Skip to main content

5th Anniversary Reception for Plastic Oceans Australasia, Government House


Good afternoon, everyone.

Linda and I are delighted to welcome you here for what is a significant occasion in the life of Plastic Oceans Australasia.

Significant, insofar as 2022 is your fifth anniversary — and celebratory, as you look back on your achievements and look forward to what you will achieve next.

For Linda and me, it is an opportunity to acknowledge this achievement and to shine a light on the important work you are doing.

I think we are all in agreement that the sight of plastics and rubbish in our oceans is an eye sore. Indeed, for anyone who cares about the environment, the sight of plastics anywhere is troubling.

Every year, eight million tonnes of plastic waste escapes into our oceans. That’s 40 million tonnes of plastic that has gone into the oceans since Plastic Oceans Australasia launched here in Canberra five years ago — 40 million tonnes.

We know that much of this accumulates in plastic patches in the five global gyres.

I realise the alarm bells have been ringing for quite some time but that figure and the growth and density of those patches is startling. We simply have to do more about it.

This crisis in plastics pollution can be avoided. It is man-made. It starts with what we make and how we dispose of it.

I’m pleased to say that here at Government House and also Admiralty House in Sydney, we are acutely aware of the need to reduce waste.

Linda is passionate about reducing waste, and also recycling. Early in our term she established a Waste Warrior team, working to reduce waste across all areas.

Today, though, we celebrate the work of Plastic Oceans Australia and what you have achieved in just a few short years.

Formal recognition of your Picnics Unwrapped campaign by UNESCO as an activity contributing to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

I’m informed this year’s campaign, which encourages people to hold a plastic-free picnic, officially starts on Thursday and will run throughout September.

Picnics Unwrapped also serves to raise funds to expand the delivery of educational resources into regional and remote areas in Australasia.

The EPIC program, ‘Engaging in Plastic-free Innovation for Change’, has been adopted by many businesses and local councils across Australia.

Your Schools Program has also been an outstanding success with hundreds of schools around Australia now using your resources, including in remote areas where materials have been translated into local Indigenous language.

It is great that some of the students from the first schools in the ACT to engage with the program are here with us today.

Linda and I look forward to meeting you after formalities and hearing about your experiences, as well as hearing shortly from the Youth Ambassadors.

These are significant achievements and testament to the high regard in which Plastic Oceans Australia is held across the science and research, business and education sectors.

Today, we celebrate — again, both for what you have achieved and for what you will do next. It’s important that we make time to do that.

Thank you, again, to all involved with Plastic Oceans Australasia — business and education partners, sponsors, ambassadors, students, staff and volunteers — for the important work you do.

By helping to change people’s attitude to the use of plastic, you are challenging the perception that this indestructible substance can be treated as disposable.

Please, keep up the great work.

Happy 5th anniversary — may there be many more.