Family businesses are the backbone of rural Australia, and Graeme Acton was a great role model for all of us, as it was for his passion for his family and his family business that I admired him the most.
However, Graeme also cared for the industry and for the people in it, and was extremely generous with, most importantly, his time – and when necessary his kind generosity.
He was very passionate about the need for reform and democracy in the beef industry for the MLA levy payers. The current Senate Levies Inquiry is testimony to his and other ABA Directors’ persistence, integrity and long term support for the ABA, so that they have finally seen their original objectives come into play.
Even when his family business was under serious pressure due to drought on the Barkly Tablelands, and floods in Central Queensland, he never faltered, and was always there to help others and was interested in everyone.
He helped grow the family business from a simple bungalow at the back of the original Acton property, to a magnificent house on the hill in Rockhampton. He is a wonderful role model for young people starting out.
He was quick to recognise that the beef industry needed to move from a commodity mentality to a branded product industry. Hence, along came Acton Super Beef and Graeme was among the first to tackle the Chinese market some 12 or more years ago. He was an innovator and a true leader. He was flexible when it came to genetics and he recognised that meat quality had to improve.
When the Johne’s disaster hit his fellow producers in the South, he was quick with his moral backing. Then when Johne’s hit Central Queensland last year, he was quick to offer his support and his time for a venue for the information event (though flooding meant the meeting had to be moved from Paradise Lagoons into Rockhampton).
His hope was that common sense decisions about Johnes would prevail, and as that has not happened, to this day that remains unfinished business.
I will never forget when we were in deep trouble at Cobungra Station near Mount Hotham in Victoria. A severe drought we’d gone through was suddenly broken by a massive freezing snowfall and our cattle were isolated in snow for 10 days. We decided to end the doom and gloom of the time, with a “Let’s get on with it” Field Day for our bulls, and who should turn up out of the blue, with a bottle of good Irish whiskey, but Graeme and Jennie Acton and their good friends David and Judy Camm, to lend moral support! It’s these little acts of kindness that are so important to rural people.
His passion for people, horses and cattle was shown in his love for campdrafting, and he was able to share this with everyone at Paradise Lagoons. And while I will miss his active brain and his ideas, I am strengthened by the fact his life ended doing something he passionately loved, and that he shared with his family and friends.
Graeme put the essential ingredients together to enjoy the rural sector – a great passion for the land, for his family and friends, for what he was doing, and for his animals. He coupled this with common sense, and enquiring mind, and a good dose of energy.
He was a great role model for our rural youth: to be enthusiastic, hardworking, multi skilled, forward thinking, but also to be kind, and a community person.
Don Lawson OAM