13 December 2021 451
by Jennifer Donohoe (published in 2021 Newsletter of Camellias Australia Inc. Volume 1 No.1 )
Stephen Utick was elected ICS Vice President (Oceania) on October replacing Joe Neuschwanger who stepped down from the position.
In April 2020 Stephen was awarded the ICS President’s Medal for his efforts negotiating and fostering the adoption of the Apoliu Declaration, the world’s first proclamation targeting the conservation of ancient, indigenous Camellia trees, as well as significant historic ornamental Camellia specimens and plantings around the world.
The innovative approach of the Apoliu Declaration was the acknowledgement and recognition of the historical and cultural values and significance attributed to an ornamental tree.
Another pet project of Stephen’s is Camellia Ark Australia (CAA). In 2015, he drove and became a cofounder of CAA with the aim to conserve Australia’ s rarest Camellias. Another objectives of CAA is the promotion of the horticultural, cultural, and multicultural significance of Camellia as a global symbol of friendship.
Stephen is a retired Commonwealth science and research policy officer, having worked across several federal government portfolios (1984-2008), and he was also a political speechwriter. He holds postgraduate qualifications in horticultural botany, history and philosophy of science, ethics, philosophy, and history.
Stephen has a long and dedicated volunteer career in public gardens. One inspiration was his father, the late Eric Utick BEM, who was also a member of Caringbah Rotary (NSW). Stephen’s father was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship and he held an Honorary Directorship of the internationally acclaimed E. G. Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens in Caringbah, Sutherland Shire, NSW. Eric was the prime stimulus for Stephen’s passion for camellias.
Through his association with the E.G. Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens (a Garden supported by Rotary), Stephen initiated and coordinated the Camellia Ark Project with Camellias-R-Us Nursery at Glenorie in Sydney’s Hills District. For this, Stephen was awarded the Walter Hazlewood Medal by Camellias Australia in 2014.
As a result his contributions since 2016, Stephen has risen in prominence as a Director of the International Camellia Society, a world-wide charitable plant body. In 2017, Stephen was elected, by global ballot, as the first Chair of the ICS Committee for Historic Camellia Conservation. In this capacity, he has chaired international meetings with experts and delegates from around the world, first in Nantes France in March 2018, and secondly in Conghua, Guangdong, China in October 2019. As a result of his patient administration, and successful negotiation with senior Chinese officials, his committee successfully instigated the Apoliu Declaration. This was the world’s first proclamation targeting conservation of ancient indigenous Camellia trees, vital natural resources for China and Japan, as well as significant historic ornamental Camellia trees, including those in Australia. The innovative approach of this declaration was the acknowledgement and recognition of the historical and cultural value and significance attributed to an ornamental tree.
This declaration, was officially adopted by the ICS in April 2020, and due to this initiative, Stephen was consequently awarded the ICS President’s Medal. Through his Chairmanship of the ICS Committee for Historic Camellia Conservation, Stephen has the unique authority to designate significant ancient and historic Camellia tree status anywhere in the world.
Stephen is currently a Visiting Curator to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, engaged in a voluntary capacity to organize and render their Camellia collections more accessible to the public, and to mark the 200th anniversary of the first planting of a collection of camellias, including tea, in the Southern Hemisphere.
Dr. Stephen Utick delivering the Apoliu Declaration at the Apoliu Camellia Valley Garden, Guangdong China, October 2019