Australia Day honours for WA sheep stalwarts

Australia Day honours for sheep stalwarts

Veterinarians and educators Dr Ian Fairnie, who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day Honours and wife Helen, who received her AM three years ago, with grand-dog Ruby and their own border collies Davy and Minnie.

Veterinarians and educators Dr Ian Fairnie, who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day Honours and wife Helen, who received her AM three years ago, with grand-dog Ruby and their own border collies Davy and Minnie.


Two people involved with development of the sheep industry in WA have been recognised for their achievements in the 2020 Australia Day Honours.


TWO people involved with development of the sheep industry in WA have been recognised for their achievements in the 2020 Australia Day Honours.

Many of today's successful farmers who learned about animal sciences and farm management at Muresk Institute in the 1970s and '80s were instructed by one of them, Dr Ian James Fairnie, 75, now of Bull Creek.

Dr Fairnie was appointed a Member in the general division of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the community and to veterinary and agricultural organisations, which have included State and national branches of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), Royal Agricultural Society of WA (RASWA) and the Western Australian Meat Marketing Corporation (WAMMCO).

His AM matched that of wife Helen, who was appointed three years ago for significant service to veterinary science and animal welfare.

Both have been national president of the AVA - Helen the first woman in that role in 1982 - and Dr Fairnie was made a fellow of the association in 1998 and received its meritorious service award in 1979.

Together, with Dr Fairnie as chairman and Helen as vice chairman of the organising committee, they worked for three years to bring the 1983 World Veterinary Congress, attended by 1500 delegates and 750 accompanying people from around the world, to Perth.

"It was supposed to be held in Sydney but nobody there was interested in doing anything," Dr Fairnie recalled this week.

"We were able to harness the WA government, particularly tourism and it all came together," he said.

As well as a veterinary science degree, Dr Fairnie holds an education degree from The University of Western Australia and a doctorate in physiology from Murdoch University - he was the inaugural research fellow in veterinary studies at Murdoch.

Growing up in regional Victoria, Dr Fairnie studied veterinary science at Melbourne University where he met Helen who was doing the same course.

They married after he graduated in 1967 and worked together at the university's farm clinic for two years before a chance encounter brought them to WA and Dr Fairnie to Muresk.

"I came over to look at a (veterinary) practice at Northam, it was unsuitable but while I was there I met with the local R&I (Rural and Industries) Bank manager because the best man at our wedding was working for the R&I bank," Dr Fairnie said.

"It turned out this guy was a Muresk graduate and he was going out there to talk to the then principal and said if you've got nothing to do come along.

"The principal was just going out the door to a meeting in Perth and I was briefly introduced and he said 'have you come about the job?'

"I said I didn't know there was a job.

"He gave me a copy of the details and said you're welcome to apply, so I went home, discussed it with Helen, decided to apply and got the job."

Dr Fairnie started as a veterinary science lecturer (1969-76) and remained at Muresk for 20 years, becoming senior lecturer 1977-84, acting principal 1984-85, inaugural director 1985-89 and was dean 1987-2008 of Muresk as part of his role at Curtin University of Technology.

He was also chairman of the Agribusiness Industry Advisory Committee to CY O'Connor Institute 2010-13 and of Muresk Advisory Committee in 2010, as well as president of the Muresk Old Collegians' Association 2010-12.

During the time Dr Fairnie was involved with Muresk its focus changed and it became the leading agribusiness college in Australia ahead of a number of universities.

"The transition was from training technicians for the department of agriculture to preparing farmers to run a farm and teaching farm management and a little later on the emphasis was broadened to include agribusiness," Dr Fairnie said.

"We became the leading institution in Australia and New Zealand teaching agribusiness and were rated in 1990 as the leading agricultural institution in Australia - we were number one, but I wasn't there to share the accolades because I was already in the US.

"We had 500 students then.

"Unfortunately State governments have just not understood what it's about and they left it to Curtin (University) to make things happen and when Curtin walked away and handed it back to the State government they didn't know what to do.

"There is a glimmer of hope, but not a lot of time left," he said of Muresk's future.

Dr Fairnie's involvement with WA's sheep industry also came about by a chance meeting while at Muresk.

"There were a couple of other lecturers in the animal science area and there was one involved in cattle and one quite involved with pigs, but no one involved with sheep," he recalled.

"One day a farmer who was involved with the Australian Merino Society, (RASWA hall of fame member) Jim Shepherd, came in looking for somebody who could help them artificially inseminate (AI) sheep on a large scale.

"The day he called in I was the only one there and as I had been very involved in artificially inseminating cattle (the hostile attitude of WA cattle farmers towards veterinarians exhibited at Dr Fairnie's AI courses became the subject of a doctorate thesis by his wife), by default I became involved.

"Within a year we were organising a program that a year later was inseminating more than a million Merino ewes around Australia."

He went on to become a member of the International Advisory Committee on Sheep and Cattle Breeding 1980-84, WA president Australian Society of Animal Production 1980-81 and a member of the federal council of the organisation 1978-80.

Dr Fairnie joined the RASWA sheep committee and was a member 1980-87 and went on to be a RASWA councillor 1986-89.

He was also appointed to the WAMMCO board 1985-89 during a period of significant change of focus for the WA lamb industry.

"One of the things I brought to the table with the Meat Marketing Corporation was the need for us to produce a product that we could sell," he said.

"The way the legislation was back then, we had to buy every lamb that was presented for slaughter whether it could be sold to a retail outlet or not.

"So when farmers wanted to get rid of their trash - sell it to the Meat Market Corporation because they were required to buy it and may never be able to sell it.

"There were no incentives built in to make people think properly about how they might prepare these lambs, nor was there any plan to have lambs prepared and finished to be highly sought in the marketplace.

"It was more like 'we'll put the rams with the ewes and whatever lambs we get that survive weaning we'll sell and I just hope we'll have enough'.

"I remember quite a discussion around the (WAMMCO) board table about identifying particular markets.

"For example, in Canada, particularly in the eastern provinces, they have quite large Greek communities who around the Orthodox Easter time want lamb and there was no way they could acquire them in North America because there were so few lambs there each one had a name and was somebody's pet.

"There was a ready-made market for us to pursue.

While at Muresk Dr Fairnie started leading student study tours to Asia from 1982.

With Curtin University he was based in the United States for seven years after Muresk to establish the university's study abroad programs, bringing US students to WA.

He and Helen continued leading more than 30 tours to Hong Kong, Vietnam, China, India and southern Africa for students.

"The last study tour I led we got stuck in Wuhan (China, currently shut down because of the coronavirus) by a snow storm and couldn't get out," Dr Fairnie said.

"There were thousands of people stuck there for Chinese new year, there were riots."

Returning to Perth, Dr Fairnie was director of campus and community life at Curtin University and director, external and community relations until he retired in 2008.

During this time he created Curtin Volunteers! - the largest student-led volunteer organisation at any Australian University - established the John Curtin Undergraduate Scholars program and facilitated development of the John Curtin Leadership Academy.

"It wasn't what I dreamed of," Dr Fairnie said of his career.

"When I was studying for my degree I always thought of going into practice - I always pictured myself as a local vet in a place like Kojonup - but it never happened.

"There were a couple of defining moments, like going to Muresk by chance and then meeting Jim Shepherd by chance, that made it turn out very different to what I planned."

Dr Fairnie's AM citation lists founding president Australian Association for Sheep Veterinarians 1986-88, executive member World Veterinary Association 1979-83, national president Australian Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research 1980-82 and foundation board member International Food and Agribusiness Management Association 1990-97 and of Australian and New Zealand Agribusiness Association 1988-89, among his achievements.

He was an International Rural Exchange director 1987-89, director Farm Management Foundation of Australia 1986-88 and a member of the Ministerial Council on Agricultural Education and Training 1985-88.

Dr Fairnie was president of Agribusiness Alumni Association, a board member of the Agribusiness Council of Australia, executive director of both Service Abroad Australasia and Edutravel and had his own consultancy company, Local and Global Strategies.

Outside of his professional life, Dr Fairnie was a board member of Volunteering WA 2007-13 and a director of Foodbank WA 2004-2017.

He has been a board member of the Rotary clubs of Northam, Perth and Applecross, including president of the Applecross club 2018-19.

For more than 20 years he has been the organist at St Michael's Anglican Church, Mt Pleasant and every fortnight plays the organ at the chapel at the Air Force Memorial Estate, Bull Creek.

 Julie Keamy, pictured with her husband Glen, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her contribution to the wool industry and community service.

Julie Keamy, pictured with her husband Glen, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her contribution to the wool industry and community service.

Julie Keamy, formerly of Watheroo and now Wembley, was the other person recognised for involvement in the WA sheep industry.

Ms Keamy was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Merino wool industry and to the community.

Her OAM matched husband Glen's awarded in 2011 for his sheep breeding achievements.

Ms Keamy was a working partner with her husband in Cardo Merino stud, Watheroo, 1961-2002 before it was dispersed in 2006.

She is an honorary associate member of the Stud Merino Breeders Association of WA of which Glen is a life member.

Ms Keamy's Australia Day Honours citation lists her achievements for the wool industry as creator and co-ordinator of the Moora Wool Awards 1986-96 and organiser, sheep promotion, in the wool pavilion at Perth Royal Show 2003-04.

She was a member of the organising committee 2000-06 for the seventh World Merino Conference 'The Future is Now' held in Perth.

Among Ms Keamy's extensive community service are various positions, including president in 2012, with the Cottesloe Ladies Probus Club and as a committee member of the Probus Association of Western Australia in 2013.

She was a Methodist Ladies' College, Claremont, committee member 1979-83, Watheroo Primary School librarian 1973-77 and foundation president of Watheroo Kindergarten 1970-1972.

Guides WA invited her to join Women of Distinction in 1993 and she was chairwoman of the Guides' 75th anniversary planning committee 1984-85 and a member of Guides' State executive and State council 1982-88.

She was Guides WA's western plains region commissioner 1987-92, central west coast commissioner 1984-85, Moora district commissioner 1979-84 and assistant and then leader of the Watheroo Brownies and Girl Guides 1975-78.

Other regional or former regional people awarded an OAM in the Australia Day Honours included retired Yorkrakine farmer Ivo Douglas Davies, a relative of the current Central Wheatbelt MP and leader of the WA Nationals Mia Davies.

Now of City Beach, Mr Davies was awarded for service to the community of the Wheatbelt region.

Mr Davies was a Wyalkatchem Shire councillor for 12 years until 1996, including his last three years as shire president.

He was a Wheatbelt Development Commission board member and Wheatbelt Area Consultative Committee member 1993-96 and a State Agricultural Schools Advisory Committee foundation member for 10 years, representing Wyalkatchem 1983-93 as well as Merredin 1989-92 and Northam 1990-92.

Mr Davies was a member of the Wyalkatchem trotting, golf, tennis and baseball clubs, holding executive positions at each.

He was president of the Wyalkatchem branch of the Liberal Party for 11 years, a former senior vice-president of the party's O'Connor division for three years and a former member of the Liberal State council for six years.

He was Cystic Fibrosis WA's volunteer of the year 2001, received a certificate of appreciation from Mission Australia in 2000 and a national medal in 1995, was the Town of Cambridge's 2014 volunteer of the year and a foundation member and president three times of Cambridge Coastcare.

Freeman of Kulin Shire, former shire councillor and president, inaugural chairman of Kulin bush races and life member and former coach of Kulin Kondinin Football Club, Graeme John Robertson, Kulin, was awarded an OAM for services to Kulin.

Pamela Mary Hamence, Bridgetown, was awarded an OAM for service to the community through emergency response organisations.

Ms Hamence is a life member and founding member of both the Bridgetown Bush Fire Brigade and Kelmscott Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade.

She is also a life member of the Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades Western Australia, inaugural committee member and treasurer South West Volunteer Bush Fire Games and founding member of the Western Australia Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades' historical group.


From the front page

Sponsored by