Clean Up Co-Founder's Tribute To 'Warrior' Ian Kiernan

Clean Up Australia co-founder Kim McKay has paid tribute to "knock-about larrikin" Ian Kiernan.

The woman who started Clean Up Australia with Ian Kiernan has urged Australians to 'keep up the fight' against plastic in his honour.

Kiernan has passed away at his Sydney home, aged 78, after being diagnosed with cancer in July.

The 1994 Australian of the Year co-founded the "Clean Up" movement with Kim McKay in 1989.

"Ian Kiernan was a true warrior for the Australian and global environment", McKay told ten daily.

"He was also a knock-about larrikin who lived life well and always with a smile and charm that was infectious."
Ian Kiernan during a Clean Up the World event in Malaysia in 2005. Photo: AP

"He inspired the nation to take action in support of the environment, as well as thousands of communities overseas."

"The issues of plastic pollution and environmental pollution haven’t gone away, so the best tribute Australians could pay to Ian... is to keep up the fight.”

Kiernan developed his passion for the environment during a solo around-the-world yacht race in 1986-87, when he saw an ocean crammed with rubbish.

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He organised a clean up of Sydney Harbour upon his return, which saw 40,000 people haul 5,000 tonnes of rubbish from the water and the shore.

The following year, Kiernan and McKay, who is now Director and CEO of the Australian Museum, co-founded the national day, and developed "Clean Up" into one of the country's most recognisable non-profit organisations.

Together, they launched the campaign to the world, and more than 120 countries now participate.

Ian Kiernan receives the first Golden Oldie Award in 2007. Photo: Getty

In a statement, Clean Up Australia said it announced Kiernan's death with "deep sadness".

"Diagnosed in late July with cancer, Ian Kiernan fought valiantly, working with the team at Clean Up to put in place plans to protect his legacy, including the appointment of his daughter Pip to our board."

"As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Ian's vision, we will ask communities to band together in his honour, proud of what has been achieved, determine to continue his works."

Kiernan is survived by his wife Judy and two daughters, Sally and Pip.