Henry Jones


Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: 

That this council expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr Henry Jones and places on record it s appreciation for his long and tireless commitment to the River Murray and the Murray- Darling Basin . 

(Continued from 4 June 2014.) 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 20:12 ): I rise to support this motion put before us by the Hon. Michelle Lensink. It is one of the privileges of this parliament and of being a member of parliament that we are exposed to some extraordinary people. While I never met him personally, I am privileged to represent my party tonight in praising Henry Jones, who was indeed an extraordinary South Australian. 

He was a man who gave a long-term commitment to the environment in the face of the Lower Lakes community advocating for more environmental freshwater flows in the region, and he was a man who had fought for the River Murray since 1981, when the mouth first closed over. I rise to support this motion and echo the words of the Hon. Michelle Lensink, and I note that across party political divides in this place we are marking the passing of a truly great man who made a profound contribution. Mr Jones is survived by his wife, Gloria, his daughters Christine, Julie and Susan, and his five granddaughters and one grandson, and I extend to them my sincere condolences. Shortly after he passed away, the Clayton Bay Community Association President Leonie Henderson said: 

As a resident of Clayton Bay since 1961, Mr Henry Jones gave a lifetime of service to that community. He was described as always ready to do his bit for our Clayton Bay community 

She went on to say:

He and Gloria have made Clayton Bay what it is today: a well planned residential area with a local hall, shop and restaurant, the CFS—all of which would not be, had it not been for Henry’s vision and dedication. 

For those who might think that perhaps that was stretching the point, further research shows that every word of that sentence is true. He was a commercial fisherman for more than half a century and also served on his local council for 10 years. He sold and cooked his catch at his shop and restaurant and, although the Joneses sold Yabby City some time ago, the business still remains. 

I am informed that while yabbies are no longer available at the renamed restaurant, Sails at Clayton Bay, the giant yabby he and his wife, Gloria, built has since been removed. On that point, I observed to my staff that my grandmother was actually a yabby farmer for a short period of time, but she did not think to erect a giant yabby to help sell her produce. It is an ingenious idea and certainly very Australian. 

As well as this, he was the captain-coach of the local football team and part of the local cricket team, something that cannot be underestimated as of vital importance to any community, particularly regional and rural communities. He was, of course, best known for his tireless campaigning to convince decision-makers to reverse decades of overallocation and save the ailing river system. 

He was a longstanding member of the Native Fish Strategy and Basin Community committees, along with the Living Murray Community Reference Group. He was perhaps the most influential figure, enforcing the implementation of a plan to save the environment of the Murray-Darling Basin and through that the livelihoods of many thousands of people, those many thousands of people who rely on it. 

Just last year, Mr Jones was awarded the River Murray Medal by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and he was, of course, also named as a state finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year. His impassioned speech in 2012 to federal parliamentarians, including the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, opposition leader, Tony Abbott, and the then Greens leader, Bob Brown, was hailed as a game changer, reminding Canberra that South Australia would not rest until true water reform was delivered. 

As president of the Southern Fishermen’s Association, Mr Jones helped shape a world first environmental management plan for a whole of fishery approach in the Lakes and Coorong. This included looking after fish stocks, banning undersized catching and finding ways to increase the fish population. He later named this as his proudest achievement. 

I think the environment movement can learn a lot from Henry’s approach to campaigning. He was on every committee that dealt with the Murray and he fought wherever he could. Of course, the Greens’ party community was certainly very much touched by the work of Mr Jones and also very moved upon his passing. One particular Greens’ member, Janet, said: 

I will never forget the frequent sight of Henry partially silhouetted against natural backdrops, working alone from his large tinny, setting and hauling in nets along the long open line of the barrages from Mundoo Island to the Coorong. 

Glimpsed over hours of my own work in the Mud Islands and barrages, he always appeared both tiny against the sandhills to the west while at the same time as a constant and persistent presence at water level in all weathers. he loomed large as an integral part of the very strong, beautiful and changeable landscape he worked in. 

When talking about the changes in the community when the rain finally fell, Mr Jones said:

It just proved to me beyond a shadow of doubt that you need a healthy environment and healthy rivers to have a healthy community. 

I could not agree with that sentiment more, and I certainly could not commend this motion more. With that, I offer my support to this motion.

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