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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


26 June1998

Senator Ian Macdonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, will present 42 medallions recognising local former Antarctic expeditioners in a ceremony in Sydney tonight (Saturday 27 June).

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.

"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," Senator Macdonald said.

Among the recipients will be two women who will be accepting medallions for their brothers who died during their wintering expeditions. Helen Vincent will be accepting for Robert White who died at Mawson in 1963, and Helen Powning for Richard Hoseason who died at Heard Island in 1952. The conspicuous graves of these two men are stark reminders to all visitors to these ANARE Stations, of the harsh isolation and danger always present in the Antarctic.

Also honoured on the night is Doctor Arthur Gwynn of Pymble. Arthur wintered with the second ANARE Expedition to Macquarie Island in 1948 as Officer in Charge and Medical Officer. Only two months after his return to Australia in 1950, he volunteered to go to Heard Island on an emergency evacuation voyage by HMAS Australia. Arthur returned to Heard Island, wintering for a second time in 1953.

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
26 June1998

Senator Macdonald will be available in Sydney for interviews and photographs with some of the recipients from 5pm Saturday 27/06/1998. For further information contact James Shevlin on 0417 717 935 or Philip Connole on 02 6277 3665 or 0417 063 605.

Commonwealth of Australia