The Crawford Fund Award, WA – Adjunct Professor John Hamblin

December 7, 2023

Adj Prof John Hamblin (centre) has been recognised as the inaugural recipient of the Crawford Fund Award, Western Australia. He is pictured here with Em Prof Lyn Abbott (WA Crawford Fund Committee Coordinator) and Dr Mark Sweetingham (WA Crawford Fund Committee Chair).

The inaugural Crawford Fund Award, Western Australia, was presented to Adjunct Professor John Hamblin at networking event held in Perth on Wednesday, 06 December. The award has been introduced to recognise Australians who our State and Territory programs feel have made a significant and sustained contribution to international agricultural research.

The event, hosted by The Crawford Fund WA and the Researchers in Agriculture for International Development Network, focused on the opportunities available for the NextGen to advance their studies and career in international agriculture for development.

Widely recognised as a committed, charismatic leader, motivator and mentor to scientists and students across the globe, it was a fantastic occasion to recognise Adjunct Professor Hamblin’s massive contribution to agriculture, internationally and domestically. After accepting his award, John spoke enthusiastically to the young early and middle career attendees about the opportunities and rewards waiting for them.

The award citation reads: 

In recognition of John’s research and leadership in Australia and internationally in improving the productivity and sustainability of dryland agricultural systems. John maintained a focus on Global Food Security throughout his career and consistently applied an enquiring and inclusive approach as a mentor and catalyst.

“Adjunct Professor John Hamblin has held agricultural research and leadership positions in Australia and at ICARDA during a career characterised by strategic thinking and building strong, collaborative, cross-disciplinary teams to tackle big issues to improve the productivity and sustainability of dryland agricultural systems – particularly in Australia, the Middle East and Northern Africa,” said Dr Mark Sweetingham, Crawford Fund Board Member and Chair of the WA Crawford Fund Committee.

After post-doctoral research at Cambridge, John worked at both the WA Department of Agriculture and the Victorian Department of Agriculture before he was appointed the Head of Cereal Breeding at ICARDA, Aleppo (1990-1993) where he oversaw a transformation of plant breeding strategies. He was highly regarded internationally as evidenced by the many invitations to review breeding programs and activities throughout the world.

“His contributions emphasise helping less developed countries become more self-reliant, but also improving genetic resources available to farmers Australia. Significant advances were made in the efficiency and effectiveness of both wheat and barley breeding programs including the coordination of activities across mandate country borders at ICARDA,” said Mark.

Internationally, he has undertaken consultancies and collaboration with: CIAT, Colombia; CIMMYT, Mexico; EMBRAPA, Brazil; and Makerere University, Uganda. He was head-hunted back to Australia as Director of the CRC for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) from 1994-2000. 

“In his role at CLIMA he fostered an outward-global looking focus with mutual benefit to Australia and overseas collaborators. He played a pivotal role in stimulating genetic and pest and disease management research on grain and pasture legumes and leveraged his international linkages, especially with ICARDA,” he said.

“John has provided enthusiasm and support with a strong research focus on global food security throughout his career until the present. He made a substantial contribution, connecting scientists and genetic resources across the globe, conceptualising projects and mentoring – often without much formal recognition,” said Mark.

“John was one of eight agricultural scientists from WA who rotated to work in ICARDA (in Syria) or in ACIAR projects in developing countries and contributed to WA agriculture when they returned.  Over the last 30 years the interactions of the scientists from WA in these projects to developing country agricultural development was significant in both directions,” he said.

“Finally, one of the reasons we are all here today is that John was one of a group of scientists who lobbied Canberra to set up the WA Crawford Fund Committee for International Agricultural Research back in 1995. He was an inaugural member and remained on the WA Committee until 2005,” said Mark.

“In Western Australia, John has remained actively involved in projects he has initiated via student supervision and directly in the field – in all cases bringing an international perspective to the endeavour.  It is my pleasure to present this award to John for his outstanding contribution to improving dryland production systems and food security across the globe”, he concluded.

Our sincere congratulations to John!