Burnie backs its Tasmanian Australian of the Year Nominees

Published on 27 October 2021

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Former Burnie producer, journalist, speaker and advocate Craig Leeson is one of 4 nominee's vying for the 2022 Tasmanian Australian of the Year.

Council’s representative on the Burnie Australia Day Special Committee, Councillor Ken Dorsey said "On behalf of the committee, Council and the Burnie community I wish Craig all the best, and commend all nominees who have been selected including Burnie’s Bruce French AO, Agricultural scientist and Founder of Food Plants International who is a nominee for Tasmanian Senior Australian of the Year.

“Last year’s 2021 Tasmanian Australian of the Year was Grace Tame who also went on to be Australian of the Year. Grace has been a powerful voice and advocate for survivors of sexual assault and a #LetHerSpeak campaigner - how wonderful would it be if Craig was given a similar platform to advocate for our marine environment, ocean pollution and climate change.

"It is with a sense of bittersweet pride that I learned that Burnie provided much of the earlier inspiration that set Craig off on his incredible journey" he said.

In Craig's own words "I grew up on a beach on an island called Tasmania, it was where I developed a deep connectivity with the ocean... 30 years ago the city I grew up in had a terrible problem, the ocean was polluted with the outfall from heavy industry. There was a pulp paper mill, a paint pigment plant and a slaughter house among them. These were causing rashes on the bodies of swimmers and surfers, when you got out of the water you had sore red eyes."

Craig wrote about Burnie's pollution "I published my stories in the local newspaper and it caused a storm of protest across Australia, national papers declared Burnie Australia's dirtiest city, I wasn't very popular with our local tourism authorities. I was 20 years old."

Not long after the stories and the protests, the industries began to close. "Today Burnie has some of the bluest water along the coastline, and the fish have returned to the waters around the city. I learnt then about the power of the media."

Craig began his career as a newspaper journalist in Burnie before moving to television as a news correspondent and anchor. Craig has worked with major global broadcasters including the BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, PBS and Australia’s ABC.

He began his documentary filmmaking career with the National Geographic Channel… and then came the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’.

Craig was executive producer, director, writer and on-screen host of ‘A Plastic Ocean’ - lauded by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the most important films of our time”. Craig has carried the film’s message around the world about the degradation of the oceans by single use plastic and the human health implications. The film dives into and investigates the devastating impacts that plastic has caused to our environment, especially our marine life.

What starts off as an adventure to film the blue whale, the largest animal on the planet, leads to the shocking discovery of a thick layer of plastic debris floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Craig, alongside Tanya Streeter, a world record-breaking free diver and environmental activist, then travel across the globe to report on the havoc caused by decades of plastic use.

‘A Plastic Ocean’ screened at The United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017 and is one of the most awarded environmental documentary films of that year.

Craig's latest documentary on glaciers and climate change is the most comprehensive film ever produced about the relationship between climate change, mountain environments, and glaciers. Filmed over four years in twelve countries, ‘The Last Glaciers’ captures the fragility of the natural world, the impact humans have on our life support systems and the friendship, personal challenges and tragedies experienced by the explorers during their journey.

Craig is a firm believer in giving back and supporting initiatives that make our world a better place to exist. Environmental, media and youth-related causes are near and dear to his heart and he is particularly interested in organisations that work to preserve and protect our ocean environments through awareness, education and activation.

Craig still has strong ties to Tasmania with his parents Alan and Marg still living in the family home in Burnie.

The state's four award recipients for 2022 will be announced in a ceremony on October 29 at the Crowne Plaza Hobart. The event will be available to watch online via livestream. They will then join other state and territory recipients as finalists for the national awards announced on January 25, 2022.

Burnie City Council Deputy Mayor Giovanna Simpson will be attending the official ceremony and said "I am very excited to be able to be there on the night and I wish Craig all the best. I remember all too well these times that Craig spoke about, Burnie has come a long way since then and I think it makes us appreciate and want to protect what we have now, even more.

“It makes me very proud and excited that, at its October meeting, Council adopted its 4 Year Council Plan which has Environment Responsibility as one of the three most important pillars for the future.  The Council is committed to protecting and improving our environment as a whole, to minimising Council’s negative impact on our environment, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and reducing Burnie’s waste stream to landfill while also supporting our community to improve our environment for future generations.”

Visit www.burnie.net/plans to read the 4 Year Council Plan.

Craig Filming on Mont Blanc Summit for 'The Last Glaciers'
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'A Plastic Ocean' - Craig has carried the film’s message around the world about the degradation of the oceans by single use plastic and the human health implications 
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Craig spoke at Burnie's Australia Day Award Ceremony in 2017
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