If you ask anyone under the age of 28, they’ll probably remember picking up rubbish in the schoolyard every year for Clean Up Australia Day.
So when we asked you how Clean Up founder Ian Kiernan had changed your life and what you thought his legacy would be, we weren’t surprised that was the main response.
But your responses also showed that Mr Kiernan’s environmental work didn’t just get thousands of school kids trawling the playground for plastic wrap and empty juice poppers one day each year — it’s also left a lasting impact on how Australians view rubbish and care for the environment.
Here’s what you said:
Most millennials remembered the days of the old school yard
Students remove rubbish from the foreshore of Burns Bay for Clean Up Australia Day 2008. (AAP: Jenny Evans)
“I did if every single year in primary school, the whole school and all the teachers would take an hours or so and clean up every single piece of rubbish we could find, there were no limits where we could go and the class with the most rubbish got a pizza party. I hope it continues until Australia is clean.” — Cassidy M
“Certainly was involved in Clean Up Australia as a teacher and citizen. Held greatest respect for Ian and would regard him as one of Australia’s top 10 citizens in the past century.” — Michael Cone
Many were proud to pass on the message to the next generation
“Didn’t we all participate in a Clean Up Australia Day event? I hope it never stops. I instilled it in my children. We always took a plastic bag to the park with us. We’d spend the first 20 minutes doing a run around picking up all the rubbish. The kids enjoyed it, it made them feel good about themselves. Vale Ian Kiernan. You will be missed, but never forgotten. You legacy will carry on.” — Rachel W
“I was involved in clean-ups as a small child, working to maintain cleanliness in my community. My children pick up rubbish when we walk around town and they know the locations of all the bins. We live in a coastal town. Many drains are marked ‘drains to sea’. They point this out and remove rubbish that may wash into our harbour.” — Kristel K
Some were so inspired they dedicated their lives to environmentalism
“Clean Up Australia inspired me to start my own clean up group in Canberra called Trash Mob. It brings the community together every few weeks to clean up rubbish and talk to the public about the issue of rubbish. This group is really important for a lot of people, and I wouldn’t have thought to start it without doing Clean Up Australia Day every year as a kid. I’m now studying sustainability and want to be an agent for serious change, so thank you Ian!!” — Maddie D
“My first time partaking in Clean Up Australia Day was when I was six, and the satisfying feeling of making my school grounds beautiful was a wonderful feeling. I’m now an environmental science student at university, so my respect for Ian is huge.” — Angela L
“While at Ceduna during my tuna-spotting days we stayed at the East West Motel. One night after flying all day we went into the restaurant and saw and spoke to Ian. I told him about my experiences in Croatia where I set up the tuna boats with recycling and returning the garbage back to port for dumping, rather than throwing it in to the Adriatic Sea. The Croatian skipper of the tuna boat saw the benefits of the scheme and soon the idea spread to other boats in the fleet. Ian was most impressed and a short time later he sent me a signed Clean up Australia certification for my efforts. — Kiwi W
There was one Clean Up OG!
“I was involved in the first three Clean Up Australia days. Brilliant way to get everyone involved.” — Dani K
And almost everyone recognised Kiernan’s lasting legacy
Ian Kiernan started Clean Up Australia after sailing around the world and seeing how much rubbish littered the ocean. (Supplied: Australian of the Year)
“Challenging the assumptions of our systems of living, Clean up Australia showed that communities can come together to improve their lives without financial incentive. Based off of wanting to build a better world. It’s a small step in the right direction, but a necessary one. Let’s hope we don’t disappoint his legacy.” — Jack M
“What an inspiration you were to all Australians Ian … until you opened my eyes … I didn’t realise how lazy we were with our rubbish … you have left such a positive mark. Thank you.” — Kathleen and Ray B
“[I] Think Ian’s legacy is really happening now with the awareness in plastic.” — Matthew Y
“A monumental change in Australians thinking about our surrounds. Thank you for the foresight, Ian.” — Beverley V