South West Queensland’s newest Member of the Order of Australia, Mark O’Brien, would like to see his Australia Day honour as an acknowledgement that ordinary people are making the difference in the conservation field.
Mr O’Brien, whose citation acknowledges his significant service to conservation and to the wider community of the south west, through bodies such as the Save the Bilby Fund, the South West Natural Resource Management group, and the Murweh Shire Council, said that was really pleasing.
“I was involved with those but I hope also it’s an acknowledgement that you don’t have to be a rabid leftie or a rabid rightie to be in this space,” he said.
“In fact, the space is filled with people practising commonsense conservation.
“Like them, I care about it and talk about it, that’s all.”
The cluster fences that are now all across the landscape in western Queensland are something he championed for their positive environmental benefits.
As well as serving as chairman of the South West NRM from 2009 to 2018, Mr O’Brien was appointed by successive Palaszczuk governments as a parliamentary wild dog commissioner from 2015 to 2018, and as a parliamentary drought commissioner for 2018.
He was also a Queensland primary industries ambassador from 2009 to 2012, a co-chair of the South West Queensland Regional Planning Advisory Committee, and the inaugural chairman of the Save the Bilby Fund.
Much of this took place while he served as the mayor of the Murweh shire, from 2004 to 2012.
He was twice the unsuccessful ALP candidate for the seat of Warrego, in 2015 and 2017 electoral polls.
Mr O’Brien, who has called Charleville home for 33 years but who hails from the Toowoomba O’Briens that operated the Defiance Flour milling business, said his father had always been very encouraging and a good example.
“I just love what I’m doing,” he said. “I had a whole heap of opportunities put before me and a family that encouraged me.”
His AM won’t be a signal for him to take it easy: he recently purchased a small block of land outside Clifton, on which his daughter and son-in-law will be running breeder cattle while he works as the chairman of Co-Ex, Queensland’s container exchange.
His appointment was announced in October last year and he said it would bring good outcomes for small communities to get value from.
“It’s part of my brief to get rural and remote and indigenous communities on board,” he said.