Australia Day award for Kimberley Droughtmaster pioneer

James Nason, 29/01/2018

John Henwood at Fossil Downs where he and his wife Annette developed a highly improved Droughtmaster herd over the past 30 years.

A commercial cattle breeder who helped to pioneer the introduction of Droughtmaster cattle in the Western Australian Kimberley region has been honoured with a medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the cattle breeding industry.

Third generation Kimberley cattle producers John Henwood and his wife Annette, who until 2015 owned the majestic Fossil Downs station on the Leopold River east of Derby, have been stalwarts of the Droughtmaster cattle breed in the region for more than 30 years.

They began buying Droughtmaster bulls from the annual National Sale in Rockhampton in 1985 to improve their-then herd of Kimberley Shorthorn cattle.

The Henwoods’ connection to the Kimberley and Fossil Downs runs deep. Annette’s grandfather Donald MacDonald and her uncles William and Charles settled on Fossil Downs after driving a cattle herd 5600km overland from Goulbourn in NSW in 1882. John’s grandfather George Rose was a member of the Alexander Forrest expedition to the Kimberley in 1879 and also became a pioneer of the region’s early cattle industry.

In 2015, after 133 years of continuous ownership by their family, the Henwoods sold the 400,000 hectare Fossil Downs and its herd of 15,000 Droughtmaster cattle to mining magnate, cattle station owner and fellow West Australian Gina Rinehart.

In the same year Mr Henwood was awarded Life Membership of the Droughtmaster Stud Breeder’s Society – the first time in the Society’s 55-year history the honour had been bestowed upon a commercial cattle producer.

In a written tribute for the Life Membership award, close friend and fellow Droughtmaster breeder Pam Spann from Minlacowie Droughtmasters at Goovigen, Qld, described how the Henwood’s association with Droughtmaster cattle evolved:

“In the early days of his bull buying John was happy to purchase the average priced bulls but over the years he came to realize the genetic gains of the better bull. Over time, as he learnt more and more about our breed, he saw the value of the extra length and muscle in his steers and therefore sought out the bulls with the length, muscle and scale, which he felt would throw those attributes on to their progeny and at the same time handle the Kimberley conditions which weren’t always kind.

“That his cattle have done this and more, pays credit to his sire selection.”

Pam further described the demanding criteria John applied to selecting sires for purchase: “The bulls must be polled or scurred (because of the mammoth task of dehorning at branding time dehorning). They must have length because they realized the value of that extra length in the carcass, this became one of their main criteria. Along with the length they must have big strong bone with plenty of length of leg underneath them. The distances the cattle had to walk and the terrain they often had to travel demanded this as it was not always easy going. Finally their preference was for a lovely, golden tropical coat and smooth rounded rump. Anyone who was ever fortunate enough to visit the beautiful Fossil Downs was able to see firsthand the amazing gains they were making.”

In another first for a commercial cattle breeder, Mr Henwood was recently appointed to the role of Droughtmaster Breed Classifier, with responsibility for assisting stud breeders with the selection of animals suitable for stud duty, a role traditionally granted only to experienced stud breeders.

In supporting his nomination for an Australia Day award, Droughtmaster Stud Breeders’ Society chief executive officer Neil Donaldson said Mr Henwood and Annette had been passionate advocates of the Kimberley cattle industry for more than 55 years.

“They have organised and attended scores of meetings with abattoirs owners and associated bodies in an effort to establish a processing plant in the Kimberley (currently the nearest abattoir is several thousand kilometres away).

“They have feted and cajoled (with equal energy) various politicians, public servants and people with influence in a bid to improve the services for other pastoralists as well as improving the living conditions of all people living in the Kimberley.

“These deep roots in the Kimberley are part of the reason John and Annette have been such strong advocates for improvements in the Kimberley, but I believe their humanity has been the strongest influence on their exceptional efforts.

“Apart from their quest for improved community conditions and services, John and Annette have been at the forefront of the development of the live export trade for cattle.  They were one of the first pastoralists to market their cattle as a unique entity – their cattle were marketed under their Fossil Downs “brand” rather just as a part of a total consignment of several thousand cattle from unknown properties of origin.  This innovation encouraged other cattle producers to improve their cattle genetics so they too could “market their brand”.

“John is certainly a worthy nominee, however he would not have achieved what he has without his wife Annette by his side for more than 50 years – truly a team effort.”

The citation provided with Mr Henwood’s award includes the following details about his service:

  • Pastoralist, ‘Fossil Downs’ station, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, for over 50 years.
  • Pioneered the introduction of the Droughtmaster breed of cattle.
  • Droughtmasters Stud Breeder’s Society Ltd: Life Member, since 2015. Member, for over 25 years. Justice of the Peace, for 48 years.
  • Co-recipient, Rural Achievers of the Year, Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia, 2015


Recipients of 2018 Australia Day awards with connections to agriculture and rural Australia included:


Neville John Thompson, Temora NSW for service to agriculture, and to the community of Temora.

Service includes: Owner, ‘Marnoo’ a farming property, since 1980 and Manager, since 1970 and owned by family since 1908. Hosted field days in crop and pasture production plus business management procedures for Agricultural Colleges, TAFE Colleges, High Schools. Inaugural President, Agricultural Bureau of Temora, 1974. President, Regional Council of Agricultural Bureau for Southern Region, 1975. Member, Executive Council of Agricultural Bureau of NSW. President, Temora Silo Committee, 1970’s. Member, Gumly Gumly Water Scheme Committee, 1970’s. Member, Agricultural Advisory Committee, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. Member, Barley Industry Liaison Committee, 1983-1984. Member, Judging Panel ‘Farm Inventor of the Year’, Henty Field Day, 1983. Member, Judging Panel, National Landcare Awards, 1992. Member, Field Judging Panel, Crisco Canola Awards. Rotary Club of Temora: Director, Vocational Service, for many years. President, 1979-1980. Member, since 1976. Paul Harris Fellow, since 2005. Committee Member, Temora Australian Football Club and Timekeeper.

Keith James Carrick, Crossdale, Qld, for service to the livestock industry.

Service includes: Inventor, Kal Carrick Bionic Arm, 1970s (patented 1981) – designed for the buffalo industry to allow for gentler, more secure handling of large animals for their health and welfare.


Arthur Pendrill Charles, Paddington, NSW, for significant service to the primary industry sector through roles with agricultural societies, as a children’s author, and to the community.

Service includes: Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales: Treasurer, 1987-2008. Council Member, 1983-2009. Honorary Councillor, since 2009. Ascham School, New South Wales: Chair, 1983-1999. Past Treasurer. Foundation Member, current. Company Member, current. Author of a range of children’s books including: ‘The Adventures of Poucher and Big Guy’, 2009. ‘The Adventures of Poucher and Big Guy in Sydney’, 2009. ‘Poucher the Flying Kangaroo’, 2012. ‘The Adventures of Poucher and Big Guy in China’, 2015. ‘Poucher and Big Guy’s Little Book of Big Ideas’, 2015. Community: Task Force Chair, Green Square Town Centre Project, 2001-2003. Chair, Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust, 1988-1995. Council Member, Geelong Grammar School, Victoria, 1978-1982. Owner and Director, Sydney Swans Limited, Australian Rules Football team, 1988-1991.

Colin Creighton, Crediton via Eungella, Qld, for significant service to environmental science and natural resource management, particularly to marine biodiversity, coastal ecology, fisheries and sustainable agriculture.

Service includes: Adjunct Principal Research Scientist, Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Research, James Cook University, since 2015. Science Leader, Marine Biodiversity Hub, National Environmental Science Program, Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy, since 2015. Chair, Climate Change Adaptation – Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, since 2010, including innovator of Reef Rescue II Estuarine Wetland Repair. Member, Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Task Force, since 2015, including Great Barrier Reef Outlook and various Reef Advisory Committees. Volunteer Advisor, Vietnamese sugar industry, since 2015. Volunteer Advisor, Australian Marine Program, The Nature Conservancy, since 2014. Member, Australian Forest Growers, since 2000. Science Leader, Managing Climate Variability Program, 2006-2011. Former National Director, Greening Australia and Director, ACT and South East New South Wales Division. Chief Executive Officer, Mackay Whitsunday Natural Resources, 2009-2011, including innovator of Reef Rescue I sustainable agriculture practices; sugar cane; Project Catalyst. Director, Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship, CSIRO, 2004-2008. National Oceans Office: Chair, South Eastern Australia Marine Plan, 2004-2008. Chair, Australian Marine Bioregionalisation, 2004-2008. Inaugural President, Australia Water Partnership, as part of the Global Water Partnership, 2004-2008. Director, National Land and Water Resources Audit, Land and Water Australia, 1997-2003. Chief Executive Officer, North Queensland Joint Board, 1996. Regional Manager, Queensland Department of Primary Industry, 1992-1997.

Dr John Williams Meagher, Camberwell, Vic, for significant service to agriculture, particularly to the wheat and potato industries as a consultant, researcher and administrator, and to the community.

Service includes: Victorian Department of Agriculture: Chief, Division of Plant Research and Development, 1976-1987. Director, 1975. Principal Plant Pathologist, 1974-1975. Senior Plant Pathologist, Victorian Plant Research Institute, 1956-1974. Consultative Group for International Research: Elected Deputy Chairman, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Kenya), 1995-1997. Governing Council Member, 1991-1997. Elected Chairman, Committee of Board Chairpersons, 1988. Appointed Chairman Emeritus, International Potato Centre, 1989. Chairman, 1984-1989. Honorary Invited Trustee, 1983-1989. Trustee Emeritus, 1989. Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology: President, Victorian Branch, 1990-1992. Vice-President and Committee Member, 1988-1990. Fellow, 1989. Chairman, Research and Development Committee, Australian Potato Industry Council, 1995- 2002. Visiting Lecturer, Plant Pathology, La Trobe University and University of Melbourne, 5 years. Member, Australian Wheat Industry Research Council, 1976-1986. Member, Australian Barley Industry Research Council, 1981-1986. Member, Wheat Industry Research Committee Victoria, 1976-1989. Member, Barley Industry Research Committee Victoria, 1981-1989. Member, Australian Dried Fruits Research Council, 1976-1986. Reserve Bank of Australia: Chair, Committee of Reference, Rural Credits Development Fund, 1984. Member, 1981-1983. Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member, Australasian Plant Pathology Society, 1969. Club President, Yarra Yarra Golf Club, 1993-1997. Former Chairman and Member, Turf Research and Advisory Board, Victorian Golf Association. Member, Gardens Committee, Ripponlea (National Trust), 1976-1991. President, Canterbury Branch, Probus, 2012. Awards and recognition includes: Freedom of the City of Antigua, Guatemala, ‘for his contribution to potato production in the developing world’, 1989. Fellow, Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, 1989.

Christopher Leslie Russell, North Turramurra, NSW, for significant service to agricultural science and technology through advisory, developmental and research roles, and as a mentor and innovator.

Service includes: Agriculture Institute Australia: Chairman, Ethics Committee, since 2005. National President, 1997-2001. Barker College Council Deputy Chairman, 2000-2014. Member, 1991-2014. Life Patron, Old Barker Association, since 2016. Founding Member, Faculty of Agriculture Dean’s Alumni Steering Committee, University of Sydney, 2008-2014. Co-Proprietor and Technical Director, Cobbett Technologies Pty Ltd, 2004-2016. Technical Director, Cobbett Pty Ltd, 1984-2017. Technical Director and Principal, Australian Harvestore Products Pty Ltd, 1983-2017. Member, Advisory Board, Praedium Agribusiness (Poultry) Group in Tamworth, 2015. Member, Advisory Board, Kia-Ora Piggery in Yarrawalla Victoria, 2012. Board of Management Member, Dairy Centre, Emu Plains Correctional Centre, 1994-2009. Chief Judge-elect, National Innovation Awards, Royal Agricultural Society. Member, Australian Society of Animal Production, 1983-2010. Member, UNDP Advisory Team, Mongolian Livestock Project, 1992. Head Facilitator and Mediator, National Farmers’ Federation Conference, 2014. Facilitator and Forum Chair, ‘The NSW Government Hurlstone Inquiry’, 2009. Past President, Australasian Register of Agricultural Consultants; Chair, 1990-1996. Judge, ‘New Inventors’ TV Series, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2005-2011. Australian Correspondent, ‘The Farming Show’, Independent Radio Network NZ, since 1993. Ambassador, Heart Research Australia, since 2008. Member, St John’s Anglican Church Council in Gordon, since 2009 and Warden, since 2013. Volunteer, Community Fire Service Unit, North Turramurra, 2001-2017. President, North Turramurra Residents Action Group, 2000-2004. Awards and recognition includes: Named in his honour, Chris Russell Medal of Excellence, Agriculture Institute Australia. Recipient, Individual Community Service Award, Ku-ring-gai Council, 2003. Fellow, Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, 1998. Recipient, Champion of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, 2017. Recipient, Agricultural Alumni of the Year Award, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Sydney, 2017.

Dr Reginald Raymond Storrier, Crace, ACT, for significant service to agriculture specialising in soil science, to education as an academic and administrator, and to the Catholic Church in Australia.

Service includes: Australian Society of Soil Science (now Soil Science Australia): Federal Executive Member, 1976-1978. Committee Member, 1970-1989. Past Executive Member, Riverina Branch. Life Member. Australian Institute of Agricultural Science (now Australian Institute of Agriculture): Fellow, since 1988. National Secretary, 1992-1993. Committee Member, ACT and South East NSW Branch, 1991-1995. Treasurer, Riverina Sub-Branch, 1980-1986. Director, The Forrest Centre, Wagga Wagga, 1983-1990. Dean, School of Agriculture, Riverina-Murray Institute of Higher Education (now Charles Sturt University), 1982-1990 and appointed, Professor of Agriculture, 1990. Principal Lecturer, School of Agriculture, Riverina College of Advanced Education, 1976. Principal Lecturer, Wagga Agricultural College, 1973-1975; Senior Lecturer, 1971-1973. Senior Research Officer, Soil Nitrogen Fertility, Agricultural Research Institute, Wagga Wagga, 1959-1970. Australian Catholic University: Deputy Principal, Signadou Campus, 1990-1994. Executive Officer, Office of Research, 1991-1994. Advisory Board Member, 1980s. Chairman, Catholic Education Commission, Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, 1995-2006. Member, Diocesan Education Commission, Catholic Diocese of Wagga Wagga, 1975-1980. Chairman, St Michael’s Regional Boy’s High School Board, 1972-1978. Chairman of Trustees, Diocese Superannuation Fund, Catholic Diocese of Wagga Wagga, 1976-1988 and Trustee, 1973-1999. Director, ACG Superannuation Fund, Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, 1992- 1999. Board Member, Calvary Hospital, Wagga Wagga, 1989-1990. Member, Evatt Catholic Parish, current. Canberra North Bowling Club: Deputy President, 2009-2014. Secretary, 2005-2009. Board Member, 2004-2014. Life Member.


Professor David Richard Coventry, Adelaide, for distinguished service to primary industry, particularly to sustainable agricultural production, as an academic and researcher, and through the facilitation of training programs and scholarships in developing countries.

Service includes: University of Adelaide: Department Head, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, 1996-2003. Professor of Sustainable Agricultural Production, 1996-2011. Adjunct Professor, since 2011. Member, South Australian Committee, The Crawford Fund, since 2006. Committee Member, A. W. Howard Memorial Trust, 1996-2015. Board Member, Cooperative Research Centre on Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity, 2003-2007. Member, Editorial Advisory Committee, Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 2003-2007. Program Manager, Division of Soils, CSIRO, 1994-1996. Eritrea College of Agriculture Development Project, 2005-2010. Team Leader, Australian Development Scholarship and Australia Partnership Scholarship (Indonesia), 2003-2012. Involved in international agricultural projects organised by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research including in India, Tibet and Iraq. Department of Agriculture Victoria: Director, Rutherglen Research Institute, 1987-1994 Senior Research Officer, 1980-1987. Senior Advisor (Agronomy), Indo-Australian Sheep Breeding Farm, Haryana, India (in conjunction with Victorian Department of Agriculture), 1978-1980. Agriculture Research Officer, Mallee Research Station, 1975-1977. Awards and recognition includes: Recipient, Winston Churchill Fellowship, 1990. Fellow, Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, since 1993. Recipient, Daniel McAlpine Outstanding Achievement Award for Excellence in Agriculture, 1993.

Noela Helen MacLeod, East Keilor, Vic, for distinguished service to the community through advisory support and executive leadership of national, state and rural women’s programs and associations.

Service includes: Country Women’s Association of Australia: President, 2012-2015. Immediate Past President, 2015-2018. Country Women’s Association of Victoria: State President, 2005-2007. Vice-President, 1998-1999. State Archivist, since 2014. Adjudicator for Craft competitions, current. Elected Member of Honour 2009. Deputy State President, Convenor Scholarship Committee, 2003-2005. Magazine Editor 1999-2003. Central Vice-President, Convenor/Acting Convenor of Social Issues Committee, 1996-1998. Group President, Mitchell Group, 1994-1996. Member, Essendon Branch, 1992-1996. Group President, West Wimmera Group, 1987-1989. Member, Nhill Branch, 1980-1992. Life Member, 2016. National Rural Women’s Coalition: Director, 2012-2015. Member. Member, Women’s Advisory Board, Women’s Health Victoria, 2010-2012. Member, Victorian State Relief Committee (now Foodbank), 2005-2007. Former Council Member, National Rural Health Alliance, 2012-2015. Former Member, Consumer and Public Health Dialogue Committee and Meat Products Standard Development Committee, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, 2012-2015. Former Member, Community Advisory Board, Department of Rural Medicine, Monash University. Nhill Hospital, West Wimmera Health Service: Appointed Life Governor. President, Ladies’ Auxiliary, 1984-1992. Auxiliary Member, 1980-1992. Awards and recognition includes: Recipient, Victorian Premier’s Volunteer Champions Award for Service, 2016.



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