Reef Alliance

2019 Reef Champion Awards

The Reef Champion Awards, an initiative of the Reef Alliance with support from the Australian and Queensland governments, recognise and celebrate the achievements and efforts of outstanding individuals and organisations who have taken action to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef.


  • The Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership Reef Sustainability Award

    Lenny Parisi – Winner

    Lenny Parisi photo 1

    Lenny Parisi and his family have farmed sugarcane in the Mulgrave and Russell River catchments for three generations. He has embraced the importance of being a good custodian of the land through holistic management including soil productivity, reducing farm run-off, erosion control, water quality and restoring creek, river and wetland ecosystems. He leads by example as a Smartcane Best Management Practice accredited farm and through his active involvement in progressive farming initiatives. Lenny has worked with Mulgrave Landcare and Greening Australia to willingly handover seven hectares of marginal cane land to restore the wetland environment. This wetland reconstruction is the first in the Wet Tropics region and is a catalyst for new environmental projects planned for the lower catchment with neighbouring farmers, inspired by Lenny’s example, also embarking on revegetating riparian zones. As a member of the Sugar Research Australia, Cane to Creek project, Lenny has made significant changes to his nutrient management program, improved his understanding of soil, water and nutrient interactions and better managed these risks to reduce losses. He also takes any opportunity to share his experiences of retaining and restoring natural areas and adopting better farming practices with the cane industry and community.

    Joseph Marano – Finalist

    Joe Innisfail Rep-31

    Joseph Marano is a third-generation sugarcane grower from Mourilyan. He and his family farm 417 hectares and have been implementing best management practices on their cane farms since the late 1970s. As an industry leader in his region, his actions have contributed to a greater awareness of both farmers and the cane industry. He has been accredited under the Smartcane Best Management Practice program, involved in numerous Reef incentive programs to improve soil health and nitrogen use efficiency, reduce sediment losses and improve chemical application. Joseph makes use of a hooded sprayer to target the application of herbicides and reduce the risk of run-off, zonal tillage to prevent sediment loss and a mill ash spreader to improve soil health among other methods. Beyond that, his work has contributed to better collaboration within the Wet Tropics region, improved productivity, knowledge and learning for both Joseph and the industry. His efforts go well beyond his business with memberships of the Queensland Cane Growers Organisation, CANEGROWERS Innisfail, the Wet Tropics Sugarcane Industry Partnership and the Cane Changer Project. These actions have also lead to better water quality outcomes for nutrient, sediment and pesticide pollutants that support the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Reef Nutrient Champion Award

    V Rossi and Sons – Joint Winner

    medium Rossi Family Gordonvale-7

    V Rossi and Sons is a family sugarcane farming partnership made up of father Ricky and his five sons Peter, Mark, Steve, Chris and Tony located at Aloomba on the banks of the Mulgrave River. Together they make and use compost on their farm to reduce their need for inorganic nitrogen fertiliser. After purchasing machinery to set up the system, they have reduced nitrogen application by 30 per cent and used multispecies fallow cropping to improve soil biology. Green harvesting and trash blanketing, subsurface fertiliser application and improved pesticide regimes have also improved operations. In addition, a silt trap and the revegetation of their creek boundary drain with river cherry have maintained biodiversity and improved water quality.

    Graham Volck – Joint Winner


    Graham Volck is always searching for better management practices to improve resource use efficiency and the sustainability of his irrigated cotton farming business near Emerald. He offered his farm as a demonstration site for the cotton industry’s reef water quality project aiming to improve water use efficiency, water quality, and nutrient use efficiency. After conducting soil tests, collecting water samples, installing moisture probes and analysing the data, he removed one in-crop nitrogen fertiliser application. The crop yielded 12 bales per hectare, and Graham saved between $68 to $80/ha in nitrogen fertiliser compared to his previous management practices. Graham believes that more precise nitrogen fertiliser management practices will reduce nitrate lost from the field and improve water quality.

  • Reef Sediment Champion Award

    Kate and Peter Waddell – Winner

    Kate and Peter Waddell

    They’re 130km from the ocean but Woodleigh Cattle Station owners Kate and Peter Waddell are working hard to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Wanting to stop topsoil loss in heavy rain events, repair extensive gullies and fix eroding tailings dams, they began a major project including earthworks, fencing, revegetation, natural grazing practices and off-stream watering points. They also work their cattle (900 head) in a single herd moved through the paddocks, leading to better grazing of areas, which keeps weeds down, improves soil aeration, increases biodiversity from manure and carbon and water retention, resulting in improved grass growth and less erosion.

    Russell and Catriona Murdoch – Finalist


    An overarching goal to create an ecologically sustainable grazing operation, that values natural capital as much as it does beef production, has led Russell and Catriona Murdoch to take a holistic approach to the development of their 1900 hectare Booubyjan district property ‘Holroyd’. After purchasing the property three years ago, the Murdochs implemented a rotational grazing program to protect riparian areas, decrease erosion and reduce the direct impact of stock on natural waterways. This led to an increase in groundcover of between 50 and 80 per cent across the property and a four-fold increase in Holroyd’s carrying capacity.

  • Reef Conservation Champion Award

    Neil Farmer – Winner

    LSS-Workshop-Lake-Learmonth (94)

    Lake Learmonth, owned by Neil Farmer, is a 2,675 hectare cattle property located approximately 45km north of Rockhampton sharing frontage onto the Fitzroy River. Neil has engaged in extensive property planning to manage his grazing lands as ecological systems and preserve soil health to maximise business outcomes. He has installed five new water troughs, 9.8kms of electric fencing and 4kms of poly-pipe to protect riparian areas, promote vegetation regrowth and reduce sediment loss. He now maintains 70-80 per cent ground cover. These changes have also assisted in creating a corridor which not only enhances wildlife movement but provides a preferred nesting habitat for the protected Fitzroy River Turtle and White-throated snapping turtle.

  • Reef Extension Officer Champion Award

    Ellie Carter – Joint Winner


    Ellie Carter is highly regarded as a source of impartial and trusted advice on land management extension in the Fitzroy region. During her time at the Fitzroy Basin Association, Ellie has demonstrated a keen interest in agricultural innovations, a proven track record for sound technical advice and, above all, a continued dedication to investing in her skills and future to benefit landholders and industry. Ellie regularly participates in the Fitzroy Regional Extension Network, sharing articles and resources to ensure she remains at the forefront of the agricultural industry while also sharing her knowledge with students from the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges and The Cathedral College in Rockhampton.

    Jayson Dowie – Joint Winner


    Jayson Dowie has built and mentored a team of agronomists in Farmacist in the Burdekin who value his expertise and friendly approach. He has partnered with local farmers to develop the RP161 project, an innovative working model that makes changing farming practices as easy as possible for growers. Due in large part to Jayson’s dedication, RP161 has achieved a nitrogen reduction of nearly 200 tonnes, over 156 farms in its first three years and helped cane farmers to reduce harmful runoff, improve their profitability without any loss to production, and benefit their farm for the long-term. RP161 has since expanded to the Mackay Whitsunday region with a 98-tonne reduction in its first year and to the Herbert catchment, and the Burnett Mary region.

  • Reef Community Champion Award

    Jolly Rogers Fishing Club – Winner


    Jolly Rogers Fishing Club is a not-for-profit organisation whose vision is ‘to clear plastic and rubbish debris from our Great Barrier Reef, to sustain its pristine and vital ecosystems for future generations’. The group gathers weekly to remove pollutants from the Fitzroy River. In their mission, since mid-2018, the group has removed over 100 tonnes of debris from the largest river system draining into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. They have inspired the local community with their steadfast passion to make an impact on local ecosystems and have since branched out to several different community outreach programs, including feeding the homeless and opening an op-shop. As a result, volunteer numbers are growing, and greater environmental outcomes are being achieved.

    Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership – Finalist


    The Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership model is the first of its kind in Australia – with 17 partners from across the sugar industry, including mills, industry bodies, productivity services, sugar research, natural resource management and government agencies, working together for the benefit of sugarcane farmers and the reef. The Partnership has exceeded its targets and delivered an estimated 10 per cent reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen flowing off cane farms to the Great Barrier Reef. This significant outcome has been achieved by engaging with nearly 500 sugarcane growers, of which nearly 300 have made verified practice changes across more than 60,000 hectares.

  • Reef Youth Champion Award

     William Darveniza – Winner


    William Darveniza is a district extension officer for a community-designed reef water quality project aimed at reducing the number of agricultural pollutants flowing from water quality hotspot catchments, Innisfail and Tully. He has successfully coupled local knowledge with an ever-increasing understanding of water quality concepts to play a pivotal role in project initiatives. Critical to Will’s role is the ability to communicate sensitive and complex data. Using his aptitude for graphic design he has produced innovative extension resources such as an N loss pathways board game, basin concept maps, site plans and other infographics which have been very successful with many growers. He has also taken on a mentoring role and is sharing his very practical knowledge of sustainable farming in the Wet Tropics.

Award Winners Prize

Winners for each category will receive a trophy and the opportunity to attend a study tour at the Heron Island Research Station in early 2020

The winner or their representative will be required to attend the Awards Dinner in Mackay on Tuesday 26 November, held in conjunction with the Reef Synthesis Workshop. Travel costs for each of the winners plus one accompanying partner each will be met.


The Reef Champion Awards are funded by the Australian Government, and the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program.