The quiet passing of admired cattleman and industry leader John Underwood AM, has left heavy hearts but a significant legacy across the NT and northern cattle industry and community.
Aged 77, John Underwood went to rest in Darwin on Friday during the portentous quiet before Cyclone Marcus put an exclamation mark on a life lived with similar dynamism.
In acknowledging Mr Underwood’s immense legacy to industry, NTCA President Tom Stockwell recalled, “For more than 50 years John Underwood has been a central pillar of the Territory cattle industry, contributing at all levels from the development of Riveren Station in the VRD from scratch, through to representing the NT at the national level.”
In 1998 he was awarded in Queen’s Birthday Honours Member of Order of Australia in the General Division for service to primary industry, particularly the cattle industry, and to the community.
A Founding and Life Member of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, John Underwood was the inaugural Chair of the Katherine Branch and NTCA President from 1990-93.
He represented Territory interests at both National Farmers’ Federation and Cattle Council of Australia.
In presenting the life membership in 2010, Ken Warriner said: “On behalf of NTCA, I salute inveterate cattleman John Underwood for his exceptional family contribution and personal dedication and leadership.”
He contributed and led across the spectrum of the pastoral and NT community. Whether it was research, education, bushfires, land management or racing, John was committed.
He was an inaugural member of the Kidman Springs Advisory Committee during the 80s and the first Chairman of Katherine Pastoral Industry Advisory Committee, Chair of the Katherine Rural College, and member of Landcare and Bushfire committees. John cut his teeth as President of the Kimberley Goldfields Amateur Jockey Club from 1966-69.
A stalwart of the introduction of Brahman genetics into NT herds, he represented the NT on the Australian Brahman Breeders Association.
Apart from all the industry related contributions, the Underwoods were pivotal to bringing the Katherine pastoral families together through their long time support of the Katherine School of the Air.
Despite how busy John was and how many important roles he was carrying out, at home and away, he always had time for a yarn and a smile for the shy bush kids from all over the region as they gathered at school functions.
“John’s selfless contributions from the family property through to the national industry started with a 600km drive to Katherine. His commitment to family and community is a lesson and legacy for us all”, Mr Stockwell said.
The celebration of his life will take place at St Mary’s Cathedral Darwin on Thursday, March 22 at 2.30pm.
A private burial will take place in Perth on Monday, March 26.
John Underwood was born in Townsville Queensland on November 2, 1940. His parents Pat and Peg with their then three children, of whom John is the eldest, left Queensland in 1950 to manage Bedford Downs in the Kimberley for Pat’s brother-in-law Tom Quilty.
In 1956 the Underwood family purchased Inverway Station in the Northern Territory. Having completed his education at Gatton College by acquiring his Diploma in Animal Husbandry, John returned to Inverway in 1960.
In 1968 John married Sydney nurse Terry Augustus. They set up camp on the eastern end of Inverway on the headwaters of the historic Victoria River. Over the ensuing years the family and property development were inextricably linked. Their cattle station called Riveren became a separate lease in 1978. John and Terry have four children, Marie, Patrick, Michael and Rebecca. Thanks to the guidance, example and inspiration of John, these fourth generation pastoralists and their families remain involved in food production and rural Australia.
Over the decades John suffered several life threatening accidents. His strength and courage and sheer tenacity astounded the medical fraternity and everyone else as he recovered once again. His family continually gave thanks as the label “professional survivor” really stuck and John returned home to take up Boss duties again.
In 2013 John suffered a stroke after which he and Terry relocated to Darwin. Today John is honoured and deeply loved by twelve grandchildren and their parents. Terry has never loved him more.
John’s compassion and logic were rare qualities. John was highly respected in all spheres by all people.
The services of John Underwood AM to community and industry and mankind were exemplary. John was husband, father, grandfather, cattleman and agri-politician. Above all he was a survivor.
- After a long illness John Underwood passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on March 16th 2018.
- 1966-1969: President Kimberley Goldfields Amateur Jockey Club (Halls Creek WA)
- 1969-1992: Member Victoria River Downs Regional Bushfire Committee
- 1978-1980: Member Bush Fire Council
- 1978-1980: Executive member NT Branch of Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association
- 1980-1984: Executive member of Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees Association
- 1981-1989: Chairman of Victoria River Downs Bushfire Committee
- 1984-1989: Member Victoria River Research Station Advisory Committee
- 1984: Founding member Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association
- 1984-1987: Inaugural Chairman Katherine Branch Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association
- 1984-1990: Member of Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association Executive Committee
- 1987- 1990: Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association representative on Cattle Council of Australia
- 1987-1997: Member Victoria River District Conservation Association
- 1990-1992: Inaugural Chairman Katherine Pastoral Industry Advisory Committee
- 1990-1993: Chairman of Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Trading Company
- 1990-1993: President Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association
- 1991-1997: Chairman Northern Territory Rural College Council
- 1998: Awarded in Queen’s Birthday Honours Member of Order of Australia in the General Division for service to primary industry, particularly the cattle industry, and to the community
- 1997-2001: Northern Territory representative on Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association
- 2003-2009: Elected representative of Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association on National Farmers’ Federation
- 26th March 2010: Life Member Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association.
In making this presentation Ken Warriner said: “On behalf of NTCA I salute inveterate cattleman John Underwood for his exceptional family contribution and personal dedication and leadership.”