Friday, 9 December 2016

NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam MarshalI has paid tribute to a man he’s called Mr Inverell, the former local government leader and stalwart Barry Johnston OAM who passed away peacefully this week, at the age of 82.

Mr Marshall has described Mr Johnston as a giant of local government, and a man who had served 42 years on the Ashford and Inverell Shire Council, and a decade as council president or mayor.

“To me, he will always be Mr Inverell, that’s the strength of his service to his community and his leadership in local government,” Mr Marshall said.

“The Inverell community has lost one of its true champions and while we might say sometimes that ‘they don’t make them like that anymore’ we can only hope they do, because we need Barry Johnstons in our world and in regional communities.

“His impact on me personally as a mentor, but more importantly to his community, will not be forgotten.

Mr Johnston retired from local government at the last elections in September this year bringing to an end his almost-half decade of public life as an elected representative of his communities.
Mr Marshall said he had paid tribute to his friend in a speech to parliament on 24 August this year, acknowledging Barry Johnston’s extensive contribution.

“He was initially elected to public office in 1974 as a councillor on the then Ashford Shire Council and then went on to serve with the amalgamated Inverell Shire Council,” Mr Marshall said.

“When we look at the record of Barry’s service to Ashford and the Inverell Shire, it is the breadth of his experience and know-how that is most striking. He served with distinction on the Shires Association and the Country Mayors Association.

“The list of committees and groups he has been a part of over the four decades is a long one indeed. Included are all manner of initiatives: community safety, education, regional and urban development, noxious weeds, festivals, arts and culture, river care, Landcare, economic growth, finances, drug advisory, traffic advisory, planning, crime prevention, tourism, policing and even a committee to develop the Inverell coat of arms. Barry had a finger in every pie.”

“Barry served through some of the most difficult years for regional NSW: the cattle recession of the 1980s, several droughts after that, growing unemployment and tough economic times as Australia faced the recession we had to have in the early 1990s.

“A visitor to the Inverell district today will find a vibrant community and town. There is industry, a world-class saleyard for livestock and an abattoir that takes in stock from across the region.

“There is a bustling shopping precinct with unique and boutique businesses shuffling the big multinationals into the back streets. The roads are wide, landscaped and thoroughly inviting.

“A large part of the vibrancy is due to the work of my friend Barry Johnston and his leadership to council and the community. He was a champion of the Inverell and district communities.”
Mr Marshall said today Barry Johnston left public service with an enviable reputation and with his head, deservedly, held incredibly high and with a tireless advocacy for his community that is a legacy that stands for the future.

Mr Marshall said that as a young councillor in Gunnedah in 2004, and finding his way in the new world of local government, he found in Barry a strong mentor and adviser.

“To me he was and will always be Mr Inverell. I treasured his guidance and listened to his advice. For better or worse, he is partly responsible for my being where I am today. I enjoyed my time in local government and was able to serve in many roles due to Barry’s guidance and leadership.”

Barry Johnston will be farewelled at a funeral service at Inverell’s Uniting Church, in Rivers Street, at 10am on Saturday, 17 December.

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