and awe, along with the scientific approach we need to understand these ocean mysteries truly. Today, Maddy is affectionately known as the Shipwreck Mermaid, thanks to her social media platform. Her remarkable career has been dedicated to piecing together the puzzle of centuries-old shipwrecks, unearthing historical treasures, and shedding light on the untold tales of seafaring adventures. Her discoveries have enriched our understanding of maritime history and ignited imaginations worldwide.

Maddy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in April 2023; she’s faced the challenge of realigning her career goals and managing a life-changing diagnosis at the peak of her emerging career. Maddy and her husband Doug run Wild Tastes and ethical wild-sourced food and recipes. So, she’s an adventurer and foodie at heart, too.

Talking Points

You want a career in what?

In this topic Maddy delves into her career choice and the hurdles she crossed to follow a niche career path. This session inspires the audience to think outside the box, take the path less travelled and follow your gut instincts on career, project or life. Maddy weaves interesting and unique anecdotes from her career into the core message, leaving the audience inspired and eager to pursue that career passion, project dream or take the business to the next level.

Key Takeaways: The client can expect to have takeaways from this session like:
• Inspiring staff to look outside the norm for the next project
• How to deal with criticism or going against the norm
• How to face hurdles, determine alternative paths and embrace challenges
• Clients looking to reinvigorate staff should expect to see an improvement in positive thinking and positive mindset.

Life Lessons from shipwrecks

Much of the underwater world lies out of sight, out of mind. Maddy has spent over a decade chasing shipwreck stories across Australia and solving underwater mysteries. From some of our oldest shipwrecks to recent lost memories, Maddy crafts a truly engaging story about these past events, the people who face true disaster and how they survived them. For a maritime archaeologist, Maddy manages to weave life lessons into these tales – key messages that resonate with audiences of all ages. This topic can be tailored to audience types, interests and outcomes – from infamous stories like titanic, human feats of underwater exploration and truly awe-inspiring tales from our own shipwrecks. Some popular life lessons include: communication is everything, making the impossible possible, humans are resilient and it takes a village.

Key takeaways include:
• Communication for internal and external teams and stakeholder
• Rising above issues in projects
• Embracing challenges
• Diversity within teams = success

When everything changes in an instant: MS and resilience

In early 2023, Maddy went to the optometrist for a routine eye check-up. I came out with and urgent specialist referral and directions to go straight to our hospital. Arriving on a Thursday, she wouldn’t leave for 5 days. Numerous blood tests and MRI’s later and Maddy walked out with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. As a ‘young’ woman, an emerging career professional and a fit an healthy person her whole world was turned upside down. Maddy suddenly went from facing a promising career as a maritime archaeologist to facing a new future, one that was quite bleak. Would she relapse again, did she do something wrong and what did this mean for work – fieldwork, diving, remote operations and life – could children be in her future?

Key Takeaways:
• Resilience in daily life
• The power of positive mindset
• Work/life balance
“I wish to enthusiastically recommend Dr Maddy McAllister for any opportunity in public speaking. Having worked with Dr McAllister for the past 5 years, I have found her to be compelling and informative speaker, whose unique background and expertise ensures she can offer something special to her listeners. Dr McAllister has the experience to compose and deliver information to cater for diverse audiences, presenting science and adeptly answering questions in a way that evokes curiosity and inspires people to learn more. Her exceptional storytelling ability immediately connects her with the audience, ensuring that even the most indifferent participants become actively engaged in her presentations. Dr McAllister possesses a rare gift for communication and would be the ideal choice for any speaking engagement. Queensland Museum

Maddy is a truly unique television presenter and communicator - she pursued a unique passion of shipwreck archaeology and made it her own. Maddy brings science, history and human stories to life in an engaging and accessible way. And above all, she’s terrific fun to work with.

Disney +

JCU sponsored the Whitsunday Youth Writers Festival in Mackay in 2022. We were challenged with bringing a speaker from JCU who could engage a wide-ranging audience, with hundreds of students from prep to year 12 attending, as well as teachers and parents. We requested that Maddy attend as her story is so unique and field of work and it was one of the most popular presentations of the festival. Her audience doubled on day two thanks to word of mouth. Her presentation was incredibly engaging, she has a really unique way of telling stories and conveying a message. Every single student in the audience was completely engaged. And she was chased down by fascinated teachers and parents after each presentation. We had feedback from the organiser’s that they want her back for the next festival and JCU can highly recommend Maddy as a speaker for any sort of event where you want to engage an audience.

James Cook University

Maddy’s presentation was delightful. Her passion was contagious and her insight into the wonders of the deep was truly interesting and engaging. We had the privilege of having Maddy present to staff for International Women’s Day and her words inspired and encouraged the audience to follow their passions. We can’t thank her enough.

Townsville University Hospital

Dr. McAllister is an excellent scientist and charismatic speaker, with particular talent for explaining complex concepts in accessible and engaging ways. I would strongly recommend Dr. McAllister as a speaker for any event, as she is sure to inspire and delight audiences of all ages.

The Hydrous
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