Robert Pennicott


2012 TAS Australian of the Year

There are several reasons why ex-fisherman Robert Pennicott has worked hard to set up a successful eco-tourism business. He wanted to share his beloved Tasmanian coastline with other people, create employment and boost the economy of his home community, Bruny Island, and the Tasman Peninsula. But the most important reason was to give back to the community. As Bruny Island Cruises and Tasman Island Cruises took off as world-class eco-tourism businesses, he founded the Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund, personally contributing $100,000 since 2007. The Fund has been instrumental in restoring the delicate ecosystem of Tasman Island, with a large scale eradication of feral cats. But Robert’s philanthropy doesn’t stop there. With his wife, artist Michaye Boulter, he established the Pennicott Foundation.  The Foundation pursues conservation projects but has a much wider focus. Its first involvement is in Polio Plus, a global project in conjunction with Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to eradicate the crippling disease of poliomyelitis. By October 2011, Robert had raised almost $300,000 through his ‘Follow the Yellow Boat Road’ circumnavigation of Australia in two inflatable dinghies. Robert funded the entire cost of the voyage himself, with every cent raised going to the eradication of the disease.