Alumni News Articles


21 November 2011

Tasmanian Australian of the Year 2012 - Robert Pennicott
Tasmanian Senior Australian of the Year 2012 - Kieran Brown
Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year 2012 - Greg Irons
Tasmanian Local Hero 2012 - Viktor Zappner

Conservationist Robert Pennicott has been named Tasmanian Australian of Year 2012 and presented with his award by Tasmanian Premier, The Hon Lara Giddings MP.
Ex-fisherman Robert has worked hard to set up a successful eco-tourism business, motivated by wanting to share his beloved Tasmanian coastline with other people and seeking to create employment and boost the economy of his home community of Bruny Island and the Tasman Peninsula. However, his most important motivation was to give back to the community which had supported him so well as a businessman. While Bruny Island Cruises and Tasman Island Cruises took off as world-class eco-tourism businesses, Robert founded the Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund, personally contributing $100,000 since 2007. The Fund has been instrumental in restoring the delicate ecosystem of Tasman Island, with a large scale eradication of feral cats.
Robert’s philanthropy doesn’t stop there. With his wife, artist Michaye Boulter, he established the Pennicott Foundation. The Foundation pursues conservation projects but has a much wider focus.
Its first involvement is in Polio Plus, a global project in conjunction with Rotary International and the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to eradicate the crippling disease of poliomyelitis. By October 2011,
46 year old Robert had raised almost $300,000 through his ‘Follow the Yellow Boat Road’ circumnavigation of Australia in two inflatable dinghies. Robert funded the entire cost of the voyage himself, with every cent raised going to the eradication of the disease.
Devonport's Kieran Brown was awarded Tasmanian Senior Australian of the Year 2012 for the decades of time and energy he has devoted to St John Ambulance Australia.
Described as a man with ‘a heart of gold’, Kieran joined St John in Devonport in 1976. Since then his responsibilities with St John have included delivering essential first aid training including advanced emergency skills. As St John’s Chief Cadet Officer, Kieran travelled across the country meeting, mentoring and inspiring hundreds of young St John members. His friendly, supportive approach made him widely respected as a leader especially among young people with disabilities. One former St John cadet credits him with giving her the enthusiasm and confidence to follow her dreams in a way she never thought possible.
In 2008 Kieran was appointed Deputy Chief Commissioner of St John’s Ambulance and more recently has turned his attention to working with Indigenous young people including translating first aid training resources into Indigenous languages. All this at the same time as a remarkable teaching career with the Tasmanian Education Department spanning 32 years. At 66, Kieran continues to put his hand up to help young Australians gain the confidence and skills to reach their potential.
Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year 2012 is 27 year old wildlife rescuer Greg Irons of Brighton. Greg’s deep understanding of Tasmania’s wildlife, and his passion for conservation values, is helping preserve the state’s precious environment. As the director of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Greg has put together a new kind of wildlife rescue program. Tasmania is rich with fauna, but around half a million animals are killed on the state’s roads each year. With no wildlife rescue service operating out of business hours, Greg set up Friends of Carers Wildlife Program, the first community run wildlife assistance service in the state. It arranges free training on basic wildlife rescue, transport and temporary care, and provides Bonorong with a database of willing people on call.

Greg became director of the sanctuary at just 25 years of age, and has already enlisted more than 200 volunteers. The rescue service runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a private sanctuary that cares for orphaned and injured wildlife, Bonorong depends on donations and visitor entries – so Greg has set up important networks with the RSPCA and Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife.
He is also a familiar face in the children’s ward of the Royal Hobart Hospital visiting with baby wombats and blue tongue lizards to brighten sick children’s days and help spread his conservation message.
The Tasmanian Local Hero 2012 is Burnie resident Viktor Zappner, a musician whose love of jazz has given north west Tasmania a thriving jazz scene and created a key festival for Devonport.
After escaping from communist Czechoslovakia’s secret police, clinical psychologist and gifted jazz musician Viktor Zappner arrived in Tasmania with his wife and daughters in 1979. His career as a clinical psychologist and lecturer extended for 27 years, but all the while Viktor’s abiding passion was jazz.
In his native Czechoslovakia Viktor was playing the piano by the time he was three and had formed his first jazz band consisting of several horns and a rhythm section before he turned 10. Dismayed at the paucity of jazz on Tasmania’s north-west coast, Viktor set about rectifying that situation introducing jazz to the coast with typical gusto. Just four years after arriving in his new country he helped found the Jazz Action Society and has been president for most of the past 28 years.
Now aged 75, Viktor remains artistic director of the Devonport City Council’s annual music festival. As the driving force behind the promotion of jazz on the north-west coast, he has led or played piano in numerous bands at thousands of gigs. His music has taken him around the world but his greatest passion has been fostering the appreciation of jazz in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian recipients will now join recipients from all other States and Territories as finalists for the national awards to be announced on 25 January 2012 in Canberra.
Tam Johnston, Program Director for the National Australia Day Council, said the Tasmanian award recipients are people who are contributing to the state's culture, eco-culture and communities.
“The award recipients show the great variety of contribution being made by people all around the state, to help others, to conserve this amazing part of Australia and to make life in Tasmania better all round," said Ms Johnston.
The Commonwealth Bank has been the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards for more than 30 years. Chief Executive Officer Ralph Norris congratulated the Tasmanian award recipients.
"The Commonwealth Bank is proud to be part of acknowledging the work and efforts of an impressive group of Australians through the Australian of the Year Awards," said Mr Norris.
"This year's Tasmanian award recipients are extraordinary people that we can all be inspired by. It is the passion and determination of individuals like these that make Australia a terrific country. I wish them the best of luck for the national awards in January."

Read all about Tasmania's recipients over here.

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