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Meet Australia’s Top Adventurers & Conservationists for 2022

Meet Australia’s Top Adventurers & Conservationists for 2022

Woman standing on top of Mt Everest smiling

On Friday night Australia’s longest running awards celebrating adventure and conservation returned after 2-year hiatus. The Australian Geographic Society Awards celebrate the achievements of Australia’s greatest conservationists and adventurers who have dedicated a lifelong commitment to their chosen field. 

Read on about these amazing Aussies below.

Young Adventurer of the Year Award:

Gabby Kanizay

Young Adventurer of the Year was awarded to Gabby Kanizay, the Youngest Australian Everest summiteer (pictured above). On 14 May 2022, Gabby Kanizay became the youngest Australian to climb Mount Everest at 19 years old and 68 days. Driven by infectious energy and passion for high-altitude climbing, the teenage mountaineer already has three “Eight Thousanders” under her belt (mountains with an elevation greater than 8,000m). In 2019, when she was 16 years old, Gabby became the youngest woman in the world to summit Cho Oyu (8201m), the world’s sixth tallest mountain. In May 2022, after her Everest summit, she climbed Lhotse (8516m), the world’s fourth-tallest mountain. Gabby now has her eye on one day summiting all fourteen of the world’s tallest peaks. Born and raised in Melbourne, Gabby finished Year 12 last year and is currently taking a gap year before starting university in 2023.  

Young Conservationist of the Year Award:

Dr. Anika Molesworth

Image Source: Australian Geographic Society.

Young Conservationist of the Year was awarded to Dr. Anika Molesworth, farmer, scientist and climate change advocate. With a Bachelor of Science and Agribusiness, a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture and a PhD in Agricultural and Environmental Science, Anika is one of Australia’s leading voices on sustainable farming, food security and climate action. She is a founding director of Farmers for Climate Action and creator of Climate Wise Agriculture, a knowledge sharing platform about how food systems around the world are impacted by climate change. Anika was awarded the: 2015 Young Farmer of the Year, 2017 finalist award in the NSW Young Australian of the Year in 2017, 2017 NSW Young Achiever Award for Environment and Sustainability and 2018 Young Sustainability Champion. When not working on her family’s outback sheep station in outback NSW, Anika is advocating for climate change action or travelling the world as a researcher in international agricultural development. She lives and works on Wilyakali land, the traditional home of the Wilyakali people.

The Lifetime of Conservation Award:

Dr. John Wamsley OAM

Image Source: Australian Geographic Society.

The Lifetime of Conservation Award was awarded to Dr. John Wamsley OAM for his outstanding life’s work and contribution to conservation and the environment. John, now in his mid-80’s is still active in the realm of conservation and habitat restoration, and can be found pulling weeds from a small nature reserve near his home in the Adelaide Hills. His endeavours include the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries to reintroduce locally threatened species including the legendary Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary. He pioneered exclusion fences to keep ferals at bay and was the first to try to put a dollar value on nature with the establishment of the Earth Sanctuaries concept. Many of his ground-breaking ideas and innovations form part of widely accepted conservation practices today and have been implemented by leading organisations like Australian Wildlife Conservancy nationally and Arid Recovery in South Australia among others. John was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in January 2022.

Read more about Dr. Wamsley’s incredible achievements here.

The Lifetime of Adventure Award:

Dr Geoff Wilson

Image Source: Australian Geographic Society.

The Lifetime of Adventure Award was received by Dr. Geoff Wilson, a world-class explorer, veterinary surgeon, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker. He holds six world records and is best known for his polar expeditions. In August 2022, Dr. Wilson swapped ice and snow for dust and sand completing a successful, record-breaking solo wind-powered crossing of the Simpson Desert using a kite-buggy. Dr Wilson holds the current record for the fastest Coast to Coast crossing via the South Pole of the Antarctic continent (53 days), the fastest crossing of Greenland south to north (18 days), the first and only wind-assisted crossings of the Sahara Desert (42 days) and the infamous Torres Strait (3 days). On 4 January 4 2020, he completed the longest journey by a human in a polar region, 5,306km, solo and unsupported (58 days). Dr Wilson also became the first Australian to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility (unsupported) and the first person to summit Dome Argus, the highest point on the Antarctic Plateau (unsupported).  Throughout his career of adventuring, his missions have raised close to half a million dollars for the McGrath Foundation.

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Vivonne Bay, South Australia

The Adventurer of the Year Award:

Lisa Blair

Image Source: Australian Geographic Society.

Adventurer of the Year was awarded to Lisa Blair, adventurer, multi-world record holding sailor, author, and keynote speaker. This May, Lisa claimed the world record for the fastest, unassisted circumnavigation of Antarctica. Departing from Albany, Western Australia, on 21 February, the non-stop voyage took Lisa 92 days, 18 hours and 21 minutes to complete – 10 days less than the previous 2008 world record. On board her boat, Climate Action Now, Lisa battled huge waves, icebergs, blizzards and isolation. She also collected oceanographic data and microplastic samples for researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Lisa first discovered her passion for sailing in 2005 while working as a hostess on a sailing boat in the Whitsundays. Since then, she has clocked up more than 80,000 nautical miles (nm) of ocean sailing. This latest circumnavigation was Lisa’s second attempt at the Antarctica record. In 2017, she became the first woman to sail solo around Antarctica, but a dramatic demasting at sea delayed her plans to complete a non-stop voyage. Lisa is also the first woman to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around Australia, the voyage spanned 6,500nm and took 58 days, 2 hours and 25 minutes to complete.  

Conservationist of the Year Award:

Linda Sparrow

Image Source: Australian Geographic Society.

Conservationist of the Year was presented to Linda Sparrow, President of Bangalow Koalas. Linda  is leading a grassroots conservation movement to create and restore koala habitat in New South Wales’s Northern Rivers. With a goal to create a wildlife corridor by planting 500,000 trees, Bangalow Koalas will stabilise and increase koala populations by expanding and linking sections of habitat from Byron Bay and surrounds. With the backing of community volunteers, landholders, NGOs, and local, state, and federal governments, Bangalow Koalas’ wildlife corridor has expanded westward towards Tenterfield, south towards Grafton and north towards the Queensland border. Since 2019, Bangalow Koalas has planted 215,160 trees on 63 properties across four shires in northern NSW. 

The Spirit of Adventure Award:

Sophie Matterson

Image Source: Australian Geographic Society.

Spirit of Adventure was awarded to camel trekker, Sophie Matterson. Sophie discovered her passion for working with camels in 2016, when she took a hiatus from her career in film and television to milk camels at a dairy farm on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The following year, she expanded her cameleering knowledge by travelling to Michigan and Texas in the USA, and stayed with Raika nomads in Rajasthan, India. In 2018, she returned to Australia and worked at camel touring companies in the Flinders Ranges and Uluru. Across 13 months from 2020-2021, Sophie solo trekked 4,600km across the width of Australia, accompanied by five camels she had mustered from the wild. Setting out in April 2020 from Shark Bay in Western Australia, Sophie trekked from the Indian Ocean to Coober Pedy. She and her camels rested over the summer, resuming their trek in May 2021. Sophie and her entourage of camels arrived at Byron Bay’s Tyagarah Beach in December 2021. Sophie is currently writing a book about the trek and has her sights on one day visiting every desert in Australia. 

The Recipients of the Australian Geographic Society 2022 Awards. Image Source: Australian Geographic Society.
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