Illawarra Clean Beach Fest pays tribute to Ian Kiernan

 Image by : Andy Gray 



Celebrating our oceans, cleaning our beaches and paying tribute to an Australian legend ​​

​​​​​The Illawarra Clean Beach Festival has become so much more than just your average beach clean up. Last Saturday was the third year the festival has been held and the community around it continues to grow every year. Hosted by our mates at Surfrider Foundation South Coast, Susie Crick and her amazing Surfrider team led an awesome day for all members of the community. 


Image by: Andy Gray  


The day kicked off with Gromfest, a junior surfers tag team event where young surfers, of any ability, have the opportunity to get out on the waves and compete. There was even a team of micro-groms competing, with the youngest surfer being just two years old! Yeeeew!

 Image by: Laura Wells 



The South Coast Disabled Surfers Association got in on the fun as well with plenty of volunteers helping out to spread the stoke and help everyone share a fun day in the water. 


Image courtesy of Disabled Surfers Association South Coast 


From down south, the Peloton Against Plastic team led a crew of keen bike-riders along the coastal track from Port Kembla Beach to arrive at North Gong beach in time for the clean up. 


The beach clean covered a massive area, from Puckey’s Lagoon, along North Gong Beach all the way down to Wollongong Harbour. The Illawarra Free Divers took care of all the rubbish below the water’s surface as dozens of volunteers scoured the sand. 


In total there were almost 700 cigarette butts plucked out of the sand, 450 soft plastic items rescued from the water and 92 metal bottle caps removed from the coastline. Although these items saw some pretty huge numbers, overall there wasn’t too much to clean up! Less than 20 straws were found, only half a dozen plastic drink bottles and one used nappy. In total the team effort cleaned up around sixty kilos of rubbish. 




Ben Reid from Tangaroa Blue who ran the data collection said, "It's great to see less and less bottles at our cleanups, which means the Return & Earn scheme is working!" 




To top off a great day of community and environmental action, it was only fitting that a tribute be made to the late, great Ian Kiernan, who passed away earlier in the week. A true blue Australian legend, Ian founded Clean Up Australia Day after being shocked by the amount of rubbish choking our oceans during a solo sail around the world. 


Ian’s first clean up event, Clean Up Sydney Harbour took place on January 8th 1989. The clean up attracted 40,000 people who managed to clean up over 5000 tonnes of rubbish. That’s insane! Since then, Clean Up Australia Day has become an annual event encouraging millions of people to clean up our beautiful country. Ian spread his message across the world as well, with the first Clean Up the World Day being hosted in 1993. 


 Image courtesy of


In honour of Ian’s passing, Plastic Free Wollongong’s very own Andy Gray led forty surfers in a commemorative paddle out. A few minutes of silence was observed to remember and pay tribute to the tireless work Ian did for our country, and the environmental movement worldwide.


 Image by: Mane Collective 


Ian was a massive supporter of the ban the bag campaign, which calls for state governments to prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags. Surfrider Chair, Susie Crick says that in light of Mr Kiernan’s passing, it’s time for the bag to go, “Out of respect to this great Australian legend, we believe it’s time that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian finally gave Ian what he always wanted: get the plastic bag ban over the line.”




We couldn’t agree more! NSW is the last state in Australia to ban the bag. Ian did so much to protect our natural resources and oceans, it’s only fitting that we honour his work by making this much-needed change. Let's do it NSW!



Images supplied by Surfrider Foundation South Coast unless specified otherwise



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August 31, 2018

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