House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018


Kiernan, Mr Ian Bruce Carrick, AO

11:12 am

Photo of Cathy O'TooleCathy O'Toole (Herbert, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

This week, sadly, Australia lost an amazing human icon. We lost someone who, in the face of adversity, saw an opportunity to make a huge difference in our world. We lost a man who valued our environment. From his single-mindedness he had a huge impact on our nation and globally in terms of protecting our environment. It would be hard to imagine that there would be an Australian who hasn't participated in Clean Up Australia. If you ask anyone under the age of 28, they probably remember picking up rubbish in the schoolyard every year for Clean Up Australia Day. Certainly my children and my grandchildren are very aware of what Clean Up Australia Day means to our local community in Townsville. They have all participated in school related activities, which means they are very aware of looking after our environment. They have, as we all have, learned of the importance of valuing and looking after our local communities. Two of my grandchildren are of Norwegian descent, and they are particularly aware of getting rid of rubbish properly, and they have grown up within a recycling regime. Mr Kiernan's environmental work didn't just get thousands of schoolkids trawling the playground for plastic wrap and empty juice poppers every day; it has also had a lasting impact on how Australians view rubbish and how we care for our environment.

Ian Kiernan was born on 4 October 1940. He grew up around Sydney's harbours and beaches, where he learnt to swim, fish and sail. Educated at The Scots College and The Armidale School in northern New South Wales, he went on to work in the construction industry, specialising in historic restorations. But it was his love of sailing that led to his remarkable career as a global environmentalist, founder of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World campaigns.

In 1986, the then 44-year-old represented Australia in the BOC solo around-the-world yacht race. He finished sixth out of a fleet of 25 yachts from 11 nations, but set an Australian record for a solo circumnavigation of the world. During his nine months at sea, Kiernan was appalled by the amount of rubbish he saw choking the world's oceans. On his return he set out to do something about it, and, with the support of his friends, organised the community event Clean Up Sydney Harbour on Sunday, 8 January 1989. It was a huge success, with more than 40,000 volunteers lending a hand. The next year, the first Clean Up Australia Day took place, with more than 300,000 Australians volunteering their time to pick up rubbish and help make a difference to the health of their local environments. In 1991, Kiernan started Clean Up the World. In its first year more than 30 million people from 80 countries participated. It has since grown to involve over 40 million people from 120 countries.

In 1994 Kiernan rushed to protect Prince Charles after a man with a starting pistol stormed the stage at an Australia Day event at Sydney's Darling Harbour. After the royal assassin was taken away the Prince continued with his role in the event and Kiernan was awarded Australian of the Year. Mr Kiernan received numerous awards recognising his dedication to end pollution and promote environmentalism. Mr Kiernan received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1991, the United Nations Global 500 award for the environment in 1993, the Officer of the Order of Australia in 1995, the World Citizenship Award 1999 and the Centenary Medal in 2001. And although these awards are noble, the greatest award is the change that Mr Kiernan has made for the environment and in the attitudes and minds of many Australians in protecting and looking after our precious environment. The legacy he has left should be a reminder to those in this place. It is especially timely given the LNP government's rejection of the IPCC report. Although Mr Kiernan's legacy was huge, his advice was always simple:

Simple, easy actions can protect the health of our water resources and help save drinking water supplies. There is not one individual who cannot help to make a difference to the health of the environment.

I thank Mr Kiernan for his years of dedication. My thoughts are with his family: his wife, Judy, and his two daughters, Sally and Pip.


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