THE Island Whale Festival Committee is ecstatic to share its success with all those that contributed to the festival in 2019.

At the recent Australian Event Awards, the Island Whale Festival 2019 was announced as the winner of the Best Small Event category.

The festival had strong competition in the category, going up against the Gold Coast Music Awards, among other events.

Due to the difficulties of COVID-19, the 2020 Australian Event Awards was held as four simultaneous ceremonies in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth, with Victorian finalists able to join via Zoom. This eliminated the need for anyone to travel or quarantine to attend the awards and allowed the ceremonies to be run in a COVID-safe manner.

Kim Storey from Destination Phillip Island delivered the acceptance speech via Zoom with a small group of representatives who celebrated the announcement over dinner.

The Australian Event Awards is the national awards program for the events industry. It is the only opportunity for event professionals to compete directly across the nation, and across all facets of the industry, to establish which are Australia’s best events and event-related goods, services and innovations

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 while celebrating the arrival of whales in the southern waters of the Island.

It was complemented by a festival hub and several venues offered 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 has evolved from the inaugural Winter Whale Weekend in 2016 founded by Two Bays Whale Project marine science researchers Sue Mason and David Donnelly, Wildlife Coast Cruises – John Dickie and Mikala Peters and the Dolphin Research Institute.

The festival was launched as a three-day event in 2017 directed and financially supported by Destination Phillip Island in a collaborative partnership with an enthusiastic committee consisting of Wildlife Coast Cruises, Two Bays Whale Project, Dolphin Research Institute, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Bass Coast Shire Council and the tourism board.

The 2019 festival received funding from the Victorian Regional Events Fund and sponsorship from Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, Westernport Water and IFAW.

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

Event industry leaders and experts from around Australia who judge the awards read through hundreds of entries and determined that the Island Whale Festival deserved the win.

Entries were 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. Brenda LaPorte, co-chair of the judging panel, said: “The entries put forward for judging on average scored significantly higher than last year.”

The next Island Whale Festival will be held from July 2 to 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!”

The committee expects to host a celebration when they can, and the actual trophy arrives on the Island in the coming weeks.

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