by Iraphne Childs
Many members will have known, may have worked with, or at least be aware of Dr. John Sinclair, the pioneering conservationist who spent decades lobbying to stop sand mining and logging on Fraser Island. Sadly, John died on 3rd February aged 79 after a battle with cancer.
John was born in Maryborough and formed the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) in 1971. In the 1970s he took the then-Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen's government to court for failing to protect the natural environment of Fraser Island. With his solicitor, Mr Stephen Comino, he subsequently took a case to the High Court of Australia which overturned the decision of a Mining Warden to grant a mining lease on Fraser Island (Sinclair v Mining Warden at Maryborough (1975). John Sinclair made great personal sacrifices in the two-decade battle for protection of Fraser Island. He was left bankrupt. However, the public attention his efforts and the court cases received paved the way for Fraser Island’s eventual listing as a World Heritage-listed site in 1992 assisted by the Fraser Government’s decision to cancel export licences for mineral sands.
John gave a lecture at RGSQ Milton in February 2009 entitled “The Great Sandy Region: natural wonder of the world”. In this lecture he emphasised the geographical and biological uniqueness of Fraser Island, saying that “this fragile and beautiful region must be protected from unsympathetic development and its wilderness qualities saved from pressures on the land and surrounding estuaries”. Clearly, in 2009 he was still very concerned about the future of Fraser Island, despite its World-Heritage listing.
John’s conservation efforts have been widely recognised: in 1976 he was named Australian of the Year for his leading role in protecting Fraser Island; in 1990 he was honoured with the United Nations Environment Program’s Global 500 Award for individuals who made a significant role in protecting the environment; in 1993 he received the Goldman Environmental Prize; in 2014 he was appointed in the Order of Australia and in 2017 received an Honorary doctorate from the University of the Sunshine Coast. John’s achievements and passion for the environment will continue to provide inspiration to protect the values of our precious World Heritage Sites. His latest project was to extend the Fraser Island Great Walk by building a 52 kilometre-long George Haddock Track. Mr Sinclair's family have requested that he be remembered by donations to further the wisest possible use of Fraser Island. A public memorial service will be held in about a month.
Tony Moore, Sydney Morning Herald, 4/2/19 The conservationist who stopped mining on Fraser Island dies at 79 https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/the-conservationist-who-stopped-mining-on-fraser-island-dies-at-79-20190204-p50vii.html
The Courier Mail “Fraser Island protector praised for his courage”, 6 February, 2019 Environmental Defenders Office, 5 February 2019, Remembering Dr John Sinclair AO, the dedicated conservationist who helped protect Fraser Island from mining for future generations. https://www.edoqld.org.au/vale_dr_john_sinclair_ao
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Her Excellency the Honourable Dr Jeannette Young PSM, Governor of Queensland