Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Mr Donald Michael Devitt

3:53 pm

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its deep regret at the death, on 10 July 2008, of Donald Michael Devitt, former senator for Tasmania, and places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Donald Devitt was born in 1921, at Launceston, Tasmania, and went to Smithton District High School. He grew up on the north-west coast of Tasmania, the same area in which Senator Nick Sherry and the member for Lyons, Dick Adams, grew up. Don was a good friend of Senator Sherry’s father, Ray.

Don served in both the Army and the RAAF during World War II. He enlisted in the AMF in 1942 and transferred to the 2nd AIF seven months later. In 1944 he enlisted in the RAAF, where he served for just under a year. Don also joined the Citizen Military Force from 1951 to 1952.

He spent many years working as a council clerk in Tasmania. During this period Don was a member of the Council Clerk Municipality of Queenstown, Scottsdale and Beaconsfield. He was also an associate of the Institute of Municipal Administration and a member of the state executive of the Council Clerks Association of Tasmania. From 1956 until 1964, Don worked as a farmer.

Don joined the ALP in 1955. He served as president and secretary of his local branch and was also a member of the state and federal executive in 1969. Don was a well-known figure in the Tasmanian ALP. I am told that he loved to sing and play the guitar. He apparently entertained many after-dinner get-togethers at ALP conferences.

Don was elected as a Labor senator for Tasmania at the 1964 election. Don was known as a hard-working senator and during his 14 years here he served on many parliamentary committees. These included the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, from 1967 to 1976; a legislative and general purpose committee, the Senate Finance and Government Operations Committee, from 1971 to 1975; the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, from 1973 to 1975; the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee from 1976 to 1978; and the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory from 1967 to 1975. Don also participated in many parliamentary delegations including the parliamentary delegations to Anzac Day celebrations in Papua New Guinea in 1966 and 1969, and the parliamentary delegation to the USSR, Sweden and Denmark in 1973.

Don had a strong interest in Tasmanian shipping and the Antarctic. In the summer of 1976-77, he had the distinction of being the first senator in the history of the Commonwealth to visit Macquarie base and Mawson’s Hut in Antarctica.

After his retirement in 1978, Don remained very active in the Tasmanian ALP and was very supportive and encouraging of up-and-coming candidates. He and his wife, Dorothy, were members of the Devonport branch, and Don remained a member until his death. He is remembered with enormous affection, in particular by those in the party who knew him.

In his retirement, Don also immersed himself in lapidary. He had a workshop at home and would participate in gemstone associations. Don also loved sailing and did a lot of sailing out of Devonport.

Don passed away on 10 July this year on the eve of his 87th birthday. His funeral was held on 16 July. On behalf of the government I offer our condolences to his wife, Dorothy, and their children and grandchildren.


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