Ag locals recognised in Aust Day honours

Lifelong dedication to agriculture honoured

Life & Style

A former livestock industry chairman, a primary industries trailblazer and the founder of Kelly Engineering have all made the Australia Day Honours list.


A former livestock industry chairman, a primary industries trailblazer and the founder of Kelly Engineering are three South Australians who have been named on the 2019 Australia Day Order of Australia list.

It would have been difficult to predict that tinkering in a farm workshop at Booleroo Centre would grow to become a worldwide farm machinery business. 

Peter Kelly, founder of Kelly Engineering and new Member of the Order of Australia, first created the Pea Pick-Up out of necessity, when a harvester attachment was needed to reap peas.

“[Wife Audrey and I] went to Horsham, Vic, and looked at the best ones at a field day, then came home and decided we were going to make one,” Mr Kelly said.

“Before we knew it we had five or six friends who wanted one. People had faith in what I could do, and it went from there.”

Related reading: Facility set to boost Kelly Engineering

Innovation did not stop there, with Mr Kelly and his hardworking team then inventing the Diamond Harrow – a lightweight residue mulcher. 

After machine demonstrations at field days across the country, son Shane rolled the dice in the international market, where the machines are today used in 20 countries.

Order of Australia medal recipient Don Clarke said he was also “very proud” to receive an award, which recognised his service to the livestock industry.

I worked until I was 75 and that's when I pulled up stumps. - DON CLARKE

Growing up in Strathalbyn, Mr Clarke's interest in livestock was fostered at the nearby trucking yards.

"When loading the animals [at the yards] after sales at Strath, I used to go and help them push the sheep onto the trains," he said. 

This led to a lengthy career on the boards and committees of livestock associations across the country, including a six-year stint as Australian Livestock Exporters Council federal chairman.

"I worked until I was 75 and that's when I pulled up stumps," he said.

In terms of career highlights, Mr Clarke looked back fondly on his time dealing with the Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading Company, saying his involvement with the Kuwaiti government and people was something he will never forget. 

Related reading: Rope 4 Hope named SA Community Event of Year

Fellow OAM recipient Geoffrey Thomas was 'gobsmacked' to receive the award, saying that ag workers are not often nominated by their colleagues. 

As a former director of the SA Department of Agriculture, and former president of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, Mr Thomas had interests in low rainfall farming systems and irrigation practices, and took part in a major irrigation improvement program in Loxton. 

Mr Thomas has also been an active member of the Motor Neurone Disease Association of SA, which he first became involved in when his late wife Mary was diagnosed with the disease.

The couple met at Adelaide University, and both graduated from agricultural science.

"We have four boys, three that did agriculture, and two have then married agricultural scientists. People say we need more people in the agriculture profession, well don't look at me."


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