2012 Cassowary Awardees

Some of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area’s most inspirational people were acknowledged at the 2012 Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Cassowary Awards on 3 November 2012 at the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal. Two schools and four members of the Wet Tropics communities were recipients of the 2012 Annual Cassowary Awards and eight others were acknowledged for their outstanding achievements.

Rhonda Brim, Keith Smith, Dave Hudson and Helen Underwood took out the four Cassowary Awards, while Gordonvale State School and Gordonvale State High School took out the Young Cassowary Award.

Image: Back L to R  Andrew Maclean- Executive Director, Assoc.Professor Peter Valentine- Chair, The Hon. Jan McLucas- Senator for Qld, Michael Trout - Member for BarronRiver. Front L to R - Cassowary Awardees - Keith Smith, Rhonda Brim and Helen Underwood.

Rhonda Brim (Kuranda/Mona Mona)

Djabugay traditional owner, Ms Rhonda Brim was recognised and awarded for her dedication to advancing recognition of Rainforest Aboriginal people, their unique cultural heritage and rights in the management of Wet Tropics country. Rhonda has been actively involved in Rainforest Aboriginal engagement for twenty years. She was a key Aboriginal negotiator over 4 years for the Wet Tropics Regional Agreement signed in 2005, a director of the Aboriginal Rainforest Council, a member of the Rainforest Aboriginal Advisory Committee and a member of the Australian World Heritage Indigenous Network. She was instrumental in steering the comprehensive community planning for Mona Mona, negotiating the Mona Mona Management Agreement with the Wet Tropics Board, and more recently; successfully campaigning for and securing a long term lease from the Queensland Government for the Mona Mona community. Rhonda has led the way in community governance and is a Director of the Mona Mona Bulimba Corporation, and a Director of the Djabugay Tribal Aboriginal Corporation, who also run the Djabugay Aboriginal Guided Tours with Skyrail. Apart from her long standing community leadership at a local and regional level, and her artistic endeavours, Rhonda’s passion is being a role model for young people in the Kuranda district and encouraging them to succeed for themselves and for their community and country.


Helen Underwood (Gordonvale)

Helen’s passion, belief, capacity and determination has seen her develop the, “Excelsior: A Whole Community Approach to Sustainability” program in 2008. In 2009 it was rolled out at Gordonvale State School, extended to Aloomba State School in 2010, and Gordonvale State High School and Gordonvale Community Kindergarten in 2011. Helen has enabled students to learn about the environment, develop skills to investigate and solve issues, acquire attitudes of care and concern for the environment, adopt behaviours and practices which protect the environment and understand the principles of ecologically sustainable development. Helen has helped Gordonvale State School capture the support of an extensive range of partners and the community to bring about change on an unprecedented scale in the local community.



Dave Hudson (Cairns/Tablelands)

Dave has worked for almost 20 years in the conservation field, undertaking a variety of roles which facilitated community engagement in “hands-on” conservation. Until recently he was employed fulltime by Conservation Volunteers Australia but has also enjoyed part-time or voluntary roles with Holloways Beach Coastcare, Terrain NRM, and the Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group.

Retiring from full-time employment earlier this year has given Dave the opportunity to focus on a number of his passions which include:-promoting the Wet Tropics region a pre-eminent destination for volunteer tourism; and building the capacity of the local community to undertake on-ground actions to mitigate against the potentially devastating impacts of climate change, particularly on upland rainforest ecosystems. The two, of course, go hand in glove.

Dave and his partner Robyn are the proud custodians of an 80 hectare Nature Refuge property on the Atherton Tablelands near Malanda. Currently they are hosting some exciting scientific trials which are looking at providing better information for landholders and community groups on how to more rapidly and effectively restore rainforest.


Keith Smith (Tablelands)

Keith Smith has worked for the Queensland Government Environment agencies for decades. He shares his passion for his work with everyone he meets, and shows great enthusiasm when assisting those who are fortunate to come into contact with him. Keith’s knowledge of Wet Tropics wildlife and landscapes has been invaluable for many organisations in the region and is an indication of his commitment to the protection of the Wet Tropics region. Keith’s work with the Queensland government’s Nature Refuges Program and their landholders is legendary in providing outstanding support and advice. Keith was a key player in the Cyclone Yasi disaster recovery of the endangered mahogany glider. Keith Smith is a measured, informative and constructive communicator who inspires passion for the environment.

View the Cassowary Awards Facebook photo gallery


Young Cassowary Awards

The Young Cassowary Awards are to honour and encourage the many young people who support Wet Tropics conservation through their school and active community involvement. Under the leadership of Deputy Principal Helen Underwood, students from Gordonvale State School, Gordonvale State High School and Aloomba State School have been involved in creating and implementing a range of projects under the Excelsior Program - Whole Community Approach to Sustainability. This incredible far-reaching program has students and community groups working together to identify environmental issues and develop projects which address these issues. The Excelsior initiative has created a culture of environmental sustainability within the schools and local community with an emphasis on long term behavioural change.

Students and teachers in Gordonvale are an inspiration to all who try to live more sustainably by being proactive in finding solutions to challenging environmental issues.

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