Antarctic director on a career as a public conservationist

Tony Fleming steps down this week as the Australian Antarctic Division’s director. He spoke to The Mandarin about why a conservationist joins the public sector.

Biologist, conservationist and photographer are words that will always describe Tony Fleming, but from August 6, director of the Australian Antarctic Division will be crossed off the list.

He says leaving the unique and coveted position will be a “very exciting step into the unknown” because apart from taking a break for several well-earned months and spending more time photographing the natural world and its inhabitants, he isn’t really sure what comes next.

Fleming took the reins of the unique agency in 2011, as the centenary of Sir Douglas Mawson’s expedition to the world’s largest desert was being celebrated, and led a special commemorative voyage to Mawson’s hut (pictured above) the following year. The job was the culmination of a career devoted to conservation, but also a way to connect with his forebears.

His childhood was filled with stories of the fascinating frozen continent and its heroic early explorers, passed down from his mother although she never set foot in Antarctica. His grandfather was part of expeditions led by Sir Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, and was joined by two of Fleming’s great-uncles on the latter journey.

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