Awards Won by Zoos and Aquariums in 2023



Zoos and aquariums play a vital role in the Tourism Industry, annually attracting millions of visitors. This year’s accolades received by our members are a testament to their unwavering dedication to delivering extraordinary guest experiences and conserving wildlife.


  •  David Thorne receives the Captain Trevor Haworth award from the ATEC

The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) is a body that recognises the hard work and efforts made by people in the industry. Each year, the ATEC program honours three individuals who contribute beyond their commercial interests to the broader tourism export industry. 

We are proud to share that David Thorne, co-founder of Caversham Wildlife Park received the prestigious honour of the Captain Trevor Haworth Outstanding Contribution Award by ATEC. He was recognised for his significant contributions to Australia’s tourism export industry. David founded Caversham Wildlife Park in Western Australia in 1988 along with his wife, Pat Thorne, a venture that has since become a highlight in Western Australia’s visitor experience line-up. David’s relentless dedication, commitment, and passion have been pivotal in mentoring numerous new tourism businesses, helping them become internationally ready. He is commonly known as the ‘trade-show king’ in the industry for his enduring presence and influence. A legend in the space, David continues to be actively involved in the industry and inspires future generations.

David Thorne


  •  Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary enters the Hall of Fame

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has taken out the Queensland Tourism Industry Council’s ‘Major Tourist Attraction’ award for 2023 and been inducted in their prestigious Hall of Fame. It’s the third consecutive year the iconic tourist attraction has won the award which recognises the outstanding achievements of the State’s tourism industry.

 “This incredible achievement is a testament to the unwavering dedication and passion of our team. All of our Currumbin family have worked hard to get us here and it’s an honour to see our commitment to unforgettable wildlife experiences recognised in this way. We’d also like to thank our supporters and visitors because without them this win wouldn’t be possible," said Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary General Manager, Travis Couch.

The announcement comes as Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary unveils the largest new precinct, Outback Springs,’ at the park in its 75 year history. Outback Springs will give the visitors a taste of Australian outback, featuring a recreation of a traditional outback Queensland farming station highlighted by up close animal encounters and authentic outback experiences such as billy teas, demonstrations and gemstone panning. 

The precinct was conceptualised in partnership with leading attraction design firm Pico Play, the multi-million dollar precinct has been jointly funded by the National Trust of Australia (Queensland), the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund and the Queensland State Government’s Tourism Experience Development Fund.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary's Team in front of 'Outback Springs'


  • Sea World’s commitment was awarded at the recent Queensland Tourism Award

Sea World celebrated their win at the 2023 Queensland Award, where they achieved a Silver in the Major Tourist Attractions category. 

This award is a testament to the ongoing commitment and passion displayed by Sea World’s dedicated team in providing exceptional experiences for their guests.


  •  Zoos SA added a few more feathers to their cap

The annual South Australian Tourism Awards in October proved to be a huge night for Monarto Safari Park as it clinched the Major Tourist Attraction award for the first time, as well as the Voter’s Choice award for the third time. 

“As the largest safari experience outside of Africa, we offer people a unique experience that contributes to a bigger purpose, as every visit helps to save species from extinction,” said Zoos SA Chief Executive Elaine Bensted. 

Monarto Safari Park will now progress to the Australian Tourism Awards to be held in Darwin in March 2024 and hopes to follow in the footsteps of Adelaide Zoo, which won the national award in 2022 for Major Tourism Attraction.


  • Zoos Victoria bags two awards at the Victorian Tourism Award 

Zoos Victoria were recognised at the 2023 Victorian Tourism Awards. Melbourne Zoo took home the gold award for Major Tourist Attraction, while Healesville Sanctuary won gold for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Experiences. 

Melbourne Zoo Director Sheri Horiszny said the award was a testament to Melbourne Zoo's incredible staff, remarkable wildlife, and lush landscapes. 

"We are proud to be a world-leading zoo-based conservation organisation that connects people from all over the world with nature and wildlife right in the heart of Melbourne." 

Melbourne Zoo has been delighting visitors for over 160-years and is proud to continue doing so with our world-class wildlife experiences that focus on sustainability and conservation.

Melbourne Zoo Team at Victorian Tourism Awards

Healesville Sanctuary Director Ross Williamson was excited to be recognised for the culmination of years of his team’s hard work, “It’s great recognition for what we have built here over the last 30 years, and will support the work we want to do in the future to recognise Wurundjeri Culture across the Sanctuary.” Wurundjeri Elder, Murrundindi did the Welcome To Country ceremony for the whole event and accepted the award alongside Events and Tourism Coordinator Donna Paterson. We are proud to continue to provide special places for members and visitors from all over the world to connect with animals, nature and our rich First Nations culture.

Healesville Sanctuary's Team at the Victorian Tourism Award


  • Australian Reptile Park won big at the NSW Tourism Awards 

The Australian Reptile Park has won big at the NSW Tourism Awards, being honoured with the Gold award for ‘Major Tourism Attraction’! This Gold Award is a true testament to the Australian Reptile Park’s entire team for all the hard work and dedication they put into creating extraordinary visitor experiences. Their commitment to conservation, engaging educational programs, and stunning exhibits have secured their position as a leading tourist destination in New South Wales.

Major Tourism Attraction Award- Australian Reptile Park


  • Taronga Western Plains Zoos achievement at the New South Wales Tourism Award

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the largest attraction in inland NSW and a significant contributor to both local and global conservation programs. 

For the third year running, Taronga Western Plains Zoo was recognised as one of NSW’s most popular destinations at the NSW Tourism Awards, taking home silver in the Major Tourist Attraction category. 

It was a big 12 months for Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with the opening of a brand-new purpose-built wildlife hospital in December 2022, with the Zoo also switching to renewable electricity in March.  

Taronga Western Plains Zoo at the NSW Tourism Awards


  • Ballarat Wildlife Park is the 2023 Gold Winner of the Victorian Tourism Awards, Best Attraction

This honour underscores the park’s commitment to delivering exceptional wildlife experiences and promoting tourism in the region.

The Victorian Tourism Awards, organised by the Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC), celebrate excellence in the state’s tourism industry, recognising businesses and organisations that consistently deliver outstanding tourism experiences.

Greg Parker, owner of the Ballarat Wildlife Park, expressed his sheer delight, stating, "Winning the award is a testament to Ballarat Wildlife Park's dedication to providing visitors with a world-class destination where they can connect with Australia's unique wildlife.  After a difficult few years, it is a great reward for a lot of hard work by our wonderful team."


Ballarat Wildlife Park