THE 2019 Island Whale Festival has been confirmed as one of the best events in Australia, with the announcement last year’s event is a finalist in the 2020 Australian Event Awards.

The three-day Phillip Island Whale Festival was held in July 2019 and was a uniquely interactive event inviting participants to explore the natural environment celebrating the arrival of whales in the southern waters of the Island.

Complemented by a Festival Hub and several venues offering hands-on interactive and educational activities delivered by local organisations and research scientists, the festival experienced record growth in 2019, attracting over 9000 participants.

The festival is co-ordinated and supported by Destination Phillip Island (DPI) in a collaborative partnership with Wildlife Coast Cruises (co-founder), Two Bays Whale Project (co-founder), Dolphin Research Institute, Phillip Island Nature Parks, and Bass Coast Shire Council.

The festival also received funding from the Victorian Regional Events Fund.

“It has been great to see the accelerated growth the festival has enjoyed with the awesome team at DPI giving so much of their time to give it a big push, and the shire and community getting behind it,” said John Dickie of Wildlife Coast Cruises.

“Wildlife Coast Cruises’ staff involvement not only for work, but much of their own time, over the years have helped its journey, Mikala Peters a co-founder, Jen McFee, and Cecelia Roberts who was representing in 2019 as well.”

It’s positive news for everyone.

Kim Storey, general manager at Destination Phillip Island, said: “We are super excited that the 2019 festival is recognised for the culmination of effort from our team and the organising committee. We thank the many organisations and community groups who delivered the experiences across the three-day event, many of which were volunteers.”

Catherine Basterfield, CEO of Phillip Island Nature Parks, said: “We are delighted to see the Island Whale Festival being recognised in this way. The event is a collaborative effort and truly showcases Phillip Island’s unique wildlife and natural beauty and we are proud to be a part of it.”

And Mayor Cr Brett Tessari said: “It is so fantastic that another wonderful Bass Coast event is receiving the recognition it deserves and even more incredibly, on a national scale. Congratulations to all involved with the Island Whale Festival and good luck in the finals.”

Event industry leaders and experts from around Australia who judge the awards have read through hundreds of entries and determined that the Island Whale Festival deserved to sit amongst the national finalists.

Entries are judged on all aspects of event management including best practice, innovation, marketing, stakeholder engagement and management, sustainability, and event legacy.

Across the board, 2020 was a very high scoring year. In fact, Brenda LaPorte, co-chair of the judging panel, reported that “the entries put forward for judging on average scored significantly higher than last year”.

“This is an incredible result knowing what the industry has been through in 2020. It clearly reflects the high quality of the events delivered across Australia and what we have to look forward to when our industry makes its comeback.”

Australian Event Award winners will be announced on October 21, 2020. More information is available at eventawards.com.au.

The Island Whale Festival will be next held from July 2-4, 2021.

“We expect to deliver a bigger and better event in 2021, post the disappointment of 2020 it will be a wonderful event for the region and to celebrate the return of the whales!”

If you missed the festival in 2019, you can see the festival video on @islandwhales Facebook page in the video section.