I rise tonight to make a contribution about a remarkable Tasmanian who, sadly, passed away the weekend before last. The Tasmanian I am talking about is Dr John Morris AO, MBE, who also happens to be the father of one of my closest friends. The Launceston Examiner newspaper, in a tribute to Dr Morris, recently described him as ‘Launceston’s champion of medical research’. Tasmanians, particularly those from the Launceston district, would know very well why he earned that moniker. Our very own President of the Senate, through his extensive involvement in matters of medical research, particularly in the north-west, knows about Dr Morris’s involvement in the Clifford Craig medical research foundation and trust as the founding chairman of the foundation.
The foundation was established in 1992 and since its inception has provided in excess of $4 million of funding to over 100 medical research projects. Read through the list of amazing research achievements of the foundation. It is a testament to Dr Morris’s contribution to medical research not just in my own community of Tasmania but nationally. As a Tasmanian, it makes me proud to go through some of the things on that list.
To begin with, there was the breakthrough research to control hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart abnormality that is inherited by one in 500 people and is the cause of sudden death in many young people. There was also the kidney research which is now recognised as world’s best practice. The Glaucoma Inheritance Study in Tasmania was voted the world’s best eye research at the European Glaucoma Society congress in Paris. Finally, the research into iron deficiency anaemia, or IDA, in pregnant women by Dr Al Khalafallah and Dr Amanda Dennis is being taken up internationally and now forms part of the British guidelines for treatment. These are just a few very brief examples of the work undertaken by this foundation of which Dr Morris was the founding chair—and a proud contribution to medical research from the great state of Tasmania.
I have it on very good authority that Dr Morris was absolutely certain that we could have a first-rate medical research organisation, and it would be feasible to have it in a major regional teaching hospital—that is, outside of one of our capitals, where medical services are often in abundance. With our regionally dispersed population in Tasmania, this was especially critical. Indeed, its regional location has been informative with regard to the types of work the foundation has supported, namely the medical and health issues facing Australians living in regional and remote areas. The establishment of this foundation and the amazing and, indeed, life improving, if not lifesaving work it has undertaken is just one element of the contributions that Dr John Morris made with his life.
Dr Morris fits into that category that so few people do: a real contributor. He was a contributor to the community; someone working for the public good. It was true public service. As I have said, the list of achievements only begins with the Clifford Craig Foundation. In his 70 years of true public service, Dr Morris’s work traversed a great variety of areas. At the extremely young age of 20, the then Mr Morris was a demonstrator in zoology at the University of Tasmania. He later served in a number of roles in a number of medical and related bodies in the state and across the country. He served as the president of the Medical Council of Tasmania and as chairman of the National Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee. He was also a visiting physician to the Launceston General Hospital for 40 years. He was the chairman of the Department of Medicine at LGH and chairman of the LGH Historical Committee. Twice he was the state chairman of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians—not once, but twice. He was also the president of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Medical Association.
In the field of education, again demonstrating his firm commitment to improving the lives of others, he served as the chairman of the Oakburn College Council. He was also the founding chairman of the Scotch Oakburn College Council—
Senator Bushby: A good school!
Senator DUNIAM: A very good school, Senator Bushby, indeed. He was also the president of the Association of Independent Schools of Tasmania.
Dr Morris was also heavily involved—just to demonstrate the varied roles he occupied over this period of public service—as the joint founder of the Launceston Lifelink, which has operated a telephone counselling service in Tasmania for many years. It was later to become known as Lifelink Samaritans. This entity has been a great service to the Tasmanian community, providing support to many Tasmanians in their times of need over a great many years. As a committed Christian, Dr Morris also served as a member of the Anglican synod in the Diocese of Tasmania.
Finally, looking at his long list of achievements, Dr Morris was also the president of the Royal Society of Tasmania, an organisation dedicated to the advancement of knowledge historical, scientific and technological. Additionally, Dr Morris was published with two books and he was also published in many medical and historical journals. One interesting fact I learned in doing my research on Dr Morris, this great Tasmanian, that not many people would know, is that Dr Morris described the taxonomy of a pseudoscorpion native to the Cataract Gorge in the Launceston area and which was named for him by the British Museum.
Dr Morris’s efforts span a long period of time and a great many areas, but they were recognised during his life. He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 1985 for services to medicine and to the community. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia on Australia Day 2001 for services to medicine, particularly as a consultant physician, and to the community through education, medical research and social welfare organisations.
Dr Morris was a loving father and a committed Christian, observing his faith in every element of his life. As the father of five children, a committed husband and a community leader it is clear that he personified the Christian value of service to others. I am proud of the fact that our state delivers strongly in the area of research and innovation in many fields, though it is often not reported. Dr Morris’s work is a feature in our state’s proud history and his legacy is one we must remember. Dr Morris’s son, Don, will be known to many in this place. On behalf of the Tasmanian contingent here in the federal parliament—my colleagues Liberal, Labor and Green, and including you, Mr President—I would like to extend condolences to Don and his family at the passing of his father, this remarkable Tasmanian, who has left such a tremendous legacy in the community and in his profession.