SPEECH: SA Environment Protection Awards

Today Mark acknowledged the 2019 winners of the South Australian Environment Awards. The awards recognise those people who have made a substantial contribution to the protection of the environment. 


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: For conservationists, the highlight of the year would have to be the annual Conservation Council Jill Hudson Award for Environmental Protection. This is an event that is held every year around this time. It recognises those people who have made a substantial contribution to the protection of the environment. Over many years, there has been a wide and varied range of winners—a number of Indigenous people, journalists, people who are employed by conservation groups but overwhelmingly people who make their contribution to the environment in a voluntary way. The awards this year were held at the Conservation Council's headquarters at the Joinery. I was very pleased to be there, along with the Hon. Ian Hunter.

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: Tandanya.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Sorry; the awards were held at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, not at the Joinery. The Joinery, of course, is the Conservation Council's headquarters. The Hon. Ian Hunter was there and Minister for Environment, David Speirs, was there as well.

The highlight of the night is the principal award, the Jill Hudson award. That award was in memory of Jillian Hudson, who lived from 1948 to 1997. She was born, lived, studied and taught and died in South Australia. Most of her working life was spent teaching primary school children. She had strong concerns for the environment, and she made sure that she passed on an environmental ethic to students.

The winner this year was Mr Bunna Lawrie. Bunna was nominated for his lifelong work to protect nature and the continuity of culture that protects the environment with a particular emphasis on the Great Australian Bight. He is a highly respected senior Mirning elder and is the whale songman and ceremony man for the Mirning people. That is the area around the Nullarbor and the coastal areas and the sea beyond. People might not have met Bunna Lawrie, but you are certain to have seen him in films and videos because he has featured in a number of documentaries around the issue of drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Bunna Lawrie was a founding partner in the Great Australian Bight Alliance. As such, he has participated in many events, including paddle-outs, walks and other events not just in Australia but around the world. He has represented his people, and represented the environment that he is responsible for, in Norway, where he has been to speak with Norwegian people, the Norwegian parliament and the board of the oil company Equinor in relation to their plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight. He was a very worthy winner and a very popular choice.

One of the reasons why I said at the start that this is the highlight of the year is that these awards are peer awards. In other words, they are determined by others in the conservation movement as opposed to being determined, for example, by government officials or even by politicians. So congratulations to Bunna Lawrie.

The second award was the Young Achiever Award. I will acknowledge that sponsorship for this award was provided by the South Australian Department for Environment and Water. The winner of this award was a young woman, Doha Khan. She was nominated and ultimately successful because of her inspiring contribution as a climate activist and a community leader in the School Strike 4 Climate. She was only 16 years old when she co-founded the South Australian branch of the School Strike 4 Climate, and she is now one of the national leaders.

The events, as members know, that Doha Khan and her colleagues organised attracted crowds of more than 26,000 people. She has been an absolute inspiration in empowering young people to participate in the political process and to stand up for what is important to them and their generation. To cap it off, she did all this while studying for her year 12 exams. What a powerful achievement, so congratulations to Doha Khan.

Another award is the Unsung Hero Award. One of the prerequisites of this award is that not many people know about you, because you are in fact unsung. The winner of that award is a person who some members here might have heard of before: Margaret Hender. Margaret is one of the people behind the movement that is now global to declare climate emergencies in various parliaments, other legislatures and local councils.

Margaret has been at the forefront of that campaign for a very long time. She is one of the founders of an organisation known as CORENA (Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia), and that is a community organisation that has crowdfunded nearly $300,000 for community energy projects. Margaret has also been involved with the Getting off Gas campaign, and she has led political action with Fossil Free SA to advocate for a future for South Australia free of fossil fuels.

The final awards I wanted to acknowledge were the Lifetime Achiever Awards. These awards recognise people who are either living or have passed on and who have made an important contribution to the environment in South Australia. I will just go through the winners this year of the Lifetime Achiever Award: firstly, Dr Helen Caldicott, who many people would know was prominent from, I think, the 1970s onwards in her advocacy for protection of the community from ionising radiation and the nuclear industry.

The second recipient was Dr John Coulter, who people would remember was a former Australian Democrats senator for South Australia and a former president of the Conservation Council of South Australia and also a former client of mine in a post-retirement role as president of the Stirling District Residents Association. The third recipient was Professor Mike Tyler, commonly known as 'the frog man'. Amongst his many claims to fame was dispelling the myth that frogs are stupid enough to allow themselves to be boiled in a pot of water, given that that is an analogy often used to describe the human reaction to climate change.

The final two acknowledgements were posthumous awards: one to Eileen Kampakuta Brown AO for her work on behalf of her people in relation to nuclear waste dumps up near Coober Pedy, and her award was collected by her great-grandchildren: Jessica, Joshua and William Hughes. The final Lifetime Achiever Award went posthumously to Henry Jones, whom all members would recognise as a powerful force of advocacy for the protection of the Coorong and the Murray. His award was collected by his wife, Gloria Jones. On behalf of all the winners, and those who were nominated but did not win, my congratulations, and I look forward to next year's event when we again celebrate the work of some of South Australia' prominent environmentalists.