House debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020


Brinkworth, Mr Tom

12:55 pm

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to say goodbye to Tom Brinkworth. He died at his home in Kingston on 20 August this year, aged 83. Tom was an important member of the community in the south-east. He was a successful pastoralist. His generosity was as broad as his agricultural holdings. There's no word more fitting to describe Tom than 'determined'. He was a man of steely understated determination. Known for outworking everyone, he kept a magnet on his fridge bearing the words of Winston Churchill—'Never, never, never give up'. He would tell people that he knows only two things in life: you're either going forwards or going backwards; you can't stand still.

Tom developed his business skills from his father. He gave Tom at a young age 100 chooks to take responsibility for. Gradually his responsibility increased. By 19 Tom took out a loan to buy a piggery operating on a modest five acres. Refusing to let the small size of his farm sway him, he regularly worked from 3.30 am until after dark. Before long his hard work had paid off. He grew the piggery to an outstanding 5,000 pigs, making it one of the largest at the time in the Southern Hemisphere.

Tom would regularly remark that the harder he worked the luckier he got. Tom later sold that business to begin purchasing large parcels of land to run cattle, lamb and sheep. By the end of his life Tom ran cattle across a gargantuan one million hectares nationally, 250,000 of which were within my electorate of Barker. He employed some 80 stock hands and hundreds more indirectly. Throughout his 100 properties Tom had an estimated 350,000 head of merino and dorper-cross sheep and lambs and 85,000 head of angus cattle.

Despite his success, Tom never lost touch with his down-to-earth nature. Every morning he could be found in the yards, holding a stick with a plastic bag on the end of it, to crack on with the day's work. Being known for dismissing those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, he judged persons not by what they had but by what they had achieved themselves, knowing that with relentless determination you can always better your life.

Tom made headlines when he took on what many considered the impossible feat of driving 18,000 cattle from Longreach in Queensland to Hay in New South Wales. Drawing inspiration from the ventures of Kidman, Tom undertook this challenge through the peak of a drought. The stakes were high. Still Mr Little, Tom's head drover, described Tom as loving the challenge, especially as on completion he broke Elders's record for the largest one-to-one vendor transaction in the country's history.

Within our community Tom was responsibility for saving Kingston's beloved 17-metre Larry the Lobster from being shipped to WA. He funded significant upgrades to the Kingston hospital to keep it well maintained. In 2005 he sponsored 21 persecuted families from Zimbabwe to live and work on his properties. This not only protected them from persecution but gave them a new start in Australia, ensuring that they could contribute their expertise to our agricultural industry.

I have a personal recollection. I was once in court acting on behalf of a disadvantaged Indigenous man. I was approached by Tom, who was there on an unrelated matter. He said, 'Tony, does your lad want a job?' I said, 'Of course he does, Tom.' He said, 'Get him to the Kingston post office Monday morning at eight and not a minute later. He'll have a job.' He worked for Tom for a long while, and I give Tom credit.

Alongside his agricultural interests and community philanthropy he had a longstanding passion for conservation. Before his passing he secured 30,000 hectares of wetland and surrounding areas for conservation in the south-east as well as a 355 square kilometre property in the Flinders Ranges to rebuild the yellow-footed rock wallaby population and preserve various historical mines and cemetery sites. He had been working for many years to finalise these deals and secure native wetlands and scrub for future generations.

Tom was a man everyone in the community could look to for inspiration. Whether it be in business, philanthropy or conservation, he paved the way for ambitious Australians to know that there really is no limit to what one can achieve in their lifetime. My family and I pass on our condolences to his wife, Pat; sons, Angas and Ben; and daughter, Annabel. I hope they take solace in the knowledge that his achievements have rightfully earnt him a place in Australian history and in the hearts and minds of those lucky enough to live in the south-east of South Australia. Vale, Tom Brinkworth.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 13:00