Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Science and the sea capture 2013 Antarctic medals

Media release
21 June 2013

Seabird ecologist, Dr Barbara Wienecke and master mariner, Captain Scott Laughlin are the recipients of Australian Antarctic Medals for 2013.

Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO today announced the awards which are given for outstanding service to the Australian Antarctic program.

Environment Minister Tony Burke congratulated Dr Wienecke and Captain Laughlin saying that their focus and dedication over many years had made a significant contribution to Australia's work in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Dr Wienecke's Medal is awarded for her exemplary research into sea birds and the effect of commercial fishing operations on sea bird populations.

"When I visited Casey Station last year I was blown away by the work that is done in Antarctica it's some of the most extraordinary environmental work in the world," Mr Burke said.

"The work that is done in Antarctic on all levels is highly valued by this government and I thank them for what they do. I congratulate Dr Wienecke and Captain Laughlin on winning this prestigious award.

"It's inspirational to see Mawson's legacy continue today, more than a century on, as Australians dedicate their work to the science of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and supporting Australia's presence on the frozen continent."

Dr Wienecke is highly regarded on the world stage and should be applauded for her long-term work with sea birds, particularly penguins, often at remote field locations in cramped and uncomfortable conditions and at the mercy of extreme weather conditions.

Over the past two decades while at the Australian Antarctic Division, she has also participated in several studies carried out at sea on long-line fishing vessels to decrease the by-catch of sea birds.

Much of her research has been considered by the Scientific Committee of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and supported Government objectives in that forum.

Captain Scott Laughlin's name is synonymous with Antarctic voyages stretching back to 1990, first as a crew member of Aurora Australis then as ship's master from 2002.

The Minister said that Captain Laughlin's deep appreciation of, and affinity with, Australia's Antarctic program has resulted in broad respect across the Antarctic community.

Over more than 20 years, he has demonstrated a commitment to working closely with the Australian Antarctic Division to improve policy, procedures and process relating to maritime operations.

Captain Laughlin's attention to safety and keen understanding of sea ice conditions have proved invaluable to operations in often very difficult conditions at sea.