Vale Don McMichael CBE

Published 4 Jul 2017 by Michael Chilcott FEIANZ CEnvP, EIANZ President

It was with great sadness the Institute recently learned of the passing of Dr Don McMichael CBE, one of the greats of the Australian environment sector during the past 50 years, and perhaps the pre-eminent environmental practitioner to have graced the membership of EIANZ since its inception.

Don was a founding member of EIANZ, and was the Institute’s first ACT Division President. He served as Treasurer of the ACT Division for 14 years following his term as President. However, Don’s contribution to EIANZ pales beside his contribution to the broader environment sector.

After completing a BSc (Hons 1st class) in zoology at the University of Sydney in 1952, Don started his career as an Assistant Curator at the Australian Museum. He then received a Fulbright Travelling Scholarship to undertake an MA and PhD at Harvard University in 1953-55.

On his return to Australia, Don was appointed Curator of Molluscs, and then Deputy Director, of the Australian Museum. His positions with the Australian Museum encapsulated themes that were to continue throughout his professional life - public service, environment and museums.

In a most significant career, at a most significant time for the establishment of the environment profession in Australia, Don McMichael was appointed to the following senior positions, and undertook them with great distinction:

  • Deputy Director, Australian Museum (1967)
  • Director, Australian Conservation Foundation (1967-68)
  • Director, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (1969-73)
  • Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Environment and Conservation (1973-75)
  • Director of Environment, Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development (1975-77)
  • Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs (1977 -80)
  • Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs and the Environment (1980- 84)
  • Foundation Director, National Museum of Australia (1984-89)

In addition to his roles with EIANZ, Don held many other positions in parallel to the principal career positions listed above. These included:

  • President, River Murray Commission (1973-75)
  • Chairman, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (1976 -78)
  • Chair, Conservation Program Committee, WWF Australia (1979-84)
  • Member, Executive,  Australian National Commission for UNESCO
  • Chairman, Canberra College of Advanced Education Council
  • Regional Councillor and Treasurer, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
  • Member, International Council of Museums (ICOM) Executive Council
  • Chair, (ICOM ) Australia National Committee.
  • Chair, Commonwealth Government's Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme Committee
  • Senior Consultant to the Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme
  • Chair of the Commonwealth Biological Diversity Advisory Committee
  • Member, Inaugural ACT Heritage Council
  • Chair, Heritage Objects Standing Committee of the Council
  • Chair, University Museums and Collections Review Committee
  • Publications Officer for Museums Australia
  • Deputy Chair, Land and Planning Appeals Board

Don McMichael also represented Australia at many United Nations and other international environmental meetings.

RIP Donald Fred McMichael. A great servant of the environment, the arts and museums, and an outstanding EIANZ member and colleague.