In 1963 Graeme made the first discovery of a 17th century shipwreck in Australian waters. In the following year he and co-finders, brother Alan, father Jim and John Cowan, persuaded the Western Australian Museum to become responsible for historic shipwrecks with a Deed of Assignment, transferring their finder’s rights of the Gilt Dragon (Vergulde Draeck) to the Museum. Graeme joined the Museum in 1969 and worked in the field of Maritime Archaeology until 1992. From 1992-2005 he was the Inaugural Director of the Western Australian Maritime Museum. From 1993-2005 he was Delegate to the Commonwealth Minister for the Historic Shipwrecks Act.
He developed awareness of Australia’s 18th century shipwrecks, leading early expeditions to the wrecks of the Sydney Cove off Tasmania, HMS Sirius on Norfolk Island and HMS Pandora off Queensland. He escorted VIPs through the Western Australian Maritime Museum including Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, the Sultan of Brunei and Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange (now King of the Netherlands).
He jointly led a UNESCO Mission to examine the feasibility of establishing the world’s first underwater Museum at the Pharos Lighthouse at Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Australia ICOMOS invited him to establish the International Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage Heritage and in that role he coordinated the development of the draft for the Annex of the UNESCO 2001 Convention for Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, now adopted by 47 countries.
Graeme arranged a partnership between the Maritime Museum and the Duyfken Replica Foundation for the construction of the replica Duyfken at the Museum. He lobbied successfully to have Australia’s Most Famous Yacht Australia II brought back to Western Australia. He is the author of 13 books and over 100 articles about the maritime heritage. Since 2009 he has been a Research Associate with the Western Australian Museum.
1996: State Government Award as sole Principal Discoverer Gilt Dragon (1656) wreck.
2002: Western Australian Citizen of the Year (Cit. WA): Arts, Culture, Entertainment.
2003: Centenary Medal, Commonwealth of Australia.
2012: Member of the Order of Australia (AM).