A man who played a pivotal role in the construction of Wilkins Runway in Antarctica has been awarded the Australian Antarctic Medal for 2008.

Australian Antarctic Division construction supervisor, Matt Filipowski’s award has been announced by His Excellency the Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffrey.

The Environment Minister Peter Garrett said that Mr Filipowski’s outstanding service in support of Australian Antarctic expeditions had earned him this year’s medal.

“The construction of the ice runway in Antarctica is an integral part of the new Antarctic air service and the modernisation of Australia’s Antarctic program.

“Matt Filipowski was responsible for all aspects of the work during the construction of Wilkins Runway during the summers of 2003/04, 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08 and spent almost 90% of his time in Antarctica at the runway site.

“His efforts have delivered an outstanding new capability for Australia’s Antarctic program. We will be able to do new and important science in Antarctica that would not have been possible in the past,” Mr Garrett said.

The landing of the first intercontinental jet aircraft at Wilkins Runway on 10 December 2007 and the arrival of the first official passengers on 10 January 2008 were historic milestones in Australia’s Antarctic endeavours — the last two continents on earth to be linked by an air passenger service were finally united.

“Matt has developed a vast knowledge of Antarctic operations and his leadership in the field has been of the highest order. He is an exceptional example to expeditioners, and during the long, hard slog to build the runway he maintained a positive outlook in often difficult circumstances.

“Matt Filipowski’s efforts have helped Australia maintain its leading role in Antarctic science,” Mr Garrett said.

Australian Antarctic Medal

Established in 1987, it is an award in the Meritorious Service Awards category of the Australian Honours System. The Australian Antarctic Medal replaced the (British) Imperial Polar Medal and its variations which date back to 1857 for service in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.