Constituency Statement: Vale Mr Ian Bruce Carrick AO
(North Sydney) (11:05): 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.