New conservation centre to open near Brisbane thanks to $18.5 million donation

Andrew Munro 11 April 2017

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Flight Centre's founder commits $18.5 million to University of Queensland conservation initiatives.

Graham Turner, the founder of Flight Centre isn't just about travel. He's also a qualified vet, passionate environmentalist and philanthropist through the Turner Family Foundation.

He's now made an $18.5 million donation from the foundation, thought to be one of the largest family donations to conservation in Queensland history, for a University of Queensland (UQ) wildlife conservation and breeding project near Brisbane. The donation is for the purposes of building costs and ongoing funding for research grants, breeding facilities, wildlife rehabilitation and protection of endangered species over the next 30 years.

The location of the program is one of Australia's hidden gems. Spicers Hidden Vale, also owned by the Flight Centre family, is about an hour from Brisbane and inside a wildlife refuge that's home to some of Australia's rarest and most vulnerable species. The UQ breeding and wildlife centre will become part of Hidden Vale, delivering a rare opportunity to find practical ways of protecting Australia's native fauna next to cattle, farming and pest control needs.

While the number one goal might be research into practical ways of protecting Australia's endangered wildlife, Spicers Hidden Vale is naturally also a beneficiary, and has become that much more desirable thanks to the potential for up close and personal wildlife encounters.

It was already a highly regarded conference, event and holiday spot with luxury accommodation, a spa and multi-award-winning restaurant, surrounded by a range of four wheel drive, mountain bike and hiking trails.

Now, it might attract even more visitors from around Australia, and overseas, delivering more of those hard-to-find wildlife encounters to the location's repertoire. If you're planning on heading to Queensland in the coming years, or are looking for a nearby getaway from Brisbane, you might bump this destination further up your shortlist.

It could be said that there was an ulterior motive, but the sheer size of the donation and the long-term 30 year plan for it, to say nothing of Turner's own personal history of environmentalism and love for animals, leaves little doubt that the number one purpose was to find a real way to help Australia's wildlife for years to come.

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