FRASER DEFENDER: John Sinclair AO received the honorary award at a USC Graduation Ceremony.
FRASER DEFENDER: John Sinclair AO received the honorary award at a USC Graduation Ceremony. Contributed.

Fraser Island defender a USC honorary doctor

CONSERVATIONIST John Sinclair has devoted more than 45 years to protecting Fraser Island and has received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Mr Sinclair, the founder of Fraser Island Defenders Organisation, received the honorary award at a USC graduation ceremony on September 28.

While Mr Sinclair now resides at Coopooroo in Brisbane, his roots lie deep within the Fraser Coast, starting with his great grandparents Henry and Elizabeth Smith, who moved to Hervey Bay in 1879.

"Much of my life has involved travel and adventure, but for my first 38years I lived in Maryborough, or regarded Maryborough as my home town.

"My grandparents were pioneers in Hervey Bay. They had a farm between Torquay and Dayman Point (Urangan) and raised their 13 children there," MrSinclair said.

"My grandmother, Clara, was the 11th child, who was born in 1881 at the midwifery at 50 Queen St, Maryborough - the same address that I lived at from 1964 until 1978.

"When she married my grandfather a locomotive drive in the Queensland Railways in 1906 as a wedding present my great grandfather gave them 50 acres of land excised from the farm that was located at Dayman Point, Urangan.

"From the sale of that land they had enough money to build a house at 71 Queen St, Maryborough, where they raised seven children and saw out the rest of their lives.

"My grandfather drove the first locomotive out onto the Urangan pier."

Mr Sinclair started FIDO in 1971 in response to applications for sand mining on the island and for the next decade fought a series of staunch legal battles on behalf of Fraser Island.

Under the leadership of Mr Sinclair, FIDO led a number of successful campaigns to protect Fraser Island against environmental threats such as logging, and now focuses on the conservation of the whole Great Sandy Region.

Mr Sinclair said he was humbled that USC had chosen to acknowledge his conservation efforts with an honorary doctorate.

"I left school when I was 15, so to be receiving a doctorate is not something one ever expects," he said.

"I'm highly honoured and extremely grateful to the university.

"I was born and bred in Maryborough, on the doorstep of Fraser Island, and I've long had a strong personal connection with it.

"I was always a very active conservationist, so when the island started to come under threat in 1971, I felt that I had to step up to protect it, and that's how FIDO came about."

"Since then, my passion has kept me going."

"I'm very pleased that my efforts have been recognised by USC, and I'm very much looking forward to accepting the award in front of family and friends at the Graduation Ceremony."

Mr Sinclair said FIDO had a strong connection with USC through the Dilli Village research site on Fraser Island.

"It's really an ever-growing list of collaborations," he said. "Just recently, we've been able to fund a PhD scholarship to investigate sustainable transport options for Fraser Island.

"No conservation battle is ever won, so it's important to have a new generation of people who are committed to, and passionate about, preserving the island's natural environment."



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