Reef Alliance


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. Entrants in all categories (except the Prince of Wales, Community and Youth Awards) must have participated in an Australian Government or Queensland Government program in the last five years.

Nominations have now closed

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 2019, 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.


Meet the previous winners and runners up

  • 2018 Reef Champion Awards

    Reef Nutrient Champion Award

    Winner – David DeFranciscis

    David Defranciscis

    Working collaboratively with government, industry and fellow cane farmers, David DeFranciscis has driven change on his property and within his community to achieve real results for the Great Barrier Reef and the viability of cane farm businesses in the Burdekin catchment in Queensland. David’s journey began in 2011 when he co-designed the RP20 Burdekin Nitrogen Trials (RP20) project to test an industry nutrient management standard on grower properties to reduce high nitrogen applications. David was instrumental in the success of this project and acted as a conduit between local growers and the department while participating in the trials. The project has now validated the standard in the Burdekin and has reduced the amount of nitrogen applied on 23 farms by 500 tonnes.

    Reef Sediment Champion Award

    Winner – Bob Harris

    Bob Harris

    Bob Harris purchased Glencoe in 2000. The property was very susceptible to erosion and top soil loss due to poor ground cover and bare ground, through funding support from NQ Dry Tropics and Reef Catchments, a major infrastructure upgrade was planned and undertaken. Projects were undertaken to fence riparian areas and land in fragile condition. In total 37km of internal fencing and 25 watering points were installed through project support. In addition, Bob has installed 23km of land type fencing. This infrastructure has allowed better management of grazing, resulting in improved water quality outcomes and boosting farm productivity. In 2015, Bob completed a Holistic Management training course supported by NQ Dry Topics. Through the implementation of HM principals Bob has adopted a system of rotational grazing which has resulted in increased plant production, improved water infiltration and retention, less land degradation and improved lifestyle and profitability.

    Reef Conservation Champion Award

    Winner – Mt Pleasant Station Management

    Mt Pleasant Station

    In 2000, after attending a Grazing for Profit School, the Mt Pleasant Station Management made a strategic decision to move away from a production-based business model to focus on landscape function and environmental health. This decision has resulted in enormous economic and environmental rewards through both ecological enhancement and improved productivity. The introduction of a time-controlled grazing system implementing a short graze period, adequate rest, and higher density of animals has resulted in improved soil health, pasture condition and water quality. Integral to the success of the grazing system is the understanding that adjusting stocking rate to carrying capacity is crucial and forage budgeting and monitoring must be done regularly and continually. Landscape function analysis and Grazing BMP are used as part of a process of constant re-evaluation and modification. Animals are matched to the environment, and breeding focuses on matching traits that complement the low input grazing system.

    Reef Pesticide Champion Award

    Winner – Phillip Deguara

    Phillip Deguara

    Philip Deguara has been a cane farmer for over 12 years as part of the family farming enterprise. He is a fourth-generation cane grower in the Sandy Creek catchment and has a passion for learning and improving his business. Philip was one of the Sandy Creek growers responsible for implementing the grower-led water quality monitoring conducted with the Department of Environment and Science Water Quality Investigations team as part of RP144C Sandy Creek project. Philip has used his experience to inform other growers about pesticide movement. This has led to Philip applying more knockdown herbicides, use of shielded sprays and all applied with rate controllers and GPS to ensure best result possible across their 300-hectare cane property. By implementing these practices, Philip has managed to reduce the number of pesticide applications, saving time and reducing pesticides being applied on his farm.

    Reef Extension Officer Champion Award

    Joint Winner – Allan Blair

    Allan Blair

    Allan Blair has spent a lifetime working with growers in the wet tropics of Queensland. As part of his work, Allan designed a sprayer that can apply two different types of herbicide at the same time. The dual herbicide sprayer applies standard herbicide mixes to the row and non-residual herbicides to the inter row reducing the potential for contaminated run off that can impact water quality in the reef catchments. In 2013 -14, three experimental dual herbicide sprayers were constructed for growers and extension officers to use and evaluate. It is estimated that over 14,000 hectares are now being sprayed using the dual herbicide sprayer. This has resulted in an estimated reduction of six tonnes of residual herbicide active constituents being applied to cane – a significant positive impact on Reef water quality.

    Joint Winner – John Day

    John Day

    John Day’s career represents over 35 years of achievements working with landholders to enhance their land management practices. In his recent role as Senior Conservation Technical Officer with the Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG), John directly oversaw the remediation of over 54 sites throughout the region in construction works. Additionally, he has worked with other regional extension officers on a multitude of other sites addressing actively eroding soils, developing site design plans and overseeing onsite construction works. John has been instrumental in promoting landholders’ uptake of best practice soil conservation practices including for example: groundcover and water management; rehabilitation of actively eroding sites; gully, track and hillslope erosion and deteriorating contours bank in cropping areas. John’s work continues to contribute to immediate reductions in sediment loads impacting local waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

    Reef Community Champion Award

    Winner – Mulgrave Landcare and Catchment Group

    Mulgrave Landcare

    The Mulgrave Landcare and Catchment Group have achieved landscape scale change in the Mulgrave catchment with the recent conclusion of a five-year biodiversity project. 33,000 trees were planted, much of which was riparian revegetation which helps prevent streambank erosion and blocks nutrients and sediments from entering the water column. Over the life of the project the group held 31 community planting events and were assisted by hundreds of volunteers and 21 landholders to plant over 17 hectares. The group are also involved in the restoration of a wetland site adjacent to Fig Tree Lagoon near Fishery Falls. It’s believed the site has the potential to provide habitat value and improve water quality through not only the wetland restoration but the installation of a water quality treatment train, including a subsurface bioreactor. Other upcoming landcare projects continue to focus on creek bank repair and revegetation in the lower Mulgrave catchment.

    Reef Youth Champion Award

    Joint Winner – Nicole Nash

    Nicole Nash

    After watching thousands of people use single-use plastics everyday as a marine biologist working on various reefs around the world, Nicole Nash launched The Last Straw on the GBR campaign. Through a partnership with Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways and Terrain Natural Resource Management group in Cairns, Nicole has taken action to raise awareness that 80% of marine debris actually enters the ocean from a land-based source and encouraged venues within a 200km radius of the QLD coast to go plastic straw free. Over 320 venues across the Reef catchments using an estimated 4.1 million straws per year have now gone plastic straw free, including the Cairns Regional Council, in an effort to reduce waste and plastic pollution in the Great Barrier Reef while improving water quality.

    Joint Winner – Gavin Rodman

    Gavin Rodman

    Gavin Rodman grew up on a sugarcane farm in Deeral and is well known and respected by the local farming community. He has worked for Sugar Research Australia (SRA) as an Adoption Officer for over three years, based at both Tully and Meringa in the Wet Tropics. In that time, he has engaged directly with industry to make a tangible impact to environmental sustainability and agricultural productivity. He has been an integral part of the design and delivery of the Cane to Creek project and supported the rollout of Best Management Practice training in the Wet Tropics as the lead deliverer of SIX EASY STEPS training across the cane industry. The training is a science-based nutrient management tool that enables the adoption of best practice nutrient management on-farm. Gavin in currently developing a SIX EASY STEPS toolbox for the industry and guidelines for the Rocky Point district.

    Reef Youth Champion Award – Under 15

    Winner – Sid Crawshaw

    Sid Crawshaw

    Ten-year-old Sid Crawshaw is significantly improving the quality of water that flows to the Great Barrier Reef by reducing the use of single-use plastic straws in his coastal home-town of Tannum Sands. Sid has encouraged his fellow school students and family members to say ‘no’ to straws and three local business owners challenged themselves to make a change either completely removing or swapping to paper straws, including the Boyne Island McDonalds. Sid has created a tidal-wave of change and has stopped an estimated 8,000 single-use plastic straws from entering landfill or the Great Barrier Reef. However, Sid’s work is not done. Broadening his focus to include all plastics, Sid is currently in working with the Gladstone Regional Council to explore how they can work together for the betterment of the reef.

    The Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership Reef Sustainability Award

    Winner – Gerry Deguara

    Gerry Deguara

    Gerry Deguara is a second-generation farmer located in the North Eton in Central Queensland. Gerry and his family farm approximately 800 hectares growing mostly sugar cane but also several pulse crops. He has and continues to be a leading figure in promoting stronger natural resource management within the Australian sugar industry. For Gerry, the journey of improving the sustainability of his large farming operation all started with major changes to water infrastructure and the successful use of centre pivots for irrigation. He has converted farm and harvesting equipment to a two metre controlled traffic farming system maximising the growing area of his paddocks, reduce fossil fuel use, improve yields, improve soil health and reduce the volumes of chemical and nutrient run-off in water leaving the farm. Gerry has a strong focus on using sugar mill bi-products with mill mud and a Bio-Dunder, mixed with urea to now provide the vast majority of the farm nutrient requirements. He has also adopted green cane harvesting thereby eliminating the need for cane burning operations. Gerry freely gives his time to show and explain the many changes in his farming operation and has hosted visits from farmers and Australian and international delegates.

    Runner up – Frank Mugica

    Frank Mugica

    Frank Mugica has farmed in the Burdekin for twenty-five years. He first learnt about the effects of his management practices by testing cane runoff from his cane and grazing property in Dalbeg. He has since installed a recycle pit, shielded sprayer, and spray controller, all improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact. In 2014, Frank trialled banded mill mud on his current 120-hectare farm in Brandon and now practices this farm-wide. He joined another project supporting growers adjacent to wetlands to trial nutrient and irrigation efficiencies and has reduced his nitrogen use by 20kg per hectare. Recently, he adapted machinery for strip tillage for green cane trash blanketing. By 2022, Frank plans to be a fully accredited Smartcane BMP farmer. To encourage wildlife, Frank began revegetating the farm perimeter, planting 100 native trees in 2017. He continues planting and weeding for habitat, shade and erosion control. As an “outdoor classroom”, it also helps his daughters, Alaya and Ellyana, to understand biodiversity, pest control, and the balance between agriculture and nature. Frank has embraced every opportunity to better manage nutrient use, improve irrigation efficiency and raise awareness of important environmental issues, both locally and among the wider farming community.

  • 2017 Reef Alliance Awards

    Reef Nutrient Management Award 

    Winner – Chris Russo, cane farmer from the Burnett Mary region

    Photo 1-min

    Chris Russo has implemented an innovative and novel approach to reduce nutrient applications. His concept is modification of a high clearance tractor and nitrogen injection bar, to apply liquid nitrogen subsurface to allow for a later application of nitrogen .

    Chris is aiming for a reduction in the total applied Nitrogen and optimisation of NUE to maximize yield potential. This is currently being tested and validated in a cane innovation project funded through the Reef Alliance Project.

    Dymond_130521_9409Runner Up – David Rolfe, banana grower from Mena Creek

    David’s automated irrigation and fertigation systems have improved on-farm efficiencies and reduced fertiliser waste. He now applies 95% of all nitrogen through his fertigation system and has reduced his nitrogen input further by regular soil and leaf testing and altering application rates according to crop cycles.

    The automation of his irrigation system and move to fertigation has been a game changer, leading to a significant improvement in general farm health. David can schedule irrigation to work at night, reducing evaporation, saving on electricity costs and giving him back some of his precious time.

    Into the future David hopes to continue to improve his practices by using a banded belt spreader to apply organic fertilisers and reduce his synthetic fertiliser applications and improve soil health.

    Reef Sediment Management Award 

    Dan Bishop in front of one of his installed PCDs.-minWinner – Dan Bishop, grazing landholder from the Fitzroy region

    Dan has addressed gully erosion and sediment loss across his property with a focus on demonstrating on-ground actions and communicating them with his peers. Dan has implemented a number of actions on his farm which have not only reduced erosion problems but also assisted him in better managing his lands in order to increase productivity.

    Based on his changes in practice, it is anticipated that Dan will reduce a total of 123 tonnes of sediment each year from entering the waters of the Great Barrier Reed Lagoon.

    New landtype fence to assist with grazing management, ground cover and cattle access to stream banks and gullies-minRunner Up – Louis Moore, grazing landholder from the Fitzroy region

    Louis runs Dovecot, a 4700ha grazing property 20km south of Rockhampton, and is a first-generation landholder committed to improving his practices. Dovecot’s operation is an example of first class custodianship, not only of the land but of the Reef and broader environment. Louis’s activities include reducing stream bank erosion by installing watering points throughout his property and also managing stock through rotational grazing which improves cover and reduces erosion.

    Louis said the process of engaging with Grazing BMP and Land Management Officers from Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) has improved his business and increased his knowledge to network further with other successful proprietors and gather further insights.

    Reef Conservation Award 

    Mt Alma Fresh Organics_Gary and Angela inspecting basil cropWinner – Gary and Angela Spotswood, cane growers from the North Queensland Dry Tropics region

    The Spotswood’s have restored the ecological function of Mt Alma’s 100 ha lagoon. The lagoon provides important habitat for wildlife including migratory wader birds and fish species such as Barramundi, but was choked with thickets of Typha – a native plant that had taken advantage of the constantly wet conditions caused by excess irrigation water.

    Waterbirds, fish and other flora and fauna have returned and the lagoon is now able to filter and contain runoff during rainfall events, improving water quality for the downstream areas including the Reef.

    Zappala Hort360 3Runner Up – Joshua Maunder, landholder from the Wet Tropics region

    Joshua restored riparian native vegetation along McPaul creek to create a green corridor between sugarcane agricultural areas, the Bellenden Ker Mountain Range and the Russell River. The native vegetation he planted included a diverse variety of edible trees to provide a food source for native birds and animals, including the critically endangered cassowary. His innovative methods included the use of a variety of different native vegetation to target specific areas.

    Thanks to Josh’s improvements, he has significantly  reduced sediment loss from gully erosion.

    Reef Extension Officer Award 

    headshot - telford deb 150ppiWinner – Debra Telford, Extension Officer for CANEGROWERS Innisfail from the Wet Tropics region

    Debra has worked for the sugar industry in Far North Queensland for 20 years. She was instrumental in delivering grants and extension support to growers to reduce their impact on water quality. Deb graciously supported growers through Reef Regulations and assisted with the completion of Environmental Risk Management Plans. When Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast,Deb stepped into the role of Industry Recovery Officer to assist growers to repair their farming practices.

    As a Smartcane Best Management Practice facilitator, she has assisted 141 growers to benchmark their farm business in the program and has seen 46 growers to accreditation in Innisfail, which accounts for over 40% of the cane production area of the district.

    Blairy measuring the caneRunner Up – Allan Blair, Extension Officer for Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

    Alan has facilitated numerous workshops for growers and extension staff in the cane growing regions north of Maryborough. He has a long history of working with growers and promoting understanding about the use of pesticides.

    Allan also designed a herbicide sprayer that allows two types of herbicide to be used at the same time. By having this ability, it prevents residuals being applied to the inter-row, which carries a high risk of residual pesticide runoff from a rainfall event. This results in an average of 50 per cent reduction of residual herbicides over the paddock which has immediate and positive water quality benefits.

    Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership – Reef Sustainability Award Finalists

    _W2A7020Winner – Frank and Dianne Sciacca, banana farmers from the Wet Tropics region

    Frank and Dianne Sciacca are co-founders of the innovative Ecoganic farming system, which is said to be ahead of its time in protecting the Reef.  They have implemented a system which enables fungicide reduction of 60-100%.  Their product, the Wax Tip Eco Bananas, is available from nearly all Australian States and Territories.

    Photo 2Runner Up – Tony Bugeja, cane farmer from the Mackay region

    Tony is an advocate of change and has been applying proven water quality improvement cane farm practices for more than a decade. His commitment to the sugar industry is demonstrated by his commitment to long term trial projects as well as working closely with industry bodies.