Local indigenous hero applauded

Stephan Schnierer proudly holds his Local Hero Award surrounded by (l-r) the head of SCUs Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Professor Judy Atkinson, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Milton Orkopoulos, Stephans son Kelvin and his wife Genevieve.

Stephan Schnierers childhood was a typically idyllic Australian one. He grew up on Belongil Beach, back when the poor people lived there and the beach was strewn with offal and blood from the whaling station, not sun-tanning tourists and millionaires from Sydney.

We used to go prawning and fishing and surfing, said Stephan, and it was there that my interest in marine biology began. Mum always hoped Id be a classical pianist, but because I loved the sea so much I thought marine biology was the way to go.

Stephan is now an Associate Professor and the Head of the Centre for Indigenous Fisheries at Southern Cross Universitys School of Environmental Sciences and Management. He has an international reputation and his expertise in indigenous biodiversity is in demand by governments all over the world.

Stephans list of achievements and advisory roles is impressive, and includes work with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, NSW Fisheries and the Australian Museum Trust, just to name a few.

Last week Stephans contribution to biodiversity and his work establishing the College of Indigenous Australian Peoples was recognised when he received a Local Hero Award from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Milton Orkopoulos.

This is a significant award that pays respect to Aboriginal people who work extremely hard in their community and yet might not be publicly recognised for this commitment, said Mr Orkopoulos. We need to cherish and honour people like Stephan.

Mr Orkopoulos also presented Stephan with $5000, which he promptly handed back to SCU.

I would like to see the money go to students at Gnibi and be used for books and whatever other resources they need, said Stephan. The university allows us to take our skills and knowledge out into the community and keep traditional ecology alive in Australia.

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