Five reflections from Craig Leeson, Tasmanian Australian of the Year for 2022

Craig Leeson, the 2022 Tasmanian Australian of the Year, reflects on overcoming fear and busting myths about changemakers.

We know Craig Leeson as an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, television presenter, entrepreneur and the Tasmanian Australian of the Year for 2022. We’d describe him as ambitious, driven, smart, compassionate and brave. But if you asked him, he’d say he's not that different from you and I.

Splitting his time between Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Australia, Craig is juggling the roll out of his new film, The Last Glaciers, while also working on a new business aimed at encouraging smarter consumerism. In between his ambitious endeavours he has time for quiet moments surfing, mindless meditation in the kitchen and reflections on a post-COVID world. Here are five observations from Craig, from overcoming fear and leading by example to busting myths about changemakers.

1. Good things happen when we move towards fear

To engage his audience with his most recent documentary The Last Glaciers, Craig weaves his personal story into the documentation of climate change, mountain environments, and glaciers. In order to access glacial ranges to witness first-hand the dramatic changes taking place, Craig teamed up with extreme sports athletes, Dave Turner and Malcolm Wood to overcome his fear of heights.

Craig draws parallels between overcoming his fear of heights and the challenge we all face in overcoming the climate crisis. “Producer, Malcolm Wood and I wanted to bring people closer to the mountaineering experience by using me as the vehicle, being taught the art of para-alpinism - how to mountain climb, ice climb, how to paraglide - when I have a deep fear of heights. So, by overcoming that mental challenge there is this kind of metaphor for the challenge humanity has in overcoming the climate crisis,” says Craig. Craig explains that what he learnt through the process was that you never really overcome the fear, you just learn to manage it.

2. Everyone should adjust their age by two years

When asked what surprises him in 2022, Craig reflects on the time warp that the global pandemic has inflicted on everyone's lives and jokingly advocates for everyone to shave two years off their age.

“What surprised me in 2022 is where the last two years have gone. It's almost like time stood still. And the COVID time has just been this black hole, where so much has happened in everybody's lives. Some of it good, some of it not so good for many people. So, I think I would like to suggest that there's some kind of national law where we're all allowed to adjust our age down by two years because I feel I'm missing two years of my life and that we're never going to get those back again,” Craig says.

3. Surfing is medicine for the mind

From paragliding in the European Alps, to rolling out the premiere of The Last Glaciers across the world, there’s no doubt Craig lives a busy life. To counter that, Craig finds solace in surfing and cooking.

“Surfing is an incredible sport because it uses every muscle in your body and it's also very aerobic. But it's the time between waves that I find incredibly meditative while sitting there watching the ocean, reading the ocean. Feeling the movement of the ocean, becoming one with the ocean is where I do a lot of really deep thinking,” says Craig.

4. Practise what you preach but accept that no one is perfect

As an award-wining filmmaker and climate activist, Craig, strives to practise what he preaches. He avoids single use plastics, carries his own cutlery and water bottle and takes public transportation when it is available. He also acknowledges that plastic is a habit and for some people it’s hard to break. He believes it’s all about finding the balance of being accountable for our actions without beating ourselves up when we can’t be perfect. What is important is the continual self-improvement.

For Craig, one area of his life he struggles with is the amount of flights he must take to be able to film in remote locations and share the awareness of his findings: “I firmly believe that as individuals it’s better to understand that perfection is hard to reach, but it’s the striving to be better for ourselves and the world we live in that is important. Because, although as individuals the steps that we take are super important, we still need to be able to live our lives, to travel and to experience nature. By striving to be better we become better, says Craig.

5. Changemakers are all around us

There’s no doubt Craig has lived an inspiring life, and in becoming the 2022 Tasmanian Australian of the Year, he continues to do inspiring work. Craig reflects on the Australian of the Year Awards and how they give a great sense of optimism.

He echoes a sentiment we’ve heard from the likes of Dylan Alcott, that there’s nothing inherently unique about these Aussies. Craig says, “The myth that I try to bust when I talk to people about becoming a changemaker is that there’s nothing inherently special about the Australians of the Year. These are people that just saw a problem and wanted to do something about it and became engaged enough that they started working towards a solution or a change of some sort.”

“And in doing that became an expert in their field or started something new that would have been able to impact in a positive way the lives of other people, and that exists in all of us. It exists in me, and it exists in you. It exists in every single child on the planet and every single adult.”

Nominate an inspiring Australian

Do you know someone who deserves recognition? Nominate them for an Australian of the Year Awards. Nominations close 31 July.