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Paul Hackett's lasting legacy

Published 18 Jun 2020 by Liz Hackett

“Legacy, what is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden that you never get to see.” (Lin-Manuel Miranda)

Paul Hackett was not only my darling husband of nine years but he also ran his own business named Melbourne Birding Tours. He introduced hundreds of mainly overseas birders to the wonders of Australia’s birdlife and other wildlife, educating and passing on his quiet yet extraordinary enthusiasm for the birds of Australia. 

He was an excellent birding guide, not just for his bird ID skills, both aural and visual, but because he cared deeply about his guests. They were not just clients, they were new friends.

Paul was on a private tour in Far North Queensland in August 2019 when an accident resulted in his passing. Through the tears, anguish and grief, I wanted to have a legacy for Paul and his incredible love for Australia’s wildlife. So I started the Paul Hackett Memorial Scholarship for Bird Research, not only for his legacy but also to encourage others to either set up their own scholarships or donate to the conservation sector.

I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. This is not a scholarship worth hundreds of thousands, but it IS enough for a student to get started on that project they are passionate about. 

I would love this scholarship to be a conversation starter for anyone to thinking of setting up their own scholarship. It could be $500 a year towards a student’s text books, $1000 a year towards a nest boxes or $2000 towards camera traps. I’d love Paul’s legacy to be the start of a movement to donate more to the conservation sector, because if we’ve learnt anything in the last few months, it’s how important our natural places are.

The first recipient of the scholarship is Aline Gibson Vega, from the University of Western Australia, who will be studying the ecology of the Western Grasswren at Bush Heritage’s Hamelin Station Reserve in Western Australia.

“The Paul Hackett Memorial Scholarship has provided vital funding to support my Western Grasswren research,” Aline says.

“Western Grasswrens, like most Grasswrens, are difficult to find and monitor as they have very cryptic behaviour and are found in remote locations. As a result, so little is known about their ecology.

“Given that the Western Grasswren has had such a dramatic historical decline in distribution, I believe it's important to understand key pillars of their ecology to effectively manage and monitor the Shark Bay populations – the only remaining population in Western Australia.”

If you would like to contribute further to the scholarship to help research our amazing Australian birds, please contact Bush Heritage by emailing or calling 1300 NATURE (1300 628 873) and mention the Paul Hackett Memorial Scholarship.

Paul and Liz at the American Birding Expo. Paul and Liz at the American Birding Expo.
Liz and Paul installing pitfall traps at Boolcoomatta. Liz and Paul installing pitfall traps at Boolcoomatta.
Paul Hacket doing what he loved most – birdwatching. Paul Hacket doing what he loved most – birdwatching.
Aline Gibson Vega with a Western Grasswren. Photo by Richard Winterton. Aline Gibson Vega with a Western Grasswren. Photo by Richard Winterton.
Western Grasswren female where they feel most comfortable – in the middle of a shrub! Photo Aline Gibson Vega. Western Grasswren female where they feel most comfortable – in the middle of a shrub! Photo Aline Gibson Vega.

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