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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 2 April 2019) . . Page.. 1122 ..


service in 1997. Part of his responsibilities in this new role was to brief and provide advice to newly elected ministers of the territory’s first government, the Follett government, who were, of course, responsible for running the newly self-governing territory.

Ellnor Grassby was the ACT’s first Minister for Housing and Urban Services. She recalls John as being a true gentleman who really knew how the public service worked and how to get things done. Ellnor said that, as the head of her department, John got straight to the point and provided frank and fearless advice, but he was polite at all times. “Canberra had to stand on its own two feet at some point, and we’re going to make a real go at it,” Ellnor recalled John telling her early on. That is exactly what they did. By the time John retired in 1997, he oversaw a department of nearly 4½ thousand staff and a budget of more than $180 million, providing a huge range of services right across the ACT.

Another significant part of John’s role, especially in the early years of self-government, was to help Canberrans understand that the ACT government’s budget, freshly severed from the resources of the commonwealth, had its limits. I can empathise with the enormity of that task. It is one that continues to this day.

John also served as the general manager of ACTION bus services, a director of the ACT Electricity and Water Authority, Chair of Ecowise Environment, chair of the interim Gungahlin Development Authority, and deputy chair of the ACT Tourism Commission.

By the ministers he served, John will be remembered for his frank and fearless advice. By the colleagues he worked with, he will be remembered as a dedicated and calm leader who brought a wealth of experience in government administration, a commitment to excellence and a down-to-earth common sense, described as a “great but rare quality”. By Canberrans more broadly, he will be remembered through his role in the creation of Floriade, the declaration of the Namadgi National Park, the establishment of the parks and conservation service and the creation of the first ACT government shopfronts.

His contribution to Canberra went far beyond his day job. He was also an avid supporter of cricket, both as a player and as an administrator. He played for the Eastlake Cricket Club. He joined the board of Cricket ACT, where he served as chairman for a record 10-year term, and in 2009 he was fittingly appointed a life member of Cricket ACT.

John was also instrumental in the redevelopment of Manuka Oval as a first-class venue for cricket and as a venue for AFL. I hope he would have been proud of Canberra’s first international test cricket match between Australia and Sri Lanka that was played at Manuka Oval just a few weeks before his passing. I should note that on the AFL front John supported the Collingwood Football Club, proving that no-one is perfect.

Sport was not the only place where John made his mark on the community. Between 2004 and 2010, he was chair of Communities@Work, a not-for-profit organisation


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