Vale John Kerin AO

March 30, 2023

The Crawford Fund was so very saddened to learn of the passing of the Hon John Kerin AO, (29 March). Fellow Crawford Fund patron, The Hon Neil Andrew AO has penned the following on behalf of us all.

John Kerin lived to be productive. He was never idle. His voluntary involvement with the Crawford Fund at State and National level is testament to this life-long passion for a competitive primary industry in Australia and globally. For over 17 years he served the Crawford Fund as Chair of the NSW and ACT Committees, as a member of the National Board of Directors and as its Chair from 2010 to 2017.

John had an ingrained sense of integrity. The enthusiasm and talent that he brought to his public and professional life and his commitment to effective agricultural research and development, dovetailed perfectly with the objectives of the Crawford Fund. His “hands on” experience in the poultry industry, cultivated in him a genuine desire for practical agricultural extension.

He will always be recalled as a colourful character with a quick wit and a self-deprecating style. He frequently had a topical illustration to reinforce any argument he was advancing. Like many a former chicken farmer, he amused audiences by characteristically claiming a skill in “hypnotising chooks”. He was physically fit and excelled in working with an axe; he was at one time Patron of the Axemen’s Hall of Fame in Tasmania.

His principal objective was simply to use his experience in primary industry and his training as an economist to courageously reform entrenched Australian agricultural production and marketing systems. Simply put, he wanted Australian farmers to be leading the world as efficient producers. This goal was pursued without fear or favour. Essential, dramatic, but sometimes unpopular changes were made to the ingrained wool floor price scheme, the dairy industry and the appointment of representatives to several key product marketing boards. The establishment of Research and Development Corporations in a number of fishing and agricultural industries and his role in the establishment of Landcare were legacies of which he was particularly proud.

After retiring from Federal Parliament, John unapologetically applied his time to many research and rural bodies including the CSIRO and to active involvement in the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, the Poultry Cooperative Research Centre, the Australian Weed Research Centre, and the CRC for Tropical Savannas Management. He also served on the National Ovine Johne’s Disease Program Advisory Committee.

This background, along with the active interest he had long shown in Australian overseas aid, made John Kerin and the Crawford Fund a perfect fit. John and his wife June also had a long association with United Nations‘ bodies such as UNICEF and UNHCR. This interest in ensuring that developing countries could be equipped to produce food and fibre more efficiently and sustainably impelled John’s Crawford Fund service. Under his guidance, the work done by Crawford Fund, in hand with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, has seen international agricultural research identified by one former Minister for Foreign Affairs as “a Jewel in the crown of DFAT”.

Reflecting the priorities of its mentor, Sir John Crawford, the Fund has always sought to be scrupulously bi-partisan in its structure and objectives. John Kerin’s role and approach not only realised but entrenched this goal.

The members of the Crawford Fund board, State and Territory committees and staff extend our sincere sympathies to June and all members of John’s family.