Dr John Sinclair AO | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Dr John Sinclair AO

Honorary Doctorate (September 2017)

Dr John Sinclair AO was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in September 2017 in recognition of his significant contributions to environmental conservation through the Fraser Island Defence Organisation.

John Sinclair AO (1940-2019) was the founder and inaugural president of the Fraser Island Defence Organisation, which has defended and protected one of the world’s great natural wonders for more than 35 years.

John’s connection to Fraser Island began with visits to the Island in his youth. In the late 1960s, he helped found the Maryborough and Gympie Field Naturalists' Clubs, which later became branches of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. In 1971, in response to an application by Murphyores Incorporated for two mining leases on Fraser Island, John founded the Fraser Island Defence Organisation. FIDO’s acronym was inspired by its motto, “the watchdog of Fraser Island".

For the next decade, John fought a series of staunch legal battles on behalf of Fraser Island, including a landmark High Court case that determined that one person can represent the public interest; and a defamation action John himself brought against then Queensland Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, which saw him raise $63,000 in public donations to pay his legal costs.

During this period, John experienced intense harassment within the community and from his employer, the State Government, for his staunch activism and unwavering commitment to conservation. FIDO ultimately ran successful campaigns to stop sand mining and logging on the island, and now focuses on the conservation of the Great Sandy Region as a whole. While John stepped down as President in 1983, he remained active in FIDO, and in 2016 helped establish the Barbara Winkley-FIDO Fraser Island PhD Scholarship at USC. This $100,000 scholarship enables a USC PhD student to investigate the environmental damage caused by vehicle traffic on Fraser Island, and develop sustainable transport solutions for the future.