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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

RECOGNITION FOR UNSUNG LOCAL ANTARCTIC HEROES


18 June 1998

Senator Ian Macdonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, will present medallions to 50 local former Antarctic expeditioners in a ceremony in Melbourne tonight (Friday).

The presentations will form part of the annual Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) Club mid-winter dinner, an event traditionally held on the winter solstice; the most significant event in the Antarctic calendar. The medallions will be presented to past expeditioners whose valuable service has not previously been formally recognised.

"This Government takes great pride in the achievements of its past expeditioners, and proper recognition of the part they played in Australia's Antarctic effort is long overdue. I am delighted that the Coalition Government has agreed to retrospectively award the Antarctic Service Medallion to these unsung heroes" said Senator Macdonald.

"Having had the pleasure to meet with many returned expeditioners, I appreciate some of the hardships experienced by wintering expeditioners in an isolated and harsh environment. These hardships were felt even more keenly by those who wintered in the early years of ANARE. The contributions of many of these men have helped to shape the modern Australian Antarctic program and I am honoured to be able to formally acknowledge their pioneering efforts".

Among the recipients are expeditioners who served with the first ANARE winter parties half a century ago. They include Alan Gilchrist from Eaglemont, who wintered with the first ANARE expedition to Heard Island in 1948. Alan, who was the expedition doctor, also turned his medical and research skills to biology. He undertook observations of the abundant wildlife on the island and maintained a biology log. This information was of real assistance to later biologists. He also made a collection of lichen samples which were eventually the subject of the first ANARE scientific publication. Alan is a true pioneer in the Antarctic arena.

Also to be honoured on the night is Graeme Currie of Booker Bay NSW. Graeme first wintered as a Radio Technical at Mawson in 1960. He has since created an Australian record by wintering 10 times at ANARE stations and once at the American Amundsen Scott base at the South Geographic Pole. He has also spent many summers working at ANARE stations, returning from Casey station in May this year. Graeme has made an enormous contribution to ANARE over these years.

Prior to 1959 expeditioners wintering on continental stations were automatically awarded the Imperial Polar Medal, which finished by decision of the British Government after that time. The modern day service medallion was not introduced until 1968. No service recognition awards were granted for the intervening years. No service medallions were awarded to expeditioners wintering on the sub-Antarctic islands until 1971.

Ends 18 June1998

Senator Macdonald will be available in Melbourne for interviews and photographs with some of the recipients at 3.30 pm. Pre-dinner drinks will be held at 6.30 pm Friday at the Powerhouse Function Centre, Lakeside Drive, Albert Park. For further information contact James Shevlin on 0417 717 935 or Philip Connole on 07 4771 3066 or 0417 063 605.

Commonwealth of Australia