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The Australian Whale Conservation Society AWCS is a registered, nonprofit environmental organisation, based in Queensland, Australia. The AWCS had its beginnings in the mid1970s when the general public first became aware of the plight of whales and dolphins. Australia was then a whaling nation. Lobbying by a number of conservation organisations including the AWCS convinced the Australian Government that whaling was becoming a major issue nationally and globally. In particular, petitions collected by these groups demonstrated that there was strong support from the general public for the cessation of whaling.
With mounting public interest and, it is said, pressure from his children, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser appointed Sir Sidney Frost to head an independent Inquiry into Whales and Whaling. Established in March 1978, the Inquiry received submissions from scientists, government agencies, members of the public and whaling interests as well as conservation groups. The Frost Report, as the Inquiry’s findings became known, was presented to the Prime Minister in December 1978. The substantial report and accompanying papers can be summed up in the first line of the Inquiry’s Recommendations “Australia should oppose the continuance of whaling”. From that time forward Australia’s position, domestically and internationally, would be one of opposition to whaling. The first and perhaps most important victory had been won. All the lobbying, letter writing this was the 1970s remember, community activity, petition gathering and submission preparation had been worthwhile.
The main mission the conservation and protection of cetaceans is far from accomplished of course. More victories, and many defeats, have brought us to where we are today. Commercial whaling continues, much of it under the pretext of scientific whaling. Cetaceans also face many of the other problems they did in the past, such as entanglement and habitat degradation. And there are new threats in the form of climate change and inappropriate human activity around whales.
The work of the AWCS continues, and much of what we do is still at the grassroots level, attending to issues that might otherwise remain under the radar. The focus is as it was three decades ago creating public awareness and understanding of whale conservation issues and engaging with government and organisations to bring about lasting change.