sites/all/files/michael_francis_ward_0.jpgBelow is a guest blog post from Australia's Blair Palese — it carries the admiration and sense of loss felt by the whole team.

The Australia team is sad to relay the news that Michael Ward, much loved chair of the organisation’s Australian board, died over the new year holidays. Michael, 51 and the father of Max and budding activist Irena, battled throat cancer for seven years. Despite his debilitating illness, Michael was the anchor that allowed in Australia to be such a successful and active participant on the global movement.

Michael was inspirational in his ideas, a clever strategist, exceptional communicator and true activist. He was particularly concerned about climate change and, because of that, helped form the group that became in Australia.

Organisers believed making Michael chair of the Australian board would give him a distant date – 24 October, the first global day of climate action – to continue his fight with cancer. To our amazement he not only survived until that day but attended our event on the steps of the Sydney Opera House that made global news. In addition, he continued his fight beyond all expectations and was around to support our events on 10/10/10 and contribute to the EARTH project – art so large it could be seen fromspace.

From 1992 to 1997, Michael was executive director of the Australian Republican Movement (RAM) as it lobbied for a referendum to decide whether Australia should remain a monarchy or become a republic. Before that, he was head of the Health Promotions Unit of the New South Wales Health department where he oversaw the "Me No Fry" campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of skin cancer resulting from exposure to the sun. He later became the public affairs spokesman for IT company OzEmail.

"Michael was the man I called when things got challenging, when the money was running out or when it looked like we weren’t going to pull off some of the more challenging plans we’d made to be part of 350 globally,” said Australian CEO Blair Palese. “He was ever wise, always supportive and had the largest, most impressive network of people that could be called in to help when we most needed it. He will be greatly missed by me, the 350 team and by people around Australia whose lives he touched.”

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