Spawned bountiful legacy on the land




3-9-1923 18-4-2012

PAUL McGowan, a significant contributor to agri-politics, especially in the area of water reform, and one of the founders and stalwarts of agricultural consulting, has died in Albury Hospital. He was 88.

As an outstanding agricultural scientist and pioneering farm management adviser, Paul had a significant impact on the adoption of modern agricultural systems both in Australia and in developing countries, and was a prominent leader in national and international agricultural management consulting.

Born in Melbourne, the second of the six children of Rose (nee Chapman) and Gladstone McGowan, he grew up in Glen Iris and attended Burke Hall and Xavier College, matriculating in 1939. Deeply spiritual, at age 16 Paul entered a Catholic monastery, planning to become a Jesuit priest. However, after several months as a novitiate, he left the order a change that allowed him to marry and eventually become the father of 14 children.

Paul resided at Newman College while studying agricultural science at Melbourne University, and graduated in 1944. At age 18, he enlisted for service in World War II, but as agriculture was deemed a protected occupation, he was ordered to complete his studies and then directed to work as a scientific officer with the Victorian Department of Agriculture at Rutherglen. There he met Marie Terrill, from a prominent grazing family. At the end of the war, he returned to Melbourne University, from where he graduated with additional degrees in arts and commerce. Paul married Marie at Rutherglen in 1948, and they moved to Devonport, Tasmania, where at the age of 24 he became the youngest district agricultural officer for the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture.

They returned to Victoria in 1951 and bought Yarrandoo, a dairy farm in the Indigo Valley in north-eastern Victoria.

In the early 1960s, he milked his own cows in the morning and evening, and worked during the day in the emerging field of private farm management consulting. He set up as a farm consultant in north-eastern Victoria and the Riverina district of New South Wales, where his services were much in demand.

In 1968, he established G. P. McGowan & Associates, one of the first major agricultural consulting companies, which went on to become one of Australia's most successful firms of its type, with a large team of more than 70 consultants operating nationally and internationally out of Albury.

Over the next few decades, Paul pioneered a range of new approaches to improving farm production methods and profitability, and directly supported the establishment of Australia's private farm management consulting profession. Funded by agencies such as the United Nations and World Bank, he worked to help adapt Australian technologies to many emerging countries, including Argentina, Kenya and Iran, as well as others in south-east Asia.

Paul was one of the founders of the Australian Farm Management Society and the Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants. His significant contribution to agricultural science was recognised when he was made a fellow and life member of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology. He retired at age 62, after about 40 years of working in agriculture.

In 2002, he was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia for his services to agricultural science and agricultural consulting, particularly in the fields of sustainable agriculture, environment protection and water resource management.

He was a mentor to many people and generous with his time, advice and support to many in his profession and his community. He was passionate about education, and one of Paul's proudest achievements was when all of his children graduated with university degrees. An imposing and often opinionated patriarch, he mellowed in his later years, saying, "I brought my children up to adulthood and then they brought me up".

Following the death of Marie in 1993, Paul continued running the family farm, moving from dairying to beef. He was active in agri-politics, particularly water policy reform, and was a local councillor for 10 years.

In retirement, he was able to develop his talent for woodwork, hosting dinner parties and travelling the world. In his later years, he was cared for by his children in his home, and remained an active and interested conversationalist, keen observer of public affairs, and kind mentor to his many grandchildren. "My life has been so satisfying that I could not ask for more," he would often say.

Paul is survived by his children, Frances, Elizabeth, Cathy, Patricia, John, Helen, Veronica, Paul, Ruth, Rebecca and Miriam, 32 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Marie, and children Anne-Marie, Peter and Angela.

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