In Memory of Trent Williams
Thursday, 21 Apr, 2022
Vale Trent Williams: a passionate and dedicated Sea Shepherd volunteer for over 9 years.
A celebration of a life that continues to give life – honouring Trent Williams. Words by Sea Shepherd Australia's Managing Director Jeff Hansen.
It’s with a heavy heart that we take this time to honour one of our fallen comrades, Trent Williams. However, picturing Trent’s infectious smile, the twinkle in his eye and his enormous energy, I know he would not want us to be sad, but to continue to charge forward with the path he has laid before us. To continue his legacy and to celebrate a life so well lived and a life that has given so much and continues to do so.
Trent burst onto the Sea Shepherd movement way back in 2013 and worked tirelessly as ground crew, raising the necessary funds and awareness to keep our ships at sea, where they need to be, in defence of those that cannot defend themselves. In defence of the wondrous creatures that call the ocean home and marine life that ultimately maintain our primary life support; after all, this is planet ocean.
With Williamstown, Victoria, the home of Sea Shepherd's Southern Operations Base, it was not uncommon to have up to three Sea Shepherd whale defence ships in port for almost 9 months at a time, preparing to take on the barbaric operations of the illegal Japanese whale poachers. During these times, it was people like Trent that stood up to be counted. Trent did all he could to get our ships ready for frontline action. The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is in fact now a sanctuary because people like Trent acted!
When Sea Shepherd changed course and refocused, by taking on Toothfish poachers in the Southern Ocean, illegal fishing in Africa or remote clean-ups in Arnhem Land working with Indigenous rangers, Trent always stood up to do his part and held the course. He trusted the leadership, the directors, captains, and he trusted and backed the vision. This was always felt whenever I would catch up with Trent. His eyes and smile said it all. Although I am no captain, I felt as though his eyes were saying, hold the course Jeff, you're doing us proud and off he would go doing whatever job needed to be done. Trent was a leader in himself and what he did every day, and thus he knew that all leaders still need backing and support and words of encouragement from their colleagues.
Trent joined the Marine Debris (MD) campaign in 2016 and founded the Mornington MD Team. He was enthusiastic to start the team and support the campaign, as he instantly recognised the importance of keeping the beaches clean and the education needed in this space. He was also knowledgeable about plastic pollution and the increasing impact and harm it was causing to marine life.
His dedication over the last 6 plus years in this space never waned and he ran clean-ups as well as represented the campaign regularly by organising education talks, clean-ups with schools, collaborations with other groups and events. He hosted film screenings at local cinemas, as well as some corporate clean-ups with the Body Shop who loved the event so much they offered to fly Trent to Sydney to do another one there with their staff. Wow!
Trent was the first to put his hand up to assist or run events even if it meant driving to Melbourne to do it and you always knew if he could, he would be there and was one of the most reliable and dedicated team members of the Marine debris campaign and Sea Shepherd volunteers in general.
The MD team in Mornington was extremely successful as Trent had a team who worked alongside him and pulled the community together, running regular events and raising awareness around plastic pollution with many members of the community supporting the clean-ups on a regular basis. He also instigated and ran dive clean-ups too over the 6 years.
In 2016, as part of the Melbourne Marathon, the MD Campaign formed a "trashy team" who walked to raise awareness of marine plastics. We all dressed up and carried signs and Trent gave the event his flamboyant touch by wearing lycra ocean-themed pants, joking and chatting to bystanders, and motivated the team by making up entertaining slogans that we chanted together as we walked.
In 2018 he was a crew member on the Djulpan Remote Marine Debris clean-up: Sea Shepherd's first 2-week clean-up with the Dhimurru rangers on a remote beach, where he demonstrated his forklift driving skills, his respect and empathy for the Indigenous rangers. Trent was a valuable crew member.
He started the Lakes Entrance weekend cleans which was sadly his last event for the campaign. Here he collaborated with the Volunteer Coastguard and the local community running a very successful event with Sea Shepherd volunteers from Melbourne attending and removing more than 200kgs from the coastal area.
I often get asked what is the culture of Sea Shepherd, and to me, that’s Trent Williams.
Trent was connected to the Sea Shepherd movement and to his fellow comrades, bonded by a love of the natural world and a deep understanding of its ecological importance, in that nature provides us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, regulates our climate, takes away our waste, in reality, nature is our life support.
Trent tackled every stall, event, clean-up and campaign near or far with that very essence fuelling his soul, fuelling his relentless drive and conviction for a better world, and a better world we have because Trent Williams lived and truly live he did!
Trent also knew that no matter what he did as part of the movement that the victories we achieved globally, were as much his as our crew on the frontline. That although we have captains, directors, staff, volunteers and donors, we are all equally important, in that we simply don’t work without each other. Trent knew that it was more than just defending our ocean clients, it was not always about the destination, it was as much about the journey, the relationships and comradery along the way.
It's people like Trent Williams that set the culture of this movement, not just because of how he acted, but because it was deep to his core, in his beautiful heart and his mind. It simply was who he was.
Trent was an unstoppable force and this unstoppable force still rages on today; be that in the marine life saved that continue to thrive, a beach cleaned so that a mother turtle can lay her eggs in Arnhem land on sacred country to the Yolngu people or the infectious memories and energy that fill the lives of all those that stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him over his full years. No matter how overwhelming the situation, he tackled every clean-up with the notion that every piece of trash removed was a potential life saved. What a beautiful human being.
"Deepest sympathies to Trent's family, his children, his countless comrades and to all those whose lives Trent touched. On behalf of all of us at Sea Shepherd Globally, we send you mountains of love and oceans of support."- Jeff Hansen
We are still connected to Trent, in our hearts and minds. Everywhere you look, he is there: a stall he attended, a beach cleaned, a joke you shared. And every breathe we take, we draw from the phytoplankton in Planet Ocean that Trent fought so hard to protect.
Trent was a leader, an educator, he was an ambassador for Sea Shepherd. We are better people for knowing him and he left the planet a much better place. He was one of our own, one of our kin, one of our family and he will be missed.
Trent: Thank you for all that you did and all that you were and continue to be to the countless people whose lives you enriched.
For the Ocean
Jeff Hansen - Managing Director – Sea Shepherd Australia
Words by Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd's Director of Campaigns & the Chair of Sea Shepherd Australia
"Trent brought people together who share his passion for the oceans. I will never forget when he introduced me to a young man named Joshua who had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and whose dream it was to join a Sea Shepherd ship. In the mess of the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin, Joshua gravitated toward a chart outlining every species of cetacean and proceeded to rattle off facts about whales that put Trent and my own knowledge to shame. As Johsua's hands ran across the whale drawings--pointing out which whale was faster than the other--I looked over at Trent and he was beaming because the love that filled that space would have been enough to pop rivets and buckle the hull plates of the ship that had traversed many a stormy sea. That's the magic that Trent brought to every life situation. He made Joshua a Sea Shepherd crewmember; he emboldened other Sea Shepherds to stand their ground in Taiji and the Faroe Islands; and he lived a code of compassion that saw equal value in stopping a dolphin drive hunt and cleaning up plastic on a remote stretch of beach."
"Trent knew that every action matters. How lucky we all are to know such love because we know Trent".- Captain Peter Hammarstedt
Words by Liza Dicks, Sea Shepherd Australia's Remote Marine Debris Campaigner
“Trent’s passion for diving immersed him in the world he loved so much and thus he was an ocean warrior who never said no and always put the ocean first. He was one of the longest serving Marine Debris Coordinators running clean-ups for over 6 years and I will always remember and appreciate how he gave 100% and believed in the campaign from day one."
“One of the things I admired about Trent was that he was not a conformist; nothing phased him and he was willing to stand up and say what he thought and bring his own personal touch and style to whatever he did to achieve amazing results. His dedication to the campaign and the issue of marine plastic never waned. He founded and led the Mornington team for over 6 years running 46 clean-ups and alongside his team, removed 1,140 bags of trash weighing more than 7 tonnes. “
"I always admired Trent’s passion and determination to overcome whatever was needed to be out on the beaches cleaning up and has left a huge gap to fill and will be greatly missed by the community, marine life and oceans that he stood up for wherever and whenever he could. “- Liza Dicks
Words by Tony Smith, Director, Sea Shepherd Australia & Melbourne Chapter volunteer
“There’s not much to say about Trent that hasn’t already been said. He joined Sea Shepherd only a few months before my wife and I, but it seemed like he’d been there for years when we met – such was his presence. And he did so much in the 9 years that followed – from Taiji to the Faroes; remote beach cleans in Arnhem Land, to local cleans across Victoria; the education programs and the charity walks around the Domain in his blue patterned motor bike pants – that he always liked to win. If something needed doing, Trent was there.”
“I was fortunate to catch up with him and the Marine Debris Team at Lakes Entrance only a few weeks ago after 2 years of COVID separation. Gill & I were met with the customary man-hug that you just couldn’t resist. He was so happy that at 47, he had finally enrolled in a uni course – although Ella did remind him that he was only a first year to her third. We also saw him & the team rescue two seahorses from a submerged shopping trolley. As Trent took them back to the water to release them, one swam away, but the other was non-responsive. Trent then spent the next few minutes massaging the little creature back to life until it too finally swam away. That will be my lasting memory of him above all else.”
"We talked about Trent at the Sea Shepherd Australia Board meeting last Tuesday, and a motion was unanimously passed to work with a university to create a Trent Williams Memorial Sea Shepherd Scholarship. Details are yet to be finalised, but watch this space. We’d like to see someone complete the course that Trent started and hopefully do the great work that we know he would have.”- Tony Smith
Words by Bob Brown, Former Chair of Sea Shepherd Australia
"Vale Trent: thank you for being such a force for good while with us on this little planet Earth!"- Bob Brown