House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018


Kiernan, Mr Ian Bruce Carrick, AO

11:00 am

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to pay tribute to a great Australian, Mr Ian Kiernan AO. Mr Kiernan was born in Sydney on Friday, 4 October 1940. He was educated at the Scots College in Sydney, The Armidale School in northern New South Wales and the Sydney Technical College. Ian went on to join the construction industry. He specialised in historic restorations. Throughout his life, Ian was a passionate yachtsman, sailing competitively for more than four decades. In 1986-87, Ian represented Australia in the BOC Challenge, a solo around-the-world yacht race. He finished sixth out of a fleet of 25 yachts from 11 different nations. He set during that journey an Australian record for a solo circumnavigation of the world. His yacht was named Spirit of Sydney.

It was during this race that Ian Kiernan saw the amount of rubbish which was choking the world's oceans. After he returned to Sydney, he organised a community event which began with just the support of a few friends: Clean Up Sydney Harbour on Sunday, 8 January 1989. When I say 'just a few of his friends', 40,000 volunteers showed up. Ian was a guy who, when you met him, was charismatic. He was warm, he was engaging and he was a leader of men and women. He was a leader of his community. That day, they collected 5,000 tonnes of rubbish. Based on the success of this event, Clean Up Australia Day took place the following year. It has since then taken place on the first Sunday of March every year, with more than 300,000 Australians volunteering their time to make a difference to their local environment. In my electorate of Grayndler, every year, the big clean-up day usually focuses on Cooks River. Now, with the expansion of my electorate to the north, Sydney Harbour is also a focus—around Balmain, White Bay and the foreshores of the harbour.

In 1991, Ian decided that, since Clean Up Sydney Harbour had moved to Clean Up Australia, he wanted to start Clean Up the World. In its first year, more than 30 million people—more than the population of Australia—from 80 countries participated. It has since grown to involve over 40 million people from 120 countries. Ian was the chair of Clean Up Australia, a national non-profit organisation that coordinates not just Clean Up Australia but also Clean Up the World. Clean Up Australia also runs Clean Up Australia projects, which are long-term community based environmental programs that address the need for ongoing care and restoration of environmental assets.

Ian was named Australian of the Year in 1994 and received numerous Australian and international awards—but he didn't ask for any of them. He was a very humble man. I was privileged to have contact with him on a number of occasions. He was someone who was very passionate about making a difference. Ian Kiernan's life shows that an individual can make a very, very big difference to their local community, the city in which they live, the nation and indeed the world. He and his wife, Judy, had two daughters, Sally and Pip, and a son, Jack. I pay my respects to all of the family members and to all those who will miss Ian Kiernan dearly.

11:05 am

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too want to speak today in memory of one of Australia's finest, Ian Kiernan. I think that all Australians were saddened yesterday to learn of his death from cancer at the age of 78.

Ian Kiernan is appropriately revered by Australians from all walks of life in every part of our continent, but it's fair to say that he had a special place in the hearts of residents in my own electorate of North Sydney. I say that for two reasons. Firstly, Ian was a longstanding resident of Kirribilli, in the North Sydney electorate, and was well known as one of our great local identities. But, just as importantly, Ian's great passion, which started that movement which was to become the focus of his life, began in his love and respect for Sydney Harbour and its natural environment.

As we've heard, Ian started his life as a builder. His other great passion was as a yachtsman. That passion took him around the world, particularly as a solo sailor, but it also took him on six occasions to Hobart as part of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. The experience of being a yachtsman sailing the world's great oceans and seas helped reinforce Ian's passion for our incredible marine environment, but it also helped reinforce his passion for doing something to protect that environment. During those sailing races he discovered that great scourge, even back then, which has only become worse in the period since, that is the impact of pollution and waste on our marine environment. When he returned to Sydney after one of those races, he was determined not simply to sit by and wonder idly whether something could be done. He determined that something would be done, and he would help lead the movement to do that. In 1989 he started that process with what was meant to be a small event about protecting and improving the beaches around his own then suburb of Mosman, so he planned a 'clean-up Mosman' day. But such was the enthusiasm of Sydneysiders for this initiative that it quickly became apparent that there wasn't enough waste even in Mosman that the 40,000 volunteers he'd amassed would be needed for. So, overnight, Clean Up Mosman became Clean Up Sydney Harbour.

Sydneysiders and all Australians were captivated by the motivation that he provided, and just a year later Clean Up Australia was born, with 40,000 volunteers. As part of that, Clean Up Australia and Ian created one of those advertising jingles that stick in the mind, like many of the greats, and 'yucky, yucky, poo' became part of the Australian lexicon. I'll spare the Federation Chamber my attempt at a rendition of it today, but needless to say it is one of those jingles that have stuck in the mind of so many Australians ever since. From 40,000 to 300,000 and then, a couple of years later, to the 30 million people who joined in Clean Up the World, which was his so-successful attempt to take his campaign global. Ian's contribution was recognised very quickly, and in 1994 he became Australian of the Year. What a fitting tribute to his work that was.

Ian's contribution was really one that changed the mindset of a generation about our individual capacity to act to protect our own environment. It's fair to say that when Ian started his crusade to reduce the impact of waste and pollution, the marine environment around Sydney in particular was different to what it is today. All of us remember vividly the campaigns to try and eliminate the discharge of raw sewage into the ocean just off our magnificent world famous beaches, and it's fair to say that litter and waste affected beaches and waterways around Sydney. In fact, it was a brave person who dived into the waters off most Sydney Harbour beaches back in those days.

He did teach us that we could act as individuals, and he really led a people power movement to improve our environment. What Clean Up Australia—and Clean Up the World—did was remind us that our own actions, which seem small and inconsequential in isolation, when combined together can create problems but we can be part of solving those problems, as mighty as they might have seemed to Australians at the time. Ian really motivated a generation. We have seen millions of Australians join together to try and improve our environment.

Of course, as I alluded to, the problems he identified exist today and, frankly, despite all of his efforts, have grown worse. I hope that the legacy of Ian's life is that we all renew our resolve to act both within our own borders and, more importantly, globally to try and reduce the impact of pollution, particularly plastics, on our marine environment. We know that this is a growing problem, and we know it's particularly a problem in our own region, because so much of the plastic pollution entering our oceans is doing so from nations and river systems in South-East Asia. We've seen the consequences of that on the incredible marine ecology of the oceans that border Australia—the Indian and, particularly, the Pacific. There are now estimates that by 2050 the weight of plastic pollution will exceed that of all marine life, and we know that we have an enormous task ahead of us. I hope, as we reflect on Ian's incredible life, that we do renew our commitment as Australians, and as world citizens, to make sure his goal that we tread lightly on this incredible planet of ours is one that comes to fruition.

I pay tribute to Ian Kiernan, and I particularly want to extend my condolences to his family: Judy, Sally and Pip. I know that they will have some consolation from the recognition Ian's work has been receiving over the last two days, although obviously nothing will take away from the extraordinary personal loss they are feeling this week.

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.