Heritage Minister Tony Burke today announced plans to celebrate a significant milestone in the nation’s Antarctic history — the centenary of the first Australian-led Antarctic Expedition.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911–1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition to Commonwealth Bay.

Mr Burke said key activities were being planned from December and through 2012 to commemorate and celebrate Mawson’s expedition.

“Mawson’s epic adventure, the tragedy of the expedition and his survival under extraordinary circumstances continue to amaze Australians today,” Mr Burke said.

“Mawson’s focus on scientific research in the Antarctic laid the platform for Australia’s international reputation in Antarctic science.

“He is recognised as one of the four leaders of the so-called Heroic Age, and sits alongside Roald Amundsen, Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

“Mawson’s leadership, bravery and determination in difficult times, as well as his contribution to science were key factors in his being awarded a knighthood on his return to Australia.

“Mawson’s Huts were the birthplace of Australia’s Antarctic heritage and are unique in Australian polar history.

“That’s why it is fitting, in the first dedicated Australian Heritage Week, to announce plans for series of celebrations commemorating the role Mawson’s expedition played in shaping our nation and ensuring his legacy is protected for future generations.”

Mawson’s expedition was the first large-scale Australian-led scientific expedition to the frozen continent and laid the foundation for Australia’s sovereign claim of 42 per cent of Antarctica. Mawson set off from Hobart in December 1911, reaching Commonwealth Bay in January 1912.

Mawson also established Australia’s first base in Antarctica at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, 3000 kilometres south of Tasmania.

The Mawson’s Huts buildings are on the National Heritage List and the Antarctic Treaty list of historic monuments.

Celebratory activities and community events are planned over the anniversary period by a number of Australian Government agencies, State Governments and other organisations across Australia.