Griffith University student William Clarke and his brother Daniel have been nominated for the upcoming Young Australian of the Year awards for their conservation work.
The pair launched a campaign to help protect critically endangered orangutan populations in Borneo and Sumatra.
William and Daniel were named 2021 Queensland Young Australians of the Year late last year, and are now in the running for the national title, announced next week.
“It is such an amazing experience, and it still feels slightly surreal,” William said.
“We never expect to receive recognition, but to win an award like this for the work we’ve done together over the years reminds us that we’re on the right track.
“We hope to inspire the next generation to make a difference too.”
“I saw the kinds of opportunities that were available at Griffith, and I wanted in,” he said.
“I’ve played piano for the past 16 years, but I love all of the behind-the-scenes stuff – composition and mixing.
“Music is one of the major passions in my life – no matter what I’m doing, creativity is always at the heart of it.
“I’m keen to use music and that creative spark as a tool for social change, to help raise awareness and find new ways to teach people about conservation.
“I think music helps create a powerful emotional connection and drives people to take action.”
Since 2008, William and Daniel have worked to raise awareness of the species’ plight and raised more than $900,000 to help protect orangutans.
The funds have supported orangutan care centres and the brothers have also sponsored more than 50,000 hectares of orangutan habitat, adopting more than 100 animals.
The pair have spoken to more than 60,000 school students across Australia, and their books on orangutan conservation have been incorporated into school curricula.
Not only that, but their conservation efforts have been recognised by former US President Barack Obama, broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough and Dame Dr Jane Goodall.
“Our journey has snowballed and it’s become so much bigger than we ever imagined,” William said.
Griffith alumnus and spinal injury researcher Dinesh Palipana OAM is being considered for the national Australian of the Year title.
He was the first quadriplegic medical graduate in Queensland and co-founded Doctors With Disabilities. He is also the co-lead for the innovative Biospine project on the Gold Coast, set to contribute to scientific advances in treating spinal cord injuries.
Griffith Elder in Residence Aunty McRose Elu is nominated for Senior Australian of the Year. Aunty Elu is a life member of the Griffith University Council of Elders, an advocate for Torres Strait communities and climate change activist.
The national award winners will be announced on 25 January.