Tribute to Ian Kiernan AO
18th October 2018
Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (15:34): I thank the Speaker, Ms Shelley Hancock, for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter of public importance today. It is in reference to the passing of Ian Kiernan, AO, and in commemoration of his extraordinary life. On Tuesday night, with the death of Ian Bruce Carrick Kiernan, AO, New South Wales and Australia lost a great champion for the environment, for his community and, dare I say, a great bloke. I offer sincere sympathy and commiserations for their loss to Ian's wife, Judy, his daughters Philippa and Sally, all of his friends and colleagues at Clean Up Australia and the many thousands of friends he has made around New South Wales, the country and the world.
I am not sure when I first met Ian, but I know that, along with the vast majority of New South Wales, he first came onto my radar in 1989 when this knockabout bloke stepped up with an audacious and hugely ambitious plan to clean up Sydney Harbour. It is a matter of record that more than 40,000 people stepped up to the challenge set by Ian to clean up their local area around the harbour on that day, and a powerful movement was started. However, these things do not just happen; they start with an idea and invariably require many hands. In this case, the idea came to Ian after he realised the amount of rubbish, particularly plastics, that were making their way into our natural environment. He saw this firsthand while on an adventure as a competitor in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race. Ian was appalled at the vast amounts of debris he saw in the Sargasso Sea. This memory stayed with him and inspired him.
It is now a matter of record that on Tuesday night Ian passed away. He had been living at Kirribilli in his latter years and was a young 78 years of age. He had been diagnosed with cancer only eight weeks prior. It was a short period from the diagnosis of his illness to his passing away. Ian was born on 4 October 1940. He grew up around Sydney Harbour and was educated at Scots College in the Armidale School. He was a man that loved a bit of adventure. There is no doubt that sailing was a great love of his and it put him in close contact with the natural environment. He was also a practical bloke. He was a builder and he liked to get things done. If Ian set out to do something, he wanted to see an achievement at the other end of it.
Ian was inspired by what he had seen on the Sargasso Sea, but while thinking about what he could do about it he came across a number of things that further inspired him to step up to the plate. People have differing views about where his ideas came from, but I want to claim a little bit of the credit for Lake Macquarie. In 1987 Ian was in Lake Macquarie. He used to sail there quite frequently and was a good friend to Lake Macquarie over the years. He had seen a project run by then Mayor Ivan Welsh to clean up Lake Macquarie. Ian saw that this as an opportunity to clean up Sydney Harbour. He could motivate people and do it bigger and better. He took it to Sydney Harbour in 1989 with Clean Up Sydney Harbour. That went on a few years and later became Clean Up Australia , then Clean Up The World. Ian has mobilised millions of people to Clean Up Australia. He has been an inspiration. The people of New South Wales have lost a great champion and any member in this House who has had anything to do with Ian Kiernan would recognise the greatness of this man.
Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour) (15:40): I speak in support of the matter of public importance as put by the member for Lake Macquarie. I also grew up in Newcastle and I remember fishing on the lake. I remember a lot of sailors who used to go there for a good day out, and every time they finished a beer they would punch holes in the can and let it drop to the bottom of the lake. Ian Kiernan first started Clean Up Sydney Harbour which then grew into Clean Up Australia. Marine environments were his main concern as a man of international renown in the yachting world.
As a member of Apex since before I came to this place, we take great pride in going out and cleaning up the waterways around Coffs Harbour. Unfortunately, Clean Up Australia Day still goes on and we still pull many tonnes of rubbish—a lot of it plastic, as was mentioned by the member for Lake Macquarie—out of our estuaries and lakes and waterways generally. I acknowledge Professor Steve Smith from the National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour. He has been trying for a number of years to get funding to look at the effects of plastic on the environment in the East Coast. A number of people would know that Coffs Harbour has the Solitary Islands Marine Park, and we do not want to see the environment there spoilt by the dumping of rubbish either in the water or into the estuaries that drain into that magnificent marine park.
I remember one discussion I had with Ian about yachties because quite often when they are cruising for pleasure on their yachts, they dump their waste straight overboard. I suppose we disagreed on this subject, but Ian was more interested in stopping the other types of pollution that go into the ocean. I acknowledge Terrie-Ann Johnson and her father, who are both friends of mine. Terrie is the managing director and chief executive officer of Clean Up Australia. I know how she must be feeling. I think it is some six months ago that Ian first knew that he had a problem with cancer. He underwent treatment, but in the last eight weeks it really knocked him around to the extent that he was hospitalised and, tragically, has since passed away.
Ian has raised awareness across coastal towns of the damage that unimpeded dumping of rubbish in waterways, gutters and streets—which invariably run into the ocean—has and will continue to have not only on local waterways but also on major oceans, as we have seen through the vast amounts of plastic that is floating around. A number of people are trying to arrest that plastic waste with some small means of success, but the reality is without Ian Kieran originally leading this charge into making sure that our waterways and oceans were clean, I do not believe much would have been done.
Because of Ian, not only does Australia lead the world in awareness and programs to stop rubbish being dumped into waterways and oceans but we would have to be the most successful country. Indeed, other countries are now starting to follow suit. It is with great sadness that I offer my condolences to Judy, his wife, and his daughters. He was a great man. He will remembered for a long time. I trust that Clean Up Australia will continue as an ongoing legacy of the work he started. Each year on Clean up Australia Day we will remember what a great man he was and what a great thing he has done for the environment world-wide.
Ms LIESL TESCH (Gosford) (15:45): I support the member for Lake Macquarie and member for Coffs Harbour on this matter of public importance. I, too, grew up on the shores of Lake Macquarie. Like so many coastal-living Australians I pottered around in Ian's way of life; the member for Pittwater and the member for Shellharbour may know this lifestyle also. Living on the coast and pottering around in the waterways and on the boats as kids we all stopped and picked up the rubbish as part of Clean Up Australia Day. Like Ian Kiernan I got on to boats at any early stage of my life. He accomplished amazing things on the waterways, first as a sailor, competing in a dozen Sydney to Hobart races, and then had the inspiration to circumnavigate the world in 1986 in the BOC Challenge. In that race he finished sixth but he actually set an Australian circumnavigation record. He really is a sailing legend, and it was that experience that inspired him to do what he did, especially after nine months at sea.
I know I never take a plastic water bottle now if I can possibly avoid it because I have seen the rubbish out at sea. Ian inspired me to teach kids about the Pacific gyre of waste and the flow-on effect of the Clean Up Australia campaign that has been a part of our lives. Few Australians would not know Ian from his advocacy for preserving the beautiful environment that we all cherish. Few people have created such a dedicated wide-ranging movement as Ian did with Clean Up Australia Day. With only a small committee of friends after he returned from his trip around the world, he set up the first Clean Up Sydney Harbour and ended up with 40,000 volunteers; he was obviously starting a movement. From there it grew and grew. Since then more than seven million people have taken part in the annual event, with the addition of Schools Clean Up Day, Business Clean Up Day and Clean Up the World, involving 40 million people from 120 countries.
Ian's mission through Clean Up Australia Day was to inspire and work with communities to clean up and fix up our earth. He can be sure that legacy will live on forever. Beyond Clean Up Australia Day, Ian encouraged Australians to take a renewed pride in our environment. I actually believe that two Central Coast organisations came from this legacy—Clean 4 Shore, which has just won a national Landcare aware, and Take 3 For The Sea, which encourages kids across the Central Coast to pick up three pieces of rubbish as they leave the beach. Ian has made us realise that we are custodians of this land for only the time we are here. We inevitably pass it on to the next generation, who will do the same for the next generation. We are not the first and we are not the last. We need to take care of what we have and make sure we can be proud of what we leave for those who follow. This is not just one day of the year; it is every day. That is Ian's true legacy. Vale, Ian Kiernan, AO.
Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (15:51): By leave: I make a contribution to this matter of public importance and thank the member for Lake Macquarie for raising it. As he acknowledged in his contribution, the late Ian Kiernan died as a resident of Kirribilli in my own community of North Shore. He had a long-lasting legacy across my community. The very first iteration of Clean Up Australia Day, before it was even called that, when it was called Clean Up Sydney Harbour, initially took place in Mosman. The plan was for it to clean up Mosman but many community activists and locals had the crazy idea to expand it to the whole of Sydney Harbour. People may know the story of that original day. There was a fear that nobody would turn up or be involved and that people would look foolish in trying to achieve such a significant initiative. I do not think that effort could ever be called foolish because the following year, in 1990, it went on to become Clean Up Australia Day, with hundreds of thousands of volunteers, and through Clean Up the World it has touched more than 40 million people from 120 countries.
Ian Kiernan latched onto an issue back in the 1980s that is becoming more and more prominent around the globe. While it is very easy for us as Sydneysiders and Australians to accept we have some of the cleanest beaches in the world, including in my own community, we would not have to travel far to see the significant pollution, particularly single-use plastic pollution, that exists in our oceans and the impact that has on our marine life and marine diversity. What we can do in acknowledging Ian's contribution and passing is to double-down on our own personal responsibility and commitment to addressing plastic use, particularly single-use plastic, and waste in our waterways and oceans.
Many people in my community have been touched by the loss of Ian Kiernan, including local businesses like Tonic Lane in Neutral Bay, environmental activists. They were recently finalists at the Green Globe awards and experienced significant mentorship and support from Ian Kiernan. We are a harbour-based community and electorate. We love our environment. We have organisations that go down to Balmoral to pick up straws, waste and rubbish every day. We have the home of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science in Chowder Bay and Taronga Zoo Sydney, with all its work and effort for Australian and global conservation and marine protection. Ian has left a long-lasting legacy and while it is devastating that we have lost him, we are grateful that we had him in the first place. We can experience and enjoy his legacy and redouble our efforts.
Mr ADAM MARSHALL (Northern Tablelands—Minister for Tourism and Major Events, and Assistant Minister for Skills) (15:51): By leave: "A larrikin, a powerful environmentalist and a man who showed that one person can change the world". That is how Murray Guest, Headmaster of the Armidale School paid tribute to Ian Kiernan yesterday upon hearing the very sad news of his passing at the age of 78. Ian is truly a great Australian and the remarks of previous members, particularly by the member for Lake Macquarie, have clearly articulated that. One of the lesser known facts about Ian is that he was educated in country New South Wales, in Armidale, at the Armidale School. He attended that school between 1952 and 1958 where he was a member of the First XV, a talented swimmer, and built on his sense of adventure during weekend bush leave, as it was called then, where he would go into the nearby gorge country with his mates, many of whom he remained friends with for the rest of his life.
But his association with the school did not end with his departure in 1958. He became a founding member of the Armidale School Company, a position he continued to hold up until the time of his passing. I pass on from the Armidale School its appreciation for the wonderful contribution, wisdom, insight and humour that he freely gave to the school many decades after he left. Ian returned to TAS back in 2011 to be guest speaker at the annual presentation day. Although I was not present on that occasion Headmaster Murray Guest recalls vividly a comment that Ian made during the presentation. As Ian was talking to the students during his address he said:
One of my great lessons from TAS was to look for and take up challenges and I really abide by the George Bernard Shaw quotation "If your dreams don't frighten you they're not big enough".
I do not think there could be a more apt description of the way Ian Kiernan took on challenges and issues and without doubt prevailed. I, too, join with the TAS community and all Australians in passing on my sympathy to Ian's wife, Judy, and his children. We truly have lost a great Australian.
Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) (15:34): By leave: I make a brief contribution to acknowledge the life of Ian Kiernan. He was a fantastic Australian who inspired millions not only within Australia but also around the world. Many of us know Ian Kiernan from his work in Clean Up Australia but he was also throughout his life very high profile and effective in speaking up for the environment, in particular protecting our waterways and oceans. When he competed in a world yacht race in 1987 he found the oceans spoiled with rubbish. On his return he organised a community event, which shows the power of one. That community event, which was to combat the spread of litter in public parks and waterways, led to the founding of Clean Up Australia from Clean Up Sydney, and the following year went international. Not only have tens of thousands of volunteers turned up in Australia and hundreds of thousands around the world for this event but the idea has inspired people everywhere. For example, in Myanmar, a place I hold very dear, they hold clean-up days. In fact, they looked to the work of Ian Kiernan and Clean Up Australia to help them clean up their country.
Ian Kiernan not only wanted to clean up the waterways in our communities at the end of the process but also to make sure that waste did not get into our communities. He was a strong supporter of addressing the collection of litter and also extended producer responsibility, including making sure that schemes such as the Return and Earn container deposit scheme were introduced. He was acknowledged in 1991 with a Medal of the Order of Australia, in 1994 he was named Australian of the Year and in 1995 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. He really was a champion of our community and our environment. His work will live on forever because the idea about community action and that each of us can be responsible to get governments to take action has been set in stone as a result of his legacy. I wish his family and friends best wishes in their time of bereavement but they should acknowledge that he fought an incredible fight that is acknowledged not only in this Parliament but around the world as a champion for Australia and the environment.
Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (15:57): In reply: I thank the members for the electorates of Coffs Harbour, Gosford, North Shore, Northern Tablelands and Balmain for their contributions to this matter of public importance. Anyone who has had any direct experience with Ian Kiernan knows what a wonderful person he was; the community has known that for many years. Indeed, the community has been greatly inspired by him. I will not take too much more time of the House because even if we had hours we would never be able to do justice to the legacy or life of Ian Kiernan, but in closing I will say one more thing. Ian knew he was just one man and that he could not possibly do so much by himself.
His gift to the community, his city and his country was to inspire and mobilise others and to bring together armies of volunteers and concerned citizens to tackle the rubbish choking our bushland, waterways and oceans, and more recently to tackle the use of single-use plastic bags. He was one man but one amazing champion for the environment. I reiterate, our thoughts are with Ian's wife, Judy, and his daughters, Sally and Pip, but they are also with his close friends and colleagues at Clean Up Australia. I know, as was mentioned by the member for Coffs Harbour, that Terrie-Ann Johnson, the managing director of Clean Up Australia, and the team will be driven to continue the legacy of Ian Kiernan. I pledge here now, and I am sure other members will do likewise, that I will continue to do what I can to continue the legacy of Ian Kiernan. Vale Ian Kiernan.
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