Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Ryder, Mr Arjen

7:18 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with a degree of grief that I rise to honour the memory of Mr Arjen Ryder and his wife, Yvonne, who were so tragically taken when flight MH17 was shot out of the sky on 18 July. Arjen was a student of mine at the Muresk Institute of Agriculture in Western Australia in 1980 and 1981. He joined the Department of Agriculture in 1983 and had a stellar career in the department serving the agricultural and rural communities of Western Australia over many years. It is my understanding that he and his wife, Yvonne—who in fact had been a teacher at the John Calvin School in Albany for many, many years—had taken off for Europe on a seven-week holiday at the conclusion of his working life—that he was due to retire. Perversely, the time at which the group was meeting in Albany to plan a function to honour him and his contribution to agriculture in the district was the very time at which they heard the information that MH17 had been so tragically removed from the sky.

I join and associate myself, as others have in the chamber, with the motions moved today with regard to all of those 38 people based here in Australia—Australian citizens, students or those who resided in this country. It was an absolute tragedy, and for this man particularly, a man who gave his life to the agricultural communities of our state, a person who specialised in salinity—which, as you would know, Acting Deputy President Williams, is a particularly devastating condition in Western Australia. Arjen worked for his entire career in that area. He was a member of the WA Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Catchment Hydrology Group. He contributed significantly to our knowledge of groundwater trends and salinity management. Arjen worked throughout the wheat belt areas right down to the south coast at Albany in the field of salinity, geophysics and salt content in the soils. He went to Carnarvon after the floods some four years ago, in 2010-11. He worked on the Carnarvon flood recovery program. Most recently he was up in the Ord, on Ord Stage 2 in Kununurra, working again in the field of groundwater monitoring and sampling.

In addition to his work with salinity, Arjen worked in salt land management, in perennial pasture management and development, particularly lucerne, and in liming of soils to try to improve their soil fertilities. He was a man who had, in his quiet way, an incredible influence on his community, as indeed I understand his wife had on the community of children, parents and others at the John Calvin School. They were residents of the Albany area for 25 years.

Along with so many other families, the Ryder family were quoted during one of the memorials for them, and I would like to quote their words, because I think they speak volumes for the character of the family and extended beyond. 'We are not seeking retribution against those responsible for this tragedy,' they said. 'Our prayer is for peace in Ukraine through contrite hearts and minds, not rhetoric which incites more violence.' In their generosity, they went on to thank the Australian government, the Governor-General and the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Bishop who, with our ambassador to the UN and his excellent staff in the Australian mission to the UN, were able in such a short space of time not only to get a resolution up in the security council, but also to have it unanimously voted on, including by all five permanent members of the Security Council.

The Ryder family particularly wanted to mention those in the Australian Federal Police and the forensic personnel. I have to say on a slightly lighter note for that family at least, the remains were identified in Holland and they will come back to Western Australia. They also commented on the excellent work undertaken by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and also the executives, management and staff of Malaysia Airlines, who of course themselves lost 15 staff in that tragic event. A thousand people attended the memorial in Albany, and it is a just reward for the memory of two lives that affected so many people in their district. As a person associated with agriculture, Arjen, I am proud to say, had been a student at an institution at which I taught and he made a fine contribution to our state and our country.