Two long-time Antarctic scientists, a chef and a plumber have been awarded prestigious Australian Antarctic Medals in recognition of their service to the Australian Antarctic Program.

The four medal recipients were announced by the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), on a special Honours List for Midwinter’s Day.

The Antarctic Medal is awarded to those who have given outstanding service in scientific research or exploration, or in support of this work through the Australian Antarctic Program.

In 2021, the medals are awarded to:

Dr Nick Gales

Nick Gales has made a significant and exceptional contribution to the Australian Antarctic Program spanning four decades.

Nick’s passion for scientific research lead to the development of a marine mammal program in the Southern Ocean and saw him heading non-lethal research to provide a scientific basis for sound conservation and management of Southern Ocean whales. He was instrumental in developing the Australian Marine Mammal Centre at the AAD and attended the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee meetings, which culminated in acting as a witness for Australia in the successful International Court of Justice finding against Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program.

Mr Timothy Price

Tim Price has been a cornerstone of the Antarctic community, first wintering at Davis Research Station in 1986 as a plumber followed by participation in 26 Antarctic seasons wintering, summering and round tripping.

Tim has provided innovative methods towards safety as well as energy and water conservation, implementing a more efficient way of heat recovery from the station power generation. His extensive knowledge of waste management, water reticulation, heating, ventilation and building systems are invaluable, as is his role as a mentor to new staff and expeditioners.

Dr Patti Virtue

Patti Virtue was recognised for her outstanding contribution and efforts in mentoring and teaching the next generation of Antarctic ecologists, and her contribution to the understanding of the role of krill in the Southern Ocean ecosystem and the likely impacts of climate change to krill.

Patti has been on numerous Antarctic science expeditions both at sea and on station over an extended period of time.

She works collaboratively across nations and disciplines, leading and contributing to many research publications covering diverse aspects of biological oceanography, sea ice ecology, zooplankton (krill) research and marine oils.

Donna Wightman

Donna Wightman's dedication to her core role as station chef alone is noteworthy, but it is her commitment to the station community and operation as a whole that sets her apart.

During the summer of 2015/16 throughout the transition of expeditioners from Mawson through Casey following the grounding of the Aurora Australis and again during the 2020/21 Antarctic season at Davis, where the community as a whole were extended through a second summer due to logistical constraints, Donna's efforts were exemplary. She played an integral role in the health and welfare of all expeditioners. Her natural leadership skills, along with her caring nature and strong work ethic, lifted expeditioner spirits.

Donna was the backbone of the station’s morale and wellbeing as many around her struggled to manage the unique and trying circumstances. Donna’s resilience and perseverance set an example to all on station as she worked tirelessly to ensure each and every expeditioner felt appreciated, supported and valued.