‘I just wanted to give marine life a voice’: The Brisbane man who just won a major environmental award explains how one small idea sparked an important state-wide movement in Qld Australia

Being a skipper captain on a boat in the Whitsundays Holiday Coastal Strip of Islands sounds like the dream career. But for Ian Thompson, his 13 year stint saw him remove eight dead turtles from our oceans, three of which died from the effects of plastic.

‘I wanted to do something to raise awareness,’ he says. ‘I decided [sailing around Australia] was my way of getting my message out.’

That is how Ocean Crusaders was born; a charity organisation specialising in waterway cleaning. Aiming to educate people while encouraging them to get outside and make a difference by cleaning up, the charity has attracted thousands of volunteers since it first started and most recently won the 2019 Outstanding Clean Green award at Brisbane City Council‘s Cleaner Suburbs Awards for the extraordinary effort in removing 12 tonnes of debris from Brisbane foreshores.

Heavy lifting: Large items like bicycles are regularly found in our waterways and cleaned up by Ocean Crusaders

So just how has Ocean Crusaders risen from a local Brisbane initiative to a state-wide movement and how can you make a difference?

Thompson says it’s all about doing your bit, and then doing some more.

Keep reading for the four top tips to help prevent litter.


Thompson cites the success of Ocean Crusaders to never stopping when you’ve reached your goal and always striving to do more.

‘Having reached the goal [of sailing around Australia], I started visiting schools,’ he says. ‘I wanted to do more, so starting the charity was a no brainer.’

This is where the world-first Cleaning Station System along the Wynnum Manly Foreshore comes into play.  

‘We decided we needed to make cabinets [kept near public beaches] with tongs and bags in it. So far the system has been extremely successful, with plans to grow it country wide,’ he says.

All hands on deck: Volunteers donate their time at Ocean Crusaders clean up events across Brisbane Queensland Australia

Set yourself a goal to follow Brisbane City Council’s recommendation of picking up two pieces of rubbish per week, 52 times a year which equates to 104 pieces a year!

And once you hit that number… keep going!


Spreading the word about pollution is a simple way to get more people paying attention to the damaging effects litter has on Brisbane’s environment, and gets people more involved.

Want to get your own word out? Talk to family and friends about setting up your own neighbourhood litter prevention initiative.

Everyone can work together to keep your streets clean and free of rubbish in the gutters, on the ground or around public bins.

Get involved in cleaning your local area by joining a community group or contact Council about holding your own clean-up, using clean-up kits from Council for your event. 

Big and small: No matter what your age, keeping Brisbane clean is everyone’s responsibility 


In Brisbane alone, more than 600 people have participated in Ocean Crusaders clean-up events in the last 18 months. Australia-wide, that number is well into the thousands.

‘We often pull around 500kg in a clean up, people like that it gives them satisfaction,’ says Thompson.

But ocean clean-ups aren’t the only way people can reduce their impact on the environment and as a result, our marine life.

According to Thompson: ‘It all starts in the shops. That’s where we have to act, by not purchasing items in plastic,’ he says.

Bag it up: The haul from a recent Ocean Crusaders clean-up

Expert tip: Leave some reusable shopping bags in your car or handbag so next time you’re at the shops, you’re not caught out and end up using a plastic one.


‘Whilst many people are passionate, too many people aren’t,’ says Thompson. ‘It only takes one bad person to counter the plans of 10 good people.’

Always remember: small actions can have a big impact.

Something as simple as calling out littering when you see it by kindly suggesting someone pick up their rubbish and dispose of litter correctly.

Armed with passion and the resources provided by Brisbane City Council (like the clean-up kits for loan) it’s never been easier to reduce the amount of litter to keep Brisbane, Australia and planet Earth clean.








Henry Sapiecha




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