Ian William MacAulay (1944-2022), who passed away at his home near Yarram, Vic, in January, will be remembered as a giant of the dairy industry, in his role as chair of Australia's largest dairy co-operative, Murray Goulburn, which he led through golden years of growth from 1998 to 2009.
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The Gardiner Foundation Board, February 2007: directors Graham Mitchell, Ian MacAulay, Paul Moughan, Chris Nixon (chair) and Max Fehring with company secretary Barrie Lawson and CEO Paul Ford.

Ian MacAulay

During Mr MacAulay’s time as chair, MG’s turnover grew from $1.1 billion to $2.4 billion, milk volume grew from 2.4 billion litres to 3.3 billion litres (peaking before the drought and GFC at 4.1 billion litres) and assets value lifted from $770 million to $1.6 billion. When he retired Murray Goulburn was the major Australian dairy co-operative, the second-largest dairy exporter in the world dairy market and continued to set the benchmark for milk pricing in south-eastern Australia.

By any objective measure, the growth and development under Mr MacAulay leadership and Stephen O’Rourke’s management was spectacular despite the difficulties of the Global Financial Crisis, a prolonged severe drought in northern Victoria and the arrival of multinational dairy competition in Australia.

In all Mr MacAulay spent 18 years on the board of MG. The culture of the co-operative appealed to him and suited his team approach and his principles of integrity and respect.

On his retirement, Mr MacAulay commented that “these results were very much a reflection of the good management team in place at MG and the collegiate style of management. Making hard decisions when you have to, not getting too carried away with fanciful ideas and always trying to look after the farmers as best we can”.

Mr MacAulay was always aware of the privilege it was to serve his fellow farmers and the responsibility he held to do his best by them. He enjoyed the relationships and interactions with staff and farmers alike. His management style reflected his personal values: quiet, considered and calm in a crisis, a good listener, a willing and interested learner, patient and above all a man of integrity.

Mr MacAulay was a passionate advocate for the co-operative and for its dairy farmer members and believed firmly that with good and careful management it was the best way of returning value to farmers. He worked tirelessly to this end with strong support from his fellow board members.

As chair of MG in 2000, Mr MacAulay played a key role, with Max Fehring, then president of the UDV, in establishing Geoffrey Gardiner Dairy Foundation. Together they laid out the priorities and principles under which the foundation would operate and set about appointing the first board of directors and the inaugural CEO.

He was a non-executive director of the foundation from inception in 2000 and served three, three-year terms on the board, retiring in 2010. During his time on the board, Mr MacAulay was chair of the Community Development Steering Committee, chair of the Community Development Selection Panel Major Projects and Small Projects, on the Gardiner-FRRR grants evaluation/assessment committee and on the dairy scholarships panel.

Mr MacAulay’s intelligence and business acumen always ensured that any decision the board was to take had gone through lengthy scrutiny and all the necessary questions had been asked and answered. The legacy that Mr MacAulay and his fellow Gardiner board members built continues today with investments in research and the development of people and other aspects that contribute to a vibrant dairy industry.

With thanks to the MacAulay family and friends, Max Fehring and Chris Nixon

Doug Weir

Doug Weir presents the 2021 Gardiner Tertiary Scholarship to Kiara McJames-Court.
 Doug Weir presents the 2021 Gardiner Tertiary Scholarship to Kiara McJames-Court.

Douglas Weir (1930-2021) came to the Victorian industry at the point of retirement from a long and distinguished commercial career as a chief executive and senior executive.

As general manager of the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority from 1986 to 1995, Mr Weir steered the authority towards readiness for the transition to deregulation; navigating tactfully around industry and political turmoil that beset a dairy industry going through major change.

It was his commercial acumen that built up the value of industry milk brands like Big M and Rev, which were eventually sold to dairy companies for a sum far in excess of anyone’s expectations, perhaps except Mr Weir’s. He took the brands out of bureaucracy and made them into a business.

It was always Mr Weir’s aim to ensure his work at the VDIA would benefit the dairy industry. He may not have seen just how that would occur, but it was the unexpected windfall he created that became the major contribution to the $62 million corpus that made the creation of Geoffrey Gardiner Dairy Foundation possible in the early 2000s.

Mr Weir was the first industry identity, along with Bill Pyle, to have a Gardiner Tertiary Scholarship named in his honour. Every year he attended the scholarship luncheon to make the eponymous award to a student from a Victorian dairy community starting out on their tertiary education adventure. To the last, he appeared with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye, delighted to be ushering another generation into their future careers.

Mr Weir’s role in transitioning the VDIA to deregulation was comprehensive. He rapidly improved the governance arrangements of the board and between the board and the management team.

He introduced new approaches which significantly improved efficiency in the way the organisation’s business was conducted. He managed the staffing levels of the VDIA down by 50 per cent while maintaining morale and ensured most staff were redeployed or fittingly retired. The outcomes of Mr Weir’s initiatives were a continuous improvement in the organisation’s productivity throughout his tenure.

The VDIA’s real estate assets were properly assessed and appropriate changes made to ensure the most efficient utilisation and management of the authority’s capital in real estate investment.

Mr Weir also identified that the VDIA held several less tangible assets that needed to be clearly identified and proactively managed to ensure the best return for the industry.

As a result of R&D partnerships with Melbourne University, the VDIA had developed some specialised fractions of milk. Mr Weir recognised the Intellectual Property involved and the need to legally protect it and to protect the VDIA’s interests. To this day, because of Mr Weir’s actions, there is a continuing and significant revenue flow to the industry.

With thanks to Mike Taylor (AO) and Peter Lavery (AM)

An 85-year-old inspiration, Margaret Thompson heads into Maleny Buffalo’s dairy every day to keep her late husband Mal’s legacy alive.

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