Internationally renowned Australian conservationist Penelope Figgis AO has been appointed President of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).
Ms Figgis has been a leading advocate for conservation for more than 40 years, working in the advocacy, academic and government sectors, including serving on many statutory bodies and environmental organisations.
“Our oceans are overused and underprotected,” Ms Figgis said. “Pollution, industrialisation, overfishing and global warming are threatening the future of our amazing oceans and the marine wildlife that call them home.
“These are challenging times, with our oceans under severe stress from climate change, with ocean temperatures rising dramatically, the ice sheets melting affecting the ocean circulation that gives us a liveable climate, and our coral reefs showing the damage up close.
“There has never been a more important time to protect the ocean that sustains us and I’m excited about the challenge of joining our peak ocean conservation organisation, the Australian Marine Conservation Society.”
AMCS Chief Executive Darren Kindleysides said: “Australia is home to the most incredible oceans on the planet. We are also home to leading oceans advocates and conservationists. We are delighted that one such person is joining us as our next President. Penelope Figgis brings her wealth of experience and her passion for cause at a critical juncture for the future of our oceans. This is the decade where we still have the time and opportunity to turn around the health of our oceans.”
Ms Figgis ventured into environmental campaigning while studying at the University of Sydney in the late ’70s. She campaigned for the Wollemi National Park and saving the NSW rainforests while completing her honours degree in government and public administration and a thesis on “The Politics of Wilderness Conservation”, the first of many publications.
She joined the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) as the Canberra lobbyist in the ’80s working on many of Australia’s most iconic environmental campaigns, including saving the Franklin River in Tasmania and the Daintree rainforests of Queensland, preventing mining in Antarctica and on Moreton Island, and completing the Kakadu and Great Barrier Reef National Parks, before moving to the Northern Territory. She joined the ACF Council in 1985, serving 18 years as Vice President.
Her main areas of expertise are biodiversity, protected area policy, World Heritage, conservation on private and Indigenous lands, and nature-based tourism, but above all she understands the importance of connectivity in nature, which is so important in the marine environment.
Ms Figgis brings a wealth of experience in governance, serving on the boards of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, Australian Tourist Commission (Tourism Australia), Landcare Australia, Environment Protection Authority of NSW, Sydney Olympic Park Authority, Great Barrier Reef Advisory Committee, Jenolan Caves Trust, Bush Heritage Australia and Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
For the past 16 years she has been the Oceania Vice Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN WCPA). She was also the Director of the Australian Committee for the IUCN from 2010 to 2014, and led its revival in the lead up to the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney in 2014.
Ms Figgis was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1994 and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006 “for service to the environment and nature conservation through contributions to environmental organisations, public authorities and policy development in biodiversity conservation, protected areas and sustainable tourism.”
In 2020 she received the IUCN WCPA’s prestigious Fred Packard Award for her lifetime’s commitment and work for conservation.