Jade Hameister, polar explorer, is tricky to contact. She’s at high school, trudging through the mid-year tundra of her final year, busy with exams called SACs and GATs even as she celebrates her OAM as the youngest on the 2019 Queen’s Birthday honours list.
To talk to Jade, who celebrated her 18th birthday on June 5, you need to contact her dad Paul Hameister, a high-achieving businessman and adventurer and, handily enough, also a recipient of the Order of Australia medal this year.
It’s an amazing father/daughter double, possibly unprecedented in the history of the awards.
Twice Australian Geographic Society Young Adventurer of the Year, Ms Hameister’s Polar Quest began in 2016, when she was the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from anywhere outside the last degree. A year later, she became the youngest woman to cross the 550-kilometre Greenland icecap unassisted.
The Victorian teen collected her expedition set in 2018, when she skied from Antarctica to the South Pole without help, becoming: the first Australian woman and the youngest person to do so, the youngest to both Poles, and the youngest to complete the Polar Hat Trick.
Whatever you were up to at 16, it probably wasn’t that.
Her dad is a Melbourne property developer, co-founder and executive chairman of Hamton Development Group. He, too, has completed the Polar Hat Trick as well as the Seven Summits, climbing the highest mountains of each of the continents.
Despite their boast-worthy achievements, both riff – delightfully – that the award is really recognition for putting up with each other in tents.
“I think that was one of the hardest parts of the expeditions – sharing a tent with Dad for, I dunno, about 80 days. We had a few little arguments but I think we’re definitely closer now because of it,” Ms Hameister said.
“I like to think the honour is for surviving 140 nights in a tent with hormonal teenagers” Mr Hameister said. “In a tent you can’t just storm out and slam the door.”
If the words “polar exploration” still conjure black-and-white images of stoic, fur-encased men on ice-floes, check out Ms Hameister’s website or watch her TED talks. Glorious images show her, a vivid slash of high-tech colour skiing confidently across the extraordinary, endless white.
“I think the thing that draws me back is the struggle, and the pain which sounds a bit silly, but I don’t really struggle like that at home,” Ms Hameister said.
“Home’s a luxury. When I’m away, in those conditions, the struggling and the pain … Obviously I hate it when I’m struggling, but I love the struggle.”
For the Hameisters, family holidays weren’t the standard week away at a foreshore caravan park. At aged six, Ms Hameister was climbing to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko.
“Then we did Everest Base Camp when I was 12 and my brother Kane was 10,” she said.
“We did Machu Picchu just recently. We do little adventures together as a family. It’s part of our DNA.”
The Hameister family environment clearly supported her big plans. Her dad admitted that confidence-building activities had been big on the parental agenda.
“Jade was the genesis of her own adventures, but as parents, we have always gone out of our way to create little adventures,” Mr Hameister said.
“When I started on my own big adventures, it was about ticking boxes. It was about ego … but doing these things with my children has completely changed my perspective.
“Teenagers are capable of doing so much more than we give them credit for.”
Neither of the newly minted Hameister OAMs, unsurprisingly, intends to just park their medals on the mantelpiece. Both spoke of the responsibility the award brings to contribute more.
“I have two things I want to influence,” the Haileybury College student said. “Inspiring young people to focus on what they can do and not how they appear, which I learnt on my expedition, because I could not focus on how I look.
“And the second one is climate change, which is the most important issue to me. And I think definitely for our generation we should be inspired in that area and we should want to make a difference because we will be the ones that will inherit the consequences.”
As for the future, she’s letting it unfold. In the short term, a bit of homework and a family celebration. She’s keen to study business and entrepreneurship, and hopes to team those skills with her passion for sustainability to influence climate change.
Could she imagine working with her dad?
“I … think … it’s nice that we have our own separate paths,” she laughed, a born diplomat, experienced media hand and teenage daughter all-in-one.
“He’s very good at business so I will be learning a lot from him and taking on his advice.
“I am proud of him.”