Dr Geoffrey Williams OAM awarded AM on 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours List

Member of the Order of Australia: Dr Geoff Williams OAM AM at home in Lorien Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Photo: Scott Calvin
Member of the Order of Australia: Dr Geoff Williams OAM AM at home in Lorien Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Photo: Scott Calvin

Dr Geoffrey Williams OAM is a humble and retiring man, and dreads the limelight.

However he couldn’t escape its blinding glare on Monday June 11, as he has been honoured on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List by being included in the rare list of people who are a Member in the Order of Australia (AM).

The pollination ecologist, conservation biologist and owner of Lorien Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area near Lansdowne received the award for significant service to conservation and the environment as an ecologist, biologist, author and wildlife refuge custodian. 

His resume is long and shows a passionate and committed life of academic and community involvement in science, conservation and the environment.

Dr Geoff co-founded Manning Coastcare in 1992 and is still the group’s technical advisor. He also founded the Lansdowne Reserve Landcare Group and was a member for 16 years.

He has been an honourary research associate at the Australian Museum since approximately 1997, is an advisory scientist for both the NSW Scientific Committee for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Environment Australia Expert Panel (littoral rainforests) since 2005.

He has authored and co-authored numerous research papers and books on rainforest ecologies and invertebrates. In 2016 Geoff published a rather whimsical book for a scientist – Beyond Middle Earth – whereby he re-imagined the landscapes and plants of JRR Tolkien’s fantasy world, inspired by Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. 

Dr Geoff received his OAM “well over 10 years ago”.

“To be honest, I’ve forgotten when,” he says.

Other awards and recognitions included being a co-recipient of the NSW Community Coastcare Award in 2005 and co-recipient of the National Coastcare Award (for the Manning Coastcare Group) in 2006.

Unfortunately, we live in a landscape where, whilst the National Park behind us is good, on the State Forest and the private lands that we adjoin there is basically no weed control at all. So we’re constantly suffering the invasion of others’ [weeds] on the land.

Dr Geoffrey Williams OAM AM

Dr Geoff is typically humble in his response to being honoured on the Queen’s Birthday list. 

“Unlike OAMs, there is a limit on the higher awards, and as you can imagine there’s no shortage of incredibly dedicated folk out there who usually do all kind of things, from looking after the aged, and looking after parents and doing all kinds of things in their local community, and they never get a guernsey; nobody ever seems to point them out as somebody special,” Dr Geoff says.

“So I must admit I was surprised, and certainly in my own field or broad fields I’m aware of numerous people out there who have done incredible work over very long periods of time and often for no recognition or payment of any description.”

Dr Geoff finds career highlights are difficult to choose, as his interests are broad and varied and he has many projects on the go.

“At an earlier age I would have said finding a whole lot of new species of invertebrates and finding rainforest communities that hadn’t been acknowledged before that were unmapped and unheralded. There have been diverse outcomes that have been exciting, many of them hard fought for,” he says.

One of the exciting things about living in the Manning is that it is an incredibly biodiverse region. Well within a three-hour slow drive you can go from incredible estuary environments that are still kind of intact, you can go from littoral rainforest remnants right on the coastline right through the valley up to cool temperate rainforests in the Barrington Tops and magical topography in between forests and mountains.

Dr Geoffrey Williams OAM AM

One of the things he now spends a lot of time working on is his wildlife and conservation reserve, a place he calls a biologist’s paradise, fighting environmental weeds and feral animals on the 100 acre area – a difficult task as it is “all up and down”.

“It’s more than mountain goat country,” he quips.

“Unfortunately, we live in a landscape where, whilst the National Park behind us is good, on the State Forest and the private lands that we adjoin there is basically no weed control at all. So we’re constantly suffering the invasion of others’ (weeds) on the land.”

Dr Geoff has no plans for retirement as he has many other projects on the go.

“Biologists never retire, they just die eventually, and leave a volume of paper for their colleagues and families to get rid of somehow, which is certainly going to be an issue here!” he says.