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Our Founders

Ian Kiernan AO - Chairman and Founder of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World

Ian Bruce Kiernan was born near the shores of Sydney Harbour, Australia, in 1940 and grew up learning to swim, fish and sail on the Harbour.

Educated at The Armidale School in Northern NSW, Ian became a builder in the construction industry, specialising in historic restorations.

In 1986/87 Ian fulfilled a long-held dream by representing Australia in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race - setting an Australian record for a solo circumnavigation of the world.

It was during the BOC Challenge that Ian saw and was appalled by the amount of rubbish in the world's oceans. He committed himself to do something about it on his return, starting in his own backyard - Sydney Harbour.

With the support of a committee of friends, including Clean Up co-founder Kim McKay AO, he organised a community event - Clean Up Sydney Harbour on Sunday 8 January 1989.

Ian was overwhelmed by the response from Sydney residents, with 40,000 volunteers turning out to lend a hand to clean up. The huge success this event sparked national interest in this simple but effective community-based idea.

In 1990, the first Clean Up Australia Day took place on Sunday, 21 January. Again, the response of Australians was astounding. More than 300,000 Australians volunteered their time to help make a difference to the health of their local environment.

Twenty years later Ian is now the Executive Chairman of Clean Up Australia Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation that organises national campaigns such as Clean Up Australia Day and international campaigns like Clean Up the World.

Ian also holds a number of Chairmanships in addition to his Chairmanship of Clean Up, Ian is Chairman of capitalC and the Sydney Harbour Awards. He is Patron of a number of organisations including the Central Coast Mariners Football Club, the Australasian Chapter of the International Erosion Control Association, the Sydney Agricultural, Rural and Public Land Trust, the Enviro-Finance Association of Australia, Mens Shed and the Sapphire Coast Discovery Centre in Eden NSW.

Ian is also a member of Charles Sturt University Institute for Land, Water and Society Advisory Board and the University of Sydney Science Foundation for Physics.

Ian's environmental efforts have been widely recognised:
•    Australian Order of Australia Medal (OAM).

•    Communicator of the Year by the Public Relations Institute of Australia
•    Advance Australia Award the same year.
•    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Laureate for Ian's work and leadership in the local and global environment.

•    Ian was named 1994 Australian of the Year.
•    Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on Australia Day,

•    Banksia Foundation Fellowship
•    Launch of Ian Kiernan's autobiography (co-authored by Phil Jarratt) titled 'Coming Clean'.

•    Named among 100 other leading Australians as a 'National Living Treasure'
•    Inducted as a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow.
•    Vice-President of the international organisation, ACOPS (Advisory Council on Protection of the Seas).

•    Ian was awarded the prestigious United Nations Environment Programme Sasakawa Environment Prize. This honour was awarded for "mobilising tens of millions of people around the globe to take responsibility for their own environment."
•    Building World Citizenship Award, judged by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

•    Centenary Medal and NSW Ambassador for the Year of the Built Environment.


In recognition of his leadership in the environment and the community both in Australia and internationally, in March 2006 Ian was awarded a Doctor of Science Honoris Causa by the University of New South Wales and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and also was awarded their Conservation Build Heritage for Project under $1 million for his restoration work on an 1830’s farmhouse Westham in Bathurst.

As an avid sailor and Ambassador for the Great Barrier Reef Ian maintains his love for the sea as Patron of a number of sailing groups including ASPECT Sailors with Disabilities, SCEGGS Redlands and Scots College Youth Sailing Programs.

For the first four years of Clean Up Australia Ian worked as a volunteer. However, due to increasing commitments with Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World, Ian closed his building business and now works full-time as Chairman of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World.

Ian is Patron of the Australian Association of Combined Greater Public Schools, Chairman of The Spirit Sports and Leisure Group, and Patron and President of the Central Coast Mariners.

He is married to Judy and has two daughters, Sally and Pip, from his first marriage and six grandchildren.

Kim McKay AO - Co-founder, Clean Up Australia & Clean Up the World

Kim McKay AO co-founded Clean Up Australia with Ian Kiernan AO in 1990 following the highly successful Clean Up Sydney Harbour which she helped co-ordinate the previous year.

In 1993, Kim was instrumental in the establishment of Clean Up the World, securing partnership with the United National Environnment Programme [UNEP] and international corporate support.
Since then Kim has periodically served on the boards of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World, and was appointed Deputy Chairwoman in 2001.

In June 2008 Kim was recognized for distinguished service to the environment and the community and was awarded an Order of Australia (AO), for her work in relation to the Clean Up campaigns and other international environmental and community projects.

Co-author, with Clean Up Director Jenny Bonnin of the True Green series of books, Kim is currently a director of Momentum2, a Sydney based social & sustainability marketing and communications consultancy

She holds a BA (Communications) from UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) and has won numerous Australian and international awards for her work in the environment and communications including a United Nations citation and IPRA's Golden World Award for Excellence in Environmental Communication for the Clean Up the World campaign.

Kim stepped down from the Boards of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World in August 2009 after 20 years of service to make way for a new generation and to pursue her other environmental interests. She remains committed to the work of Clean Up and its overriding ideal that every one of us can make a difference.