The Australian Geographic Society (AGS) hosted its annual award ceremony in Sydney last night, acknowledging this year’s most remarkable Australians in the fields of adventure and conservation.
Hosted by Ray Martin, the 2016 Australian Geographic Society awards event featured special guest speaker and legendary conservationist Dr David Suzuki (pictured).
The AGS Awards are Australia’s longest running awards for adventure and conservation and its winners are exceptional people who serve as inspirational role models to all Australians.
The Lifetime Achievement Awards for adventure and conservation are the Society’s highest honours, recognising those Australians who not only have a lifelong commitment to their chosen field but who have given back to the nation and inspired countless other Australians.
Those in attendance include the founder of the AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC journal and patron of the Australian Geographic Society Dick Smith.
Honorary Lifetime of Conservation Award, DAVID SUZUKI, CC
This year, special guest Dr David Suzuki joins previous awardees Buzz Aldrin and Dick Smith in receiving a Society honorary award. The scientist and skilled communicator has explained science and nature to millions through internationally screened television series such as The Nature of Things, which has run for more than 50 seasons, and It’s a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies.
He is also a frequent speaker at international environmental events and reaches people of all ages through his 55 published books. In 1990 he co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental think tank and campaign body, which, among other things, runs the David Suzuki Nature Challenge. The challenge asks individuals to embrace 10 key sustainability measures in their everyday lives – to date up to 500,000 people have accepted the challenge.
David has also argued that North Americans could achieve sustainability within a generation by eliminating waste and pollution, improving efficiency and building sustainable cities.
Lifetime of Adventure, RON ALLUM
Ron Allum’s ingenuity is the stuff of legend. He helped to build the Deepsea Challenger, a submersible that reached the Earth’s deepest point in 2012 with US director James Cameron inside. Ron first worked with James in 2001, when he joined the director’s Titanic expedition team. He continued to assist with technical projects before work began on Challenger in 2005.
In the Aussie adventuring community, Ron is renowned as a record-breaking cave-diver, and was part of the 1988 Society-sponsored expedition team that was trapped underground when a rainstorm hit the Nullarbor Plain (AG 19). The radio system rigged up by Ron, a former ABC radio engineer, was essential to the team’s escape.
Lifetime of Conservation Award, ROBYN WILLIAMS
After four decades as a science journalist and broadcaster with ABC radio, Robyn Williams estimates that he has made 2040 broadcasts, covering 14,280 stories and 7140 interviews with experts. Robyn is most well-known for The Science Show, which began in 1975 and is not much younger than his other creation, Okham’s Razor – a Sunday morning monologue slot in which experts talk about their work.
Robyn has also conducted countless interviews with experts on ABC TV on programs such as Quantum and Catalyst, narrated the Nature of Australia series and appeared in World Safari with David Attenborough.
Outside the ABC, Robyn has served in various capacities, including president of the Australian Museum Trust, chairman of the Commission for the Future, and president of the Australian Science Communicators. In 1987, he was proclaimed a National Living Treasure.
Conservationist of the Year, TIM JARVIS AM
As our 2016 Conservationist of the Year, Tim Jarvis sets a new record – he is the only medallion recipient to be recognised in this category and also that of Adventurer of the Year, which he was awarded in 2013 following his re-enactment of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1916 epic Antarctic escape.
In 2015 Tim led another team effort with his 25Zero project, which aims to highlight the retreat of glaciers on the world’s 25 equatorial mountains. As a result of climate change, Tim says these glaciers will be gone in 25 years.
Adventurer of the Year, MICHAEL SMITH
In April 2015, Melbourne-born Michael Smith made a daring journey across 25 countries to become the first person to pilot an amphibious aircraft on a solo circumnavigation of the world.
Enchanted by the luxury, glamour and romance of the Qantas flying boats of the 1930s, Michael wanted to retrace their historic route between Australia and England as closely as possible in his own amphibious aircraft.
The original plan wasn’t to fly around the world, but after arriving in London and planning the journey home, Michael yearned for more.
He then extended the trip and crossed to North America before flying across the Pacific to Asia and back to Australia. Rather than a few months, the expedition had turned into a record-breaking, seven-month journey: 210 days, 25 countries, 80 stops and 480 hours flying.
Young Adventurer of the Year, JADE HAMEISTER
Jade Hameister from Melbourne, is not what you’d call an underachiever. Having climbed Mt Kosciuszko by the time she was six and conquered Mt Everest Base Camp at 12, it stands to reason that she’d embark on an expedition to the North Pole at the grand old age of 14.
After months of pulling tyres along the beach, punishing CrossFit routines and a dress rehearsal in the Tasman Glacier, in April this year the teenager found herself in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, in the high Norwegian Arctic. Jade walked into the history books in snow-covered boots and became the youngest person to trek one of the more difficult routes to the North Pole.
This was one of three expeditions in ‘Jade’s Polar Quest’, which will see her cover almost 2,000km (totalling almost four months on ice) on skis, dragging a sled of around her own body weight in some of the most extreme and beautiful environments on the planet.
Young Conservationist of the Year, JOSHUA GILBERT
In 2015 Worimi man Joshua Gilbert campaigned for a fundamental change in the NSW Farmers Association policy. The then 24-year-old was the chair of the NSW Young Farmers Association, and through his successful lobbying, the farmers’ policy was transformed from one calling for a Royal Commission into the concept of climate change, to one that encouraged greater use of renewable energy.
As a result, former US-presidential candidate Al Gore asked Josh to be part of his Climate Reality Project, for which Josh produced the video Australia’s Young Green Farmers. It has been viewed in more than 75 countries and by over 100 million people.
Spirit of Adventure, BRIAN FREEMAN
In 2014 former soldier Brian Freeman founded Walking Wounded, which assists returned Aussie soldiers by supporting their mental health. Part of his job involves leading confidence-building expeditions. In 2016 Brian summitted Mt Everest with a list of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, losing a finger to frostbite.
He was also the first to run from Australia’s northernmost to southernmost point, and has recently led teams on the Kokoda Trail and up Mt Kilimanjaro.
Spirit of Adventure, ALYSSA AZAR
In May 2016, 19-year-old Alyssa became the youngest Australian to summit Mt Everest, beating a previous record held by a 21-year-old. It was the teenager’s third attempt, after natural disasters thwarted two previous climbs – the first was in 2014, when an avalanche struck the Khumbu Icefall, killing 16 Sherpas, and the second in April 2015, when Nepal was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 8500 people.
Spirit of Adventure, LACHLAN SMART
Queenslander Lachlan Smart became the youngest person to fly a single-engine aircraft solo around the world when he landed on the Sunshine Coast on 27 August. The 18-year-old travelled 45,000km, stopping in 24 locations and 15 countries. He was inspired by former Society Adventurer of the Year Ryan Campbell, who held this record in 2013. Lachlan is almost a year younger than previous Guinness World Record holder Matt Guthmiller.