Ian Kiernan actualises the saying ‘it starts in your own backyard’. Starting with a community clean up day in 1989, today Ian is the Chairman of Clean Up Australia, attracting almost one million volunteers annually supporting a cleaner community and raising awareness of ocean pollution. An influential and inspiring environmentalist recognised with the Order of Australia medal in 1991.
Ian Bruce Kiernan was born near the shores of Sydney Harbour, Australia, in 1940 and grew up learning to swim, fish and sail on his favourite waterway.
Educated at The Armidale School in Northern NSW, Ian became a builder in the construction industry, specialising in historic restorations.
Throughout his life, Ian has also been a passionate yachtsman, sailing competitively for more than 40 years.
He has represented Australia at the Admiral's, Southern Cross, Dunhill, Clipper, Kenwood and Trans Pacific Cup competitions.
In 1986/87 Ian fulfilled a long-held dream by representing Australia in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race. He finished 6th out of a fleet of 25 yachts from 11 nations, setting an Australian record for a solo circumnavigation of the world.
It was during the BOC Challenge that Ian saw and was appalled by the amount of rubbish choking the world's oceans. He committed himself to do something about it on his return, starting in his own backyard - Sydney Harbour. With the support of a committee of friends, he organised a community event - Clean Up Sydney Harbour on Sunday 8 January 1989.
Ian was overwhelmed by the response from Sydney residents, with 40,000 volunteers turning out to lend a hand to clean up. The huge success of the first Clean Up event in 1989 sparked national interest in the simple but effective community-based idea.
In 1990, the first Clean Up Australia Day took place on Sunday, 21 January. Again, the response of Australians was astounding. More than 300,000 Australians volunteered their time to help make a difference to the health of their local environment.
In June 1991, Ian and his team were invited by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to meet at their Headquarters in Nairobi to discuss Clean Up Australia's proposal for a global Clean Up campaign.
Ian signed an agreement with UNEP to manage and promote Clean Up the World, commencing in September 1993, based on the concept of 100 cities around the globe participating at the same time.
The results were staggering. During three days (17-19 September 1993), more than 30 million people in 80 countries participated in the Australian initiative. The campaign has grown each year since, making it one of the largest community based environmental campaigns in the world. the campaign annually attracts an estimated 35 million people from 120 countries including from Micronesia to India in Asia Pacific; from Argentina to Venezuela in Latin America; from Turkey to the United Arab Emirates in West Asia; from Aruba to Zimbabwe in Africa; from Greece to Poland in Europe; and USA and Canada in North America:
The campaign’s flagship event: Clean Up the World Weekend, celebrated on the 3rd weekend of September, continues to attract thousands of communities across the globe whom take to the streets, beaches, river banks and parks to 'think globally and act locally' as part of the Clean Up the World campaign. In recent years the campaign has come to be
recognised as a year round campaign, with participants conducting activities all throughout the year, addressing a variety of environmental issues including waste and water management, and climate change.
Ian is now the Executive Chairman of Clean Up Australia Ltd, a national non-profit organisation that co-ordinates Clean Up Australia Day and Clean Up the World. Clean Up Australia Ltd also runs a number of community projects and Clean Up Our Climate, which are long term community-based environmental programs that address the need for ongoing care
and restoration of environmental assets while assisting communities to reduce their environmental footprint.
These projects represent an evolutionary process for Clean Up Australia to include "Fix Up" projects as well as Clean Up activities.
Ian holds a number of Chairmanships in addition to his Chairmanship of Clean Up, Ian is Chairman of capitalC and the Sydney Harbour Awards. He is Patron of a number of organisations including the Central Coast Mariners Football Club, the Australasian Chapter of the International Erosion Control Association, the Sydney Agricultural, Rural and Public Land
Trust, the Enviro-Finance Association of Australia, Mens Shed, the Sapphire Coast Discovery Centre in Eden NSW, Sprit Sports Leisure Group and Mosman Rowers.
Ian is also a member of Charles Sturt University Institute for Land, Water and Society Advisory Board and the University of Sydney Science Foundation for Physics.
Ian's environmental efforts were originally recognised in 1991 when the Australian Government awarded him the Order of Australia Medal (OAM).
In the same year, he was also named Communicator of the Year by the Public Relations Institute of Australia and was the recipient of an Advance Australia Award the same year.
In 1993, Ian was made a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Laureate for his work and leadership in the local and global environment.
In recognition of his leadership in the environment and the community both in Australia and internationally, Ian was named 1994 Australian of the Year. Ian was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on Australia Day, 1995 and was awarded the prestigious Banksia Foundation Fellowship that year.
In August 1995 the then Prime Minister, Paul Keating, launched Ian Kiernan's autobiography (co-authored by Phil Jarratt) titled 'Coming Clean'.
In 1997/98 he was named among 100 other leading Australians as a 'National Living Treasure' and was inducted as a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. He also became a Vice-President of the international organisation, ACOPS (Advisory Council on Protection of the Seas).
Ian is the recipient of Toastmaster's International Communications and Leadership Award and the Berger-Sullivan Tourism Award from the International Federation of Women's Travel Organisations.
In 1998, Ian was awarded the prestigious United Nations Environment Programme Sasakawa Environment Prize. This honour was awarded for "mobilising tens of millions of people around the globe to take responsibility for their own environment." The highly regarded award was presented to Ian at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on November 16.
The following year, Ian was honoured for his international work through the 1999 Building World Citizenship Award, judged by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).
In 2003 he was awarded the Centenary Medal, and in 2004 was made a NSW Ambassador for the Year of the Built Environment.
In 2005 Ian was admitted to the Companions of the Order of the Smile, an international award voted for by children.
As an avid sailor and Ambassador for the Great Barrier Reef Ian maintains his love for the sea as Patron of a number of sailing groups including ASPECT Sailors with Disabilities, SCEGGS Redlands and Scots College Youth Sailing Programs.
Ian was also been honoured as Chairman of the Lord Howe Island Museum Trust, in recognition of his fundraising activities and personal construction work of the new museum.
He was made honorary life member of the Lord Howe Island Historical Society in 2000, and
was subsequently appointed to the Society.
He is also an honorary Golden Circle member of the Slocum Society, as well as being a member of the Cape Horners-Australia and League of Ancient Mariners.
For the first four years of Clean Up Australia Ian worked as a volunteer. However, due to increasing commitments with Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World, Ian closed his building business and has been employed full-time as Chairman of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World for the past 16 years.
“Ian took great interest in our company and in the nature of the event which we had invited him to address. We were impressed by his personal story as well as the way in which he was able to tie this into the theme of the evening. Ian also delighted us by taking the time to respond to audience questions and interacted with our guests with grace and thoughtfulness during the evening – he is a real Australian Gentleman."
Bitzer Australia Pty Ltd
“Thank you again for yesterday. As usual I loved your presentation and more particularly your personal and incredibly genuine style. Feedback was unbelievably positive as it was for the other two events"
“Excellent… Ian was a great fit for our audience and they found him (and his background, stories etc) fascinating"
Spatial Sciences Conference