08 February 2019
Vale Dr John Sinclair AO – a true giant amongst nature conservationists
The Sunshine Coast Environment Council (SCEC) wishes to acknowledge the recent passing of Dr John Sinclair AO – a true giant amongst nature conservationists both nationally and internationally. No words can say how grateful we are for your extraordinary courage and dedicated conservation efforts spanning five decades.
Dr Sinclair is best known for his decades long campaigns to have the environmental, scientific and cultural values of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Region Marine and National Parks protected, sustainably managed, and understood and appreciated by those visiting these very special places.
However, very few know of the research and educational work Dr Sinclair did to extend our knowledge and appreciation of the values of the Great Sandy Region. Nor of the similar work he did in other countries and internationally to secure protection and sustainable management of other places of global scientific, environmental and cultural significance. Nor of the work he did building and maintaining robust environmental protection groups in Australia and elsewhere.
Through his early involvement with the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland and the founding of the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation ( FIDO) Dr Sinclair spearheaded the campaigns to end sand mining and then logging on Fraser Island, its listing on the Register of the National Estate, and the listing of the Island and later parts of the Great Sandy Region Marine and National Parks as World Heritage Areas.
The long-running campaigns to stop sand mining and later logging on Fraser Island were undoubtedly some of the most significant and hard fought nature conservation battles ever conducted in Australia. They are up there with the Lake Pedder and Franklin River campaigns in Tasmania and the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
Federal bi-partisan support for accepting the recommendations of the Commonwealth environmental inquiry into sand mining on Fraser Island saw the end of that industry in 1976, and bitter relations between federal governments and the Bjelke-Petersen National Party Governments over cessation of mining and continuing logging operations.
Listing on the National Estate Register came in 1977, and following two decades of court battles with National Party State Governments that bankrupted John Sinclair logging finally ended in 1991. With 99% of the Island declared National Park, the work to have Fraser Island declared a World Heritage Area came to fruition in 1992. Inclusion of other sections of the Great Sandy Region in the WHA took more decades of dedicated work through FIDO.
Dr Sinclair and FIDO refer to Fraser Island as K’gari, which has the meaning of “paradise” in the language of the Butchulla traditional owners, who were granted native title in 2014. It is indeed a paradise and we should all be eternally grateful to the visionary conservationist who worked tirelessly to keep it that way.
SCEC Life Member
On behalf of the Sunshine Coast Environment Council