Cassowary Award recipients celebrated for outstanding work

Published Saturday, 15 June, 2019 at 08:30 PM

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

Individuals, groups and organisations have been recognised tonight for their outstanding contributions in protecting Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.

In attending the awards, Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch said the ten award recipients did amazing work in ensuring the region was protected.

“The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is vital to Queensland,” she said. “It includes the oldest living tropical rainforest, the Daintree, and supports the highest biodiversity of any region in Australia.

“The Palaszczuk Government recognises this, and we allocated $9 million in this week’s Budget to continue work to eradicate yellow crazy ants, which is an invasive pest.

“The Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Cassowary Awards recognise the outstanding conservation efforts being undertaken to ensure the protection of the World Heritage Area.”

The Minister congratulated the ten award recipients who were recognised at tonight’s awards, which were established in 1999.

“The Cassowary Awards are a fantastic way to recognise the hard work that this community does to support the conservation and preservation of this culturally and environmentally significant World Heritage Area,” Ms Enoch said.

“The work celebrated tonight reflects the diversity of the Wet Tropics. There are projects that focus on the conservation of land and endangered species, sustainability education programs and unique cultural experiences, as well as climate change initiatives.

“The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area encompasses more than 30 national parks, and includes the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, estimated to be 180 million years old.

“It is also home to about 40% of Australia’s bird species, 30% of mammals and 60% of the country’s butterfly species.

“It is imperative that the region is protected, and that is why awards such as these are important, to recognise the ongoing work, commitment and dedication of those individuals, groups and organisations carrying out this work.”

Member for Barron River, Minister Craig Crawford congratulated the award recipients.

“There are so many great works happening in North Queensland and the projects recognised tonight show what we can achieve as a community,” Mr Crawford said.

Member for Cairns Michael Healy said that the Cassowary Awards recognise important conservation work done by all members of our community.

“The Wet Tropics is an important part of our state and there were some fantastic projects that were recognised tonight that do a great job protecting it.”

Ms Enoch said this year’s award ceremony also paid tribute to two Wet Tropics conservationists, Mrs Margaret Thorsborne AO and Mr Peter Hitchcock AM.

“This year I had the honour of presenting the ‘Thorsborne Award for Community Conservation and Rehabilitation’ - an award renamed in 2016 to acknowledge Margaret and her late husband Arthur’s contributions to the Wet Tropics.

“Peter Hitchcock’s remarkable work was also acknowledged as the inaugural Executive Director of the WTMA, who’s efforts to conservation and World Heritage are also recognised on a global scale.

“It was heart-warming that these two Wet Tropics advocates were honoured at this year’s Cassowary Awards. Their legacies will live on through the countless people they continue to inspire.”

Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Chair, Leslie Shirreffs presented the special Chair’s Award to Allison Halliday.

“This year I was honoured to present the Chair’s Award to an amazing leader—Allison Halliday—a Malanbarra Yidinji Traditional Owner, who has provided a strong, unwavering voice for Rainforest Aboriginal People,” Ms Shirreffs said.  

“We are so grateful for Allison’s extensive contributions and the outcomes she has successfully pursued to benefit Rainforest Aboriginal People and the Wet Tropics.”


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2019 Cassowary Award recipients:

Thorsborne Award for Community Conservation and Rehabilitation: Bonadio Partnership

The Bonadio family are committed to conservation on the Atherton Tableland. In partnership with the Barron Catchment Carers Green Corridor Project, they revegetated around 20 acres of critically endangered Mabi forest on their farming land, creating a 1.5km corridor along the Barron River, now known as the Mabi Wildlife Reserve. The family raise awareness of the importance of Mabi forest by hosting tourism visitors, school field trips and science studies. A wonderful intergenerational effort, it has reduced erosion, improved water quality and increased wildlife abundance, as well as inspired other landholders to undertake rehabilitation on their properties.

Tourism and Presentation: Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours

Through their day tours, Deadly Dinners and short stay holidays, Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours have combined reef and rainforest, bushfoods and medicines with World Heritage and cultural values to establish a unique visitor experience. The tours showcase the World Heritage Area in an exciting and engaging fashion. A unique and clever offering for visitors to the region, the tours are setting a new benchmark for cultural experiences in the Wet Tropics, with plans to grow the product while continuing to provide benefits to country, its people and tourism.

Innovation: Dr David Westcott

Across some 20 years, David’s research on key World Heritage values has provided significant understanding of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, supporting its management. A strong participant in community education and conservation awareness, it is his pioneering work using innovative tracing and predictive modelling that has influenced the management and conservation of cassowary populations and flying fox colonies—invaluable to the viability of these endangered species. 


Education : Children for Change

Children for Change promotes environmental and sustainability concepts through educating children in a fun after-school program, the AICE Club. Mia and Sylvia Conway use innovative hands-on activities, excursions and special guest educators to create awareness of World Heritage values and undertake valuable environmental work. With strong established partnerships across business and natural resource management groups, the program fosters a deeper connection with the natural world, with enthusiastic results from children and their parents.

People. Country. Culture: Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Cashmere

Betty is a strong voice for the Jirrbal people, advocating strongly for the aspirations of her people on country. She holds, and willingly shares, a great depth and breadth of knowledge about her beloved Jirrbal country within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Betty plays a strong role in the region through her Aboriginal art and tour guiding businesses, fulfilling her role as cultural heritage officer for Wabubadda and contributing to a wide range of committees, corporations and organisations. She is dedicated to protecting and caring for her country, while ensuring cultural knowledge is passed onto the next generation.


Community Champions: Phil Staley

Phil, the Mornings presenter for ABC Far North Queensland, has been a long term advocate for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. He established the ‘Conservations’ show over 13 years, raising awareness of a wide array of environmental and World Heritage issues. Last year, Phil created a ground-breaking hour-long national radio documentary exploring 30 years of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Over three months, he sought out people from all sectors and walks of life, travelling far and wide across the Wet Tropics. The resultant program was broadcast nationally, bringing the rainforest to life for listeners with his insightful and entertaining commentary while raising the Area’s national profile.


Local Government & Industry Initiatives: Gillies Range Road Litter and Illegal Dumping Prevention Project Collaboration Team

This project shows how collaboration across governments and communities can bring excellent results. First raised and driven by community member Siggy Heise-Pavlov, the Department of Environment and Science took the lead on a cooperative action plan with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Transport and Main Roads, Terrain NRM, Cairns City Council, Tablelands Regional Council and community members to reduce roadside litter and illegal dumping along the Gillies Range Road in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The campaign involved television news stories, radio and newspaper ads, a social media campaign, posters and brochures, innovative signs and a large-scale clean-up that saw volumes of old cars, plastics and rubbish removed.


Climate Change Leadership: Jaragun Natural Resource Management

Jaragun Natural Resource Management works in the Russell River catchment to improve water quality, maintain unique Wet Tropics biodiversity and provide for ecological succession and adaptation to climate change. Based in Babinda, the organisation has been involved in riparian and corridor restoration for environmental and climate resilience co-benefits over many years. The Babinda Reef Carbon Project—a pilot project developed by GreenCollar and Jaragun NRM—is one of the first projects to produce reef credits. It involves replanting rainforest and rebuilding wetlands, allowing nature to act as a water filter. Jaragun NRM works innovatively to address climate change and build a resilient landscape.


Young Cassowary Award: Malanda Primary School

Under the school’s science and enrichment program, Malanda Primary School students have embarked on a number of innovative and practical projects including Jaz Bags (handmade recycled bags), Bee Kind (educating the community about native bees), Wildlife Watch (with camera traps, student surveys and a critter club), Energy Wise (reducing the school’s carbon footprint), Cassowary Care (an education program), and Yum Tum Garden (growing produce for the tuckshop). Through the diverse environment projects they are doing, the school and its exceptional students show strong leadership on promotion of biodiversity and sustainability with flow-on benefits to the World Heritage community.


Chair’s Award: Allison Halliday

As a Malanbarra Yidinji Traditional Owner, Allison provides a strong, unwavering voice for Rainforest Aboriginal People in the Wet Tropics. She has taken on leadership roles with innumerable committees and organisations since the establishment of the Rainforest Aboriginal Network in 1992. Allison has been particularly pivotal in the initial negotiations, as well as the current refresh, of the Wet Tropics Regional Agreement, and was instrumental in the campaign to have cultural values of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area recognised on the National Heritage list. As a previous Director of both the Wet Tropics Management Authority and Terrain NRM, she has been steadfast in her advocacy for the bio-cultural values of the Wet Tropics and the importance of traditional knowledge in the management of the rainforest. Allison, always mindfully guided by the aspirations and work of her Elders, tirelessly advocates for the rights and interests of all Rainforest Aboriginal People in the Wet Tropics.