It was during this race that Ian Kiernan saw the amount of rubbish which was choking the world’s oceans. After he returned to Sydney, he organised a community event which began with just the support of a few friends: Clean Up Sydney Harbour on Sunday, 8 January 1989. When I say ‘just a few of his friends’, 40,000 volunteers showed up. Ian was a guy who, when you met him, was charismatic. He was warm, he was engaging and he was a leader of men and women. He was a leader of his community. That day, they collected 5,000 tonnes of rubbish. Based on the success of this event, Clean Up Australia Day took place the following year. It has since then taken place on the first Sunday of March every year, with more than 300,000 Australians volunteering their time to make a difference to their local environment. In my electorate of Grayndler, every year, the big clean-up day usually focuses on Cooks River. Now, with the expansion of my electorate to the north, Sydney Harbour is also a focus—around Balmain, White Bay and the foreshores of the harbour.
In 1991, Ian decided that, since Clean Up Sydney Harbour had moved to Clean Up Australia, he wanted to start Clean Up the World. In its first year, more than 30 million people—more than the population of Australia—from 80 countries participated. It has since grown to involve over 40 million people from 120 countries. Ian was the chair of Clean Up Australia, a national non-profit organisation that coordinates not just Clean Up Australia but also Clean Up the World. Clean Up Australia also runs Clean Up Australia projects, which are long-term community based environmental programs that address the need for ongoing care and restoration of environmental assets.
Ian was named Australian of the Year in 1994 and received numerous Australian and international awards—but he didn’t ask for any of them. He was a very humble man. I was privileged to have contact with him on a number of occasions. He was someone who was very passionate about making a difference. Ian Kiernan’s life shows that an individual can make a very, very big difference to their local community, the city in which they live, the nation and indeed the world. He and his wife, Judy, had two daughters, Sally and Pip, and a son, Jack. I pay my respects to all of the family members and to all those who will miss Ian Kiernan dearly.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.