Dr Graeme Worboys, lifelong protected area advocate

Tracking frogs around the veranda, delighting in spying snakes slithering in the nearby creek, exploring the rugged terrain of Victoria, Australia, as part of the Scouts, spending a stint in high school as a seasonal ranger in the iconic Wilsons Promontory National Park—these early experiences shaped Graeme Worboys’ entire life and career. Early moments such as these triggered a lifelong passion for protecting the natural world, a goal that Graeme has been striving to achieve for over 40 years. 

Graeme Worboys on a WCPA field trip to Krkonose National Park in the Czech Republic

Most notably, he plays a significant role in global efforts to preserve protected areas. His tireless efforts were recognised at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016, where Graeme was presented with the coveted Fred Packard Award, to acknowledge “outstanding service to protected areas”—something Graeme has undoubtedly achieved.

Graeme Worboys receives the Fred Packard Award at the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 in Hawai'iGraeme began his journey studying Geology and Geography. He subsequently went on to complete an Associate Diploma in Park Management, a Master’s degree in Tourism, and, last but by no means least, a PhD in Effective Management. He has added to this strong academic record over the years with a whole host of professional and research experience, working in a variety of roles—Ranger, Park Superintendent, Regional Manager, Executive Director, Specialist, Consultant, and Managing Director – in a bid to make a real difference to conservation worldwide.

He currently works as a specialist in protected area management and environmental consultant in Australia and internationally, and his combined heritage protection and geological expertise is frequently sought by organisations worldwide, including UNESCO.

Graeme continues to make significant contributions to IUCN. Since the early 2000s, he has played a key role in IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA); he currently serves on the WCPA’s Steering Committee as Co-Vice Chair for the Connectivity Conservation and Mountains Biome, and has served as Vice Chair of Mountain Protected Areas. He has volunteered countless hours to this cause, creating and distributing educational materials and workshops, compiling and producing a number of vital publications, and working to promote the concept of connectivity within conservation bridging the gap between science and the practice of conservation. Graeme is Senior Adviser to the IUCN’s Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group.

Many of these resources have influenced international policy, and provide authoritative guidance to PA managers and policymakers across the world. Graeme has worked as editor for five books on PAs, including the IUCN’s 2015 book Protected Area Governance and Management (an enormous effort that took over 2.5 years, has been downloaded 26,000 times, and remains one of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014’s most formidable legacies). Graeme acted as lead editor and undertook this mammoth project voluntarily, as do all members of the WCPA, making the feat all the more remarkable.

Graeme Worboys in Plitvici National Park, Croatia

Despite his wide interests and the global influence of his work, Graeme’s particular love of mountains remains strong and he maintains a special place in his heart for the Australian Alps or Snowy Mountains! He has long advocated for the importance of large-scale conservation in the Australian Alps, especially the Great Eastern Ranges. Immediately after completing his undergraduate degree, Graeme spent time working as a Graduate Ranger in Kosciuszko National Park, and to this day, Kosciuszko remains Graeme’s favourite place. Graeme spent three years project managing and preparing a new management plan for the 690,000-hectare park, is currently working on a project to highlight the commitment of the many ‘heroes of the mountains’ who have worked to protect Kosciuszko, and remains captivated by the rugged beauty of the park’s alpine landscape, wind-gnarled snow gums, vast wildflower meadows, and shimmering glacial lakes.

Overall, Graeme has had a truly significant impact for over four decades in his work to protect some of the most important, unique, and diverse regions in the world. He identifies his primary achievement as sharing his expertise with PA managers across the globe—something he has dedicated much personal time and effort to via workshops, meetings, and publications—so that more people have the knowledge, skill, and passion to manage and protect our beautiful planet for many years to come.

His message to others is simple: individual effort matters! Accumulated it can move mountains—or, indeed, save them.

Short biography:

Dr Graeme L. Worboys is a protected area management specialist consultant, Managing Director of Jagumba Consulting Pty Ltd, and an adjunct Fellow at the Fenner School of the Australian National University. He serves on the International Steering Committee of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) as Co-Vice Chair (Connectivity Conservation and Mountains Biome), and lives in Australia.

A selection of Graeme’s publications:

Worboys, G.L., Francis, W.L. and Lockwood, M., Kothari, A., Feary, S., and Pulsford, I. (eds) (2015) Protected Area Governance and Management.  ANU Press, Canberra.

Worboys, G.L. and Pulsford, I. (2011) Connectivity Conservation in Australian Landscapes, State of the Environment Committee, Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra

Worboys, G.L., Francis, W.L. and Lockwood, M (eds) (2010) Connectivity Conservation Management: A Global Guide, Earthscan, London. 

Harmon, D. and Worboys, G.L. (2004) Managing Mountain Protected Areas: Challenges and Responses for the 21st Century, Andromeda, Colledara, Italy.

This article is part of the 'Inspiring People' series featured in the monthly IUCN 'Protecting the Planet' newsletter. The article was written by Nicky Jenner, a science writer and editor based in the UK, and Penelope Figgis AO, Oceania Vice Chair, WCPA and former Director, Australian Committee for IUCN (2010-2014)

Massed wildflowers near Mt lee, Alpine Area, Kosciuszko National Park, Australia. Photo Graeme Worboys

Go to top