I rise to celebrate the contribution of a notable South Australian in the areas of research in agriculture, in the community and, on a broader level, in South Australia’s economy. I am talking here about Mr Mark Hill OAM. I first met Mark when I was the member for Wakefield. Wakefield is a seat that stretches from Elizabeth and Salisbury in the south up to Port Wakefield and across through to Clare and Kapunda in the east. Smack in the middle of it is the township of Tarlee.
Tarlee was a place that I had heard about ever since I was a teenager. My dad, Dr Bob Fawcett, was an agricultural research scientist and he did many trials up through Tarlee and Balaklava and down in the Mallee. Later in life, as a pilot, I flew out of RAAF Base Edinburgh and Tarlee was right under the area where we used to conduct many of our tests activities. So I knew Tarlee well but I did not actually know Tarlee. When I was the candidate for election to the seat of Wakefield, I got to know many of the communities. In fact, my dad’s work in things such as reduced tillage, crop rotation and stubble retention had built a fantastic legacy and so, as I moved around communities, people would ask, ‘Is that who you are?’
One of the first people to do that was Mr Graham Hill, who is Mark’s father. He pointed out the fact that right back in the 1970s he participated with the department of agriculture in some of the trials my dad had been involved with. Then, more recently in the 1980s, there were crop rotation trials on his farm. As part of that, I got to know him reasonably well. But Mark in particular I got to know because I asked Mark what they ran on their farm other than cereal crops. Mark said that they ran sheep. I asked him whether that was fat lambs or wool, at which he kicked my shins—and I think I still have the scar!—and informed me that they are actually prime lambs, not fat lambs. I will come to that a little bit later.
Mark followed in his father’s footsteps in being someone who has dedicated his life to his community and to agriculture. He received the Medal of the Order of Australia this year in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in recognition of his service to both agriculture and livestock industries and his community in Tarlee. Mark has been on the farm since he finished school in the 1960s. He and his father have been early adopters of change over many years.
One of the key things that we in government need to remember is that we can have all the research programs we like and we can have departments that want to innovate and initiate things, but none of it will go anywhere if we do not have local people on the ground who are willing to invest their time and energy and to take a risk to try something new and help gather data to prove that something works.
Graeme and Mark have been early adopters of things such as rotating crops and reduced tillage, moving through now to direct drilling and stubble retention with minimal burning. I say that gratefully as somebody who grew up in Adelaide. I remember when it was stubble burning time that quite often Adelaide was enveloped with smoke coming from the Mid North and Adelaide Plains. Occasionally when we got a strong northerly wind, much of the good topsoil from that area also passed over our roofs, much to my mother’s disgust when there was washing out. Not only the advantages of better soil structure, moisture retention and better cropping but also significant environmental benefits have come through the work that Mark has been involved in.
He has also been actively involved in the Durum Growers Association of South Australia, the Crop Science Society of South Australia, the South Australian Lamb Development Team and also the South Australian lamb committee. He was on that from 1975 to 1990. He was the chair of that for eight years. It was during that time that he transformed the categorisation and labelling of the sheep meat industry from the concept of ‘fat lambs’ to ‘prime lambs’ and changed the whole way that was marketed. He has also had a view beyond the local scene. He has been very involved with the MLA, supporting initiatives to promote lamb not only locally but also into export markets. Export from South Australia has been a significant contributor to our economy.
He has also made significant contributions to the community—for example, he has been a long-term member of the Riverton Saddleworth Marrabel United Football Club; the Rural Youth Movement of South Australia; the Tarlee CFS, where he is both a founding member and still an active volunteer; the Tarlee Tennis Club; the Tarlee Hall committee—I recall when he would organise film nights, and, as the local member, I would turn up to enjoy a film night with the community from Tarlee; as well as the Riverton and District High School committee and the Tarlee Primary School committee. I will digress briefly to say that one of my favourite memories of being the member for Wakefield in the other place was visiting Tarlee Primary School one day where the head of the school, a very well-spoken and confident young lady, came out to meet me and escorted me in and, in front of the assembled school and parents and staff, stood up to introduce me and could not work out why everybody burst out laughing when she introduced the ‘feral’ member for Wakefield. I thought that was fantastic, and it is still a great memory.
Mark represents the best of what I see in country South Australia—somebody who is not only committed to conserving the environment they live in and making agriculture more viable, better for them, their families, their community and the economy, but also prepared to invest in their community in a significant way over many years. Like so many South Australians, he does not do it for reward or recognition. But it is appropriate, and I am very proud of Mark, that he has been recognised with the award of an OAM. To Mark, from here in the Senate, I would like to say thank you for your friendship, for your support during my time as the member for Wakefield and also now in my term as a senator, and particularly thank you for your contribution to your community, to the industry of agriculture and to our state. Congratulations, again, Mark Hill OAM.