'Ordinary western Qld bloke' honoured with OAM

OAM for Vaughan Johnson in Australia Day honours

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Vaughan Johnson OAM

Vaughan Johnson OAM

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He has a reputation in the urban media for being feisty and outspoken but to his bush "family" Vaughan Johnson is a kind-hearted man of principle, and many will applaud the news that he has received a Medal of the Order of Australia in today's Australia Day honours list.

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He has a reputation in the urban media for being feisty and outspoken but to his bush "family" Vaughan Johnson is a kind-hearted man of principle, and many will applaud the news that he has received a Medal of the Order of Australia in today's Australia Day honours list.

Mr Johnson received the honour for his service to the people and Parliament of Queensland after spending 26 years as the Member for Gregory between 1989 and 2015, for the National Party and then the LNP, and in a variety of roles before and after that time.

Much of his parliamentary career was spent in opposition, hence the long list of shadow ministries in his citation, including for Aboriginal and Islander Policy, State Development and Small Business, Police and Corrective Services, Indigenous Affairs, Sport, and as parliamentary secretary for western Queensland.

He served as the Transport and Main Roads Minister from 1996 to 1998 in the Borbidge government, and was chief government whip from 2012-14 in the Newman government, and was a deputy leader of the National Party in parliament.

Related: Vaughan makes way for youth

Beginning his life across the border in Bourke, NSW, Mr Johnson moved with his family to Quilpie at the age of four, representing that community in a variety of roles as an adult, as a Quilpie shire councillor from 1970-73 and chairing the Quilpie National Party branch in 1972-3, as well as being on the Quilpie Hospital Board and having membership of the town's Pony Club, Lions Club and Rugby League club.

Mr Johnson said he was just an ordinary western Queensland bloke fighting the good fight.

"I think we've got a duty to help our fellow man, it's part of the Australian way," he said. "There are two words I don't use - can't and hate - and I'll always keep a hand free for someone to hold onto."

Vaughan Johnson speaking his mind to the media in Barcaldine during the announcement by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that he was taking on a role as a state wild dog coordinator. Picture - Sally Cripps.

Vaughan Johnson speaking his mind to the media in Barcaldine during the announcement by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that he was taking on a role as a state wild dog coordinator. Picture - Sally Cripps.

Mr Johnson's maiden parliamentary speech made it clear that he wanted to concentrate on improving the fundamental needs of education and health in rural areas, and he said it gave him lots of pleasure every time he saw a young person choose to live in the bush and use their education to good purpose.

To achieve that aim in an electorate the size of some European countries, he knew it could only happen in collaboration with local councils and departmental officers, once again showing his nature as a man of the people.

His retirement from politics hasn't seen any lessening of Mr Johnson's pace, and his understanding of the region has seen him installed as a member of the Desert Channels Queensland NRM board and become the newly appointed chairman of the Woorabinda Pastoral Company at Duaringa.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk appointed him as a Wild Dog Advisory Council commissioner in 2015, and as a drought commissioner in 2018.

Even if the drought broke this summer, Mr Johnson said government and service agencies would still have a strong role to play for a number of years to come as people rebuilt their lives and businesses, and he intended to push that message home at every opportunity.

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