Several achievers with strong links to Australian agriculture have been honoured in the 2024 Australia Day Awards announced this morning.
Queensland Chief Veterinary officer Dr Allison Crook has been awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service during COVID-19 to animal welfare and the protection of biosecurity in Queensland.
Dr Crook grew up on a cattle property near Warwick and commenced her career in public service as a veterinary officer in 1997 in Toowoomba, with the then Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. Early career achievements include leading the implementation of national programs to monitor and reduce chemical residues in animal products and developing and leading the first detector dog team.
The 2024 Australia Day honour citation recognises her leadership, oversight and direction, not only through COVID-19, but in a number of successful biosecurity emergency responses in Queensland including the citrus canker outbreak in 2004, multiple Hendra virus incidents, a Bovine Johne’s disease outbreak in 2012, white spot disease in 2016, and a mass livestock mortality in 2019. With the support of New South Wales authorities, Dr Crook helped Australia to become the first country to eradicate equine influenza in 2007.
Professor Alexander Broadfoot McBratney, director of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture and professor of digital agriculture and soil science at the University of Sydney, has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division for significant service to soil science through research and education, and to the development of digital mapping techniques.
Professor McBratney is a world-leading soil scientist who conceived and developed pedometrics, digital soil mapping and soil security, radically strengthening the knowledge base of soil science, according to the Australian Academy of Science.
In 2014 he was awarded the VV Dokuchaev medal by the International Union of Soil Sciences, which is the highest honour in the soil science discipline, and is the editor of global soil science journal Geoderma.
“Soil is not a renewable resource… it is very precious and we have to look after it” – Alex McBratney on the importance of soil – the “skin of the earth” – in this short video following his 2016 induction as a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.
Griffith University Pro Vice Chancellor (Sciences) and former Dean of Agriculture at the University of Queensland, Professor Neal Menzies has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division for significant service to science, and to tertiary education.
A professor of Soil and Environmental Science, Professor Menzies has published more than 300 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and in 2016 was elected President of the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture.
Renowned agribusiness consultant, educator and mentor Dr Mike Stephens has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division for significant service to primary industry, and to the community.
Through his work as the founder and director of Meridian Agriculture and the long serving executive officer of the Beef Improvement Association of Australia Dr Stephens has helped hundreds of rural businesses develop skills and improve business performance, and was a facilitator and founding member of the Rural Leadership Program. Dr Stephens has also been involved in skills and leadership training of Indigenous youth through the National Indigenous Pastoral Enterprise.
Last year Dr Stephens received the annual Howard Yelland award, presented by the Australian Beef Industry Foundation and Marcus Oldham College.
Former Senator for NSW from 2008 to 2019 John “Wacka” Williams has been named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division for significant service to the Parliament of Australia, and to the community
Senator Williams began his working career as a truck driver, shearer and farmer. He was chair of the National Party Northern Tablelands State Electorate Council from 1999 to 2003 and was elected as a National Party Senator for NSW in 2008.
He served as the National Party Whip from 2008 to 2013 and 2016 to 2019. Since retiring from Parliament in 2019 he has also served as chair of the Fisheries Research Development Council, vice chair of the National Agriculture Labour Advisory Committee and Chair of Greyhound Racing NSW.
Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the University of Melbourne Deli Chen has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division for distinguished service to sustainable agriculture, to Australia-China relations, to philanthropic endeavours, and as a mentor.
Professor Chen is an internationally recognised soil scientist conducting research on agricultural nitrogen use and its impact on global food security, the environment and climate change, and is the the Discipline Leader of the Soil and Environment Research, School of Agriculture, Food and Ecosystem Sciences, University of Melbourne.
He is also the the Director of ARC Research Hub for Smart Fertilisers, a multidisciplinary program involving soil science, plant science, chemistry, chemical engineering, and industries (Incitec Pivot Fertilisers and Elders) that aims to produce a new generation of nitrogen fertilisers for transformational improvements in nitrogen use efficiency.
Former Tasmanian premier and Minister for Primary Industries Robin Gray has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division for distinguished service to the people and Parliament of Tasmania, to economic development, and to the agricultural sector.
He was elected Liberal state leader in 1981 and in 1982 defeated the Labor government of Harry Holgate on a policy of “state development,” particularly the building of the Franklin Dam, a hydroelectric dam on the Franklin River.
Mr Gray was born in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne. According to a Wikipedia profile, once he had completed high school, he won a scholarship to Dookie Agricultural College and completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Melbourne. His qualifications led to a job as an agricultural consultant at a firm in Victoria’s Western District, before winning election to the Tasmanian Parliament in 1976 at the age of 36. He served in a range of Ministerial portfolios during his time in Government, including serving as Tasmania’s Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries from 1992 to 1995.
Warrnambool cattle and sheep producer and founding member and chair of Food and Fibre Great South Coast, Georgina Gubbins, has received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division for service to primary industry, and to the community.
She chaired the LambEx 2020 and LambEx 2021 conferences, and has served on a range of industry bodies including the Victorian Government Sheep and Goat Identification Advisory Committee, Southern Australian Livestock Research Council and the Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group. She was the president of the Grasslands Society of Southern Australia in 2006 and 2007.
Long-serving Perth Royal Show chief arena steward Merrilyn Gollan has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division for service to the agricultural show sector.
Merrilyn joined the Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia (RASWA) as a junior member in 1948 competing in ring events. In 1998 she was appointed Ring Steward at the Perth Royal Show and in 2003 the Chief Arena Steward, a position that she held until 2018.
In 2020 she was presented Honorary Life Membership of the RASWA.
Rangeland ecologist, former director of the NSW DPI Centre of Excellence for Western Farming Systems and Rangeland Management and former Australian Rangeland Society president, Dr Ronald Barry Hacker, has been awarded a medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division for service to primary industry, and conservation.
Dr Hacker was a recipient of the Gold Award in the NSW Premier’s Public Sector Awards, Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Natural Resources Enterprise Based Conservation Program, 2006 and was the editor of The Rangeland Journal from 1985 to 1990.
Winchelsea, Vic, stud Angus cattle breeder and former chair of the Marcus Oldham College Council Bruce Wilson has received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division for service to the community and to agricultural education.
Mr Wilson and his wife Judy ran a diversified mixed farming property at Winchelsea west of Geelong which is the home of the Murdeduke Angus stud. They also established free range piggery enterprise Western Plains Pork.
Mr Wilson served on the Marcus Oldham College council for 22 years, including 14 years as chair from 2008 to 2021.
He was the co-founder and inaugural chairman of Southern Farming Systems from 1995 to 2000.
Australian journalist and long-serving ABC television weather presenter in Queensland, Jenny Woodward, has received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division for service to the broadcast media, particularly to television.
Jenny began her television career at DDQ-10 in Toowoomba before joining ABC News in Queensland as a weather presenter in 1986. She is believed to be Australia’s longest serving weather presenter.
- Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at gg.gov.au.
- To view the full list of Honours Recipients for 2024 click here