Vale John Stewart

Jon Condon, 15/04/2019

John Stewart, the man widely regarded as the ‘godfather’ of Australia’s epic Brucellosis & Tuberculosis disease eradication campaign in the 1970s and 80s, has passed away in Brisbane, aged 86.

Mr Stewart spent long periods from the mid-1970s representing the beef industry, sitting on the Cattle Council of Australia for almost two decades, including lengthy terms as the national body’s vice president. He also served on Queensland’s Central & Northern Graziers Association, United Graziers Association and its successor, Agforce cattle boards.

During the 1970s and 80s, Mr Stewart was general manager of Queensland Stations, one of the nation’s largest northern beef producers, which ran about 150,000 cattle on well-known properties like Wandovale, Miranda Downs, Carpentaria Downs, Van Rook and Dotswood.

After the sale of Queensland Stations, he established a northern pastoral consultancy business out of Townsville, and continued to represent the industry in specialised fields like biosecurity and native title until recent times.

CCA issued a brief statement acknowledging his passing, and his contribution both as a CCA councillor and consultant on animal health and welfare issues.

Mr Stewart received the Order of Australia (AM) medal for services to the beef cattle industry.

“The list of positions John held in the red meat sector is too long to be mentioned here, but he will be remembered as a strong and respected advocate for the red meat industry,” CCA said.

Former Meat & Livestock Australia chairman Don Heatley spent long periods with John Stewart on Cattle Council and broader industry representative matters.

He agreed that his defining achievement was in driving Australia’s BTEC campaign, which against enormous odds, successfully eliminated TB and Brucellosis from Australia. The $1.2 billion project was influenced by US market warnings that it might suspend beef imports from Australia unless the disease could be brought under control in Australia. At the time Australia was almost totally reliant in the US as an export beef customer.

Given the vast areas, relatively limited control of northern cattle in Australia at the time and logistical challenges involved, many felt that eradication of the diseases was not possible.

“It took a strong personality like John Stewart to make it happen,” Mr Heatley said.

“He was Mr BTEC – he had such a deep understanding of how the eradication campaign, as proposed by the bureaucrats, could be managed on the ground. There were enormous issues and contradicting opinions surrounding BTEC regarding compensation, and how the process was managed over a long period.”

“John was a mentally and physically tough man, and it took somebody with his character and ability to really drive the program to its ultimate success. It was not an easy process, and given the diversity in beef producers and thinking at the time across the nation, it created considerable some divisions. He was across the entire subject, at government level, science level and at producer level,” Mr Heatley said.

“Along the way he made deep connections at state, territory and federal government and agency level, to make it all happen. I doubt BTEC would have been completed without him – he was the go-to person, right throughout the entire clean-up campaign.”

Mr Heatley said Mt Stewart was a man of strong personal principles and ethics, and this transferred through to his contribution in industry representation.

He represented the industry widely in biosecurity issues, native title and animal welfare until around 2010.

A gifted footballer during his boarding school years at BBC in Brisbane, Mr Stewart represented Queensland in rugby.

He passed away in Brisbane on Friday.

  • A funeral service will be from 11am this Thursday, 18 April, at his former boarding school, Brisbane Boys College Chapel, Kensington Terrace, Toowong, Brisbane, followed by a gathering in the foyer of the College Hall.












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  1. Tim Greet, 16/10/2020

    A great man, a friend to all. Also a great squash player. Best wishes to all.

  2. Margaret Stewart, 29/09/2019

    I was horrified to see this photo of John – nothing like him even when ill ; or as family and friends remember him with so much love and affection.
    He was born in 1934 and would have been 85 this December.
    A better photo with a correction would be nice to see.
    Margaret Stewart September 2019
    PS I have only now seen these kind messages and thank you all so much. I am lost without him xMargie

    • Tim Greet, 16/10/2020

      Hi Margaret, hopping you’re all well. Best wishes to all.

      • Margaret Stewart, 14/10/2021

        For Tim
        I hope this reaches you Tim
        I had not seen your message until this morning October 14 2021
        I am so lost without him and appreciate your concern for us all very much. Townsville holds a special place in my heart and head.
        Stay safe In this weird Covid world xxmargie

        • Tim Greet, 13/02/2023

          Hi Margaret, hope you’re well and in good health.
          I’m not sure if you will get this. Was hoping maybe to make contact with some old friends.
          M 0490 105 078

  3. Rex and Carol Henry, 19/04/2019

    Our deepest sympathy to John’s family. He is well remembered from his time at Vanrook and in Townsville. So sorry to hear of his passing.

  4. Mick & Nola Gallagher, 18/04/2019

    Sending our condolences to the family of a great man

  5. John hall, 17/04/2019

    Successful industry reform needs an ability to build bridges, an attention to detail and stubborn persistence. Gentleman John Stewart had these characteristics in spades. He built bridges between the UGA and the CU, he had a scientist’s knowledge of animal health issues and he pursued reform for decades. A true champion of the Northern Cattle Industry.

  6. Bruce & Meldie Wreford, 17/04/2019

    Deepest sympathy to Margaret & family. John was a special person. Very fond memories of our Vanrook days. Bruce & Meldie Wreford.

  7. Tahna Jackson, 16/04/2019

    My deepest sympathies to Mr. Stewart’s family and friends. John was an integral part of the Beef Cattle Industry for so many years. I had the pleasure of working with John for over 10 years at AgForce. John, you always had a smile, a hug and a story to share when we caught up in Brisbane. I’m grateful I got to see you last year. I hope a decent bottle of red is waiting for you. RIP oxxo

  8. Keith Adams, 16/04/2019

    My condolences go to Margret, family and friends of John. The industry has lost one of the greats. John’s legacy will last long, his contribution was immeasurable. I was fortunate enough to serve on Cattle Council and AgForce with John, his knowledge of the industry and animal health in particular was second to none and stood the Cattle Council in good stead. He played a leading parts in the BTEC campaign, setting up Animal Health Australia, the Cattle Compensation Fund and many other initiatives for the industry. RIP John, we will miss you.

  9. John Armstrong, 16/04/2019

    I wish to convey my sympathies to Mr. Stewart’s family and friends. I was with John as an NT delegate for the first three years of the North Australia Beef Research Corporation (NABRC) an initiative of John’s to foster and build on research for the Northern Beef Herd as the activities of the (MRC) Meat Research Corporation was wound down.. Then on Cattle Council with him as the NTCA delegate through the Red Meat Industry restructure and the final chapters of BTEC. The last nail driven to ensure its completion was the freight subsidies worked out principally by John for what was known as Class A and Class B infectious herds. Steadfastly holding the line against southern aversion to the final stages of the scheme was a feature of John’s work. He contributed very greatly to and always defended strongly the activities of (AAHL) Australian Animal Health Laboratory based at Geelong) and all of its associated work. He also strongly advocated for youth extension and education programs.
    John was a pleasure to work with, was always very clear in his intentions and the task in hand and quite enjoyed a robust conversation or two when the occasion called for it.

  10. Kenrick Riley, 15/04/2019

    Oh gosh. He was such a lovely bloke. I had a lot to do with him and his wife in Townsville in the 80s. Great community people — as well as John being such a quiet achiever. He’s earnt his turn in the spell paddock. I hope you all send him off in fine fashion.

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