Rural achievers recognised

28 Apr, 2011 08:15 AM
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Ernie Bridge (left) and John Bennison have been inducted into the Royal Agricultural Society of WA Hall of Fame after a great contribution to the agricultural industry.
Ernie Bridge (left) and John Bennison have been inducted into the Royal Agricultural Society of WA Hall of Fame after a great contribution to the agricultural industry.

THE achievements of three West Australians who have helped to shape and influence the development of the State's rural sector have earned their rightful place in history.

Ernie Bridge OAM, John Bennison AM OBE and Professor Laurence Hartley Teakle CMG join their fellow pioneers in the Agricultural Hall of Fame.

The Royal Agricultural Society of WA (RAS) president Tony Devitt said the 2011 inductees were not just the backbone of the industry, they were the trailblazers.

He acknowledged the success the State derived from innovators such as these men, and said WA was richer for it ? in all aspects.

"With their dedication, commitment and outstanding contribution to WA they are an inspiration, paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps and in doing so, ensuring the agricultural industry is better off for their involvement," Mr Devitt said.

p Ernie Bridge

As the new Minister for Water Resources in 1986, Ernie Bridge developed a plan that engaged farmers, business owners and the Government in a series of proposals that extended scheme water in the 1990s to farms and townships covering an area from Port Gregory and Sandstone down to Yallingup and Condingup.

In line with this, Ernie accelerated the program for the provision of water supplies and sewage to Aboriginal communities in the north of the State.

Ernie, an astute businessman, took over the running of the family's Halls Creek businesses and spent 18 years on the Kimberley Shire council, 14 of them as president.

He held the seat of Kimberley as a member of the ALP and as an independent for more than 20 years.

In 1972 Ernie was appointed an inaugural member of the Aboriginal Lands Trust of WA, before taking on the role as Commissioner of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission.

In 1988 he became the Minister for Water Resources, Aboriginal Affairs North West and Small Business.

In 1980 he slotted into the position as Agriculture Minister.

As the latter, Ernie was instrumental in convincing the State Government to underwrite the wheat crop following a collapse in wheat prices.

He played a major part in the formation of a more effective Rural Adjustment Scheme.

Ernie, who has retired from State Parliament, is now involved with the Indigenous Skills Preparation and Recruitment Program, the Diabetes Management and Care Program now known as A Roadmap Towards Better Health, as well as Watering Australia Foundation for self-help initiatives.

p John Bennison

A former student of Hale School and RAAF pilot in Australia and England, John Bennison turned his attention to the world of agricultural commerce and the Wesfarmers Group beckoned.

As John's seniority in the group rose his dedication in serving remote areas increased.

He was instrumental in the expansion of country retrial stores, meat processing, forming an alliance with a powerful group of NZ processors that resulted in Australia forging stronger links with European importers at a lower cost and increased value of WA meat sales.

He championed Wesfarmers' entry into the wool tops market by processing the commodity in Europe, production of fertiliser and general retailing.

He was a member of the Australian Wool Corporation from 1975-1977.

Slotting into the chief executive role in the mid 1970s, John negotiated with the French company L'air Liquide setting up a joint venture between the Parisian-based organisation to produce industrial and medical gasses in WA.

John re-positioned Wesfarmers following the successful takeover of CSBP, the major distributor of superphosphate and ammonium nitrate in WA.

Initiating the listing of the co-operative's businesses under the banner of Wesfarmers Ltd on the Australian Stock Exchange, the process was completed soon after John's retirement in 1984.

p Professor LJ Hartley Teakle (1901 - 1979)

Professor Teakle was one of a small band of early graduates in Agricultural Science at UWA who studied overseas at the highest academic level before returning to make outstanding contributions to the State's farming and rural industries.

Taking up an appointment at the Department of Agriculture and Food he pioneered work in trace element nutrition of crops that led to the release of complex fertilisers with micro and macro elements to increase crop yields throughout WA.

He was one of the first to warn of the danger of salt in the soils of the eastern Wheatbelt.

His extensive soil mapping of the area acted as a basis for land release and the development of viable farm units in the Salmon Gums and adjacent areas.

It also acted as a model for more extensive mapping that underpinned a system of soil classification and the release of new land which extended as far as the Ord River Scheme.

In 1947 he became the first Professor of Agriculture at the University of Queensland and built on his WA background as a soil scientist and plant nutritionist to complete a brilliant and productive academic career.

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