By Shauna Chadlowe, Chief Development Officer
“My father had an enduring passion for Australia’s unique fauna and flora. He would have enjoyed seeing his gift inspire support for the protection of Australia’s wildlife.”
– Professor David Hunter
Among AWC’s short list of inaugural supporters are Dr Irvine John Hunter and his wife Lydia (who passed away in 2006). The Hunters walked much of AWC’s journey with us, supporting our work along the way. We would like to celebrate Irvine Hunter for his generous $1 million legacy gift that is helping AWC to scale up its conservation actions and restore Australia’s biodiversity.
Born in Sydney, Irvine never knew his father, John Irvine Hunter who died suddenly before his birth. Growing up in Lindfield, Irvine was academically gifted and graduated in medicine at Sydney University in 1950. After several years as a resident at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, he travelled to England where he trained as a pathologist at University College London and then lectured at Cambridge. There, Irvine met Lydia, an anaesthetist, and the pair married in 1955. Remarkably, Irvine also completed a law degree during this time.
After the birth of their son, David, the family returned to Sydney. Irvine pursued a career in pathology, serving first as Director of Pathology at Lidcombe Hospital, then Bankstown Hospital and then at Royal Darwin Hospital in the mid-70s. While in Darwin Irvine obtained his pilot’s license and became a flying doctor providing medical care to remote communities. During the 1980s he worked at Lismore Base Hospital, then in private practice in Western Sydney before retiring in the 1990s.
In retirement, Irvine and his wife became adventurous travellers – visiting countries like Iran, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Mali’s famed city Timbuktu. Irvine also had another enduring passion – a fierce, quiet commitment to the country of his birth and its unique flora and fauna. He had a keen enthusiasm for AWC’s efforts to re-establish native wildlife in areas where feral cats and foxes have driven them to extinction. He visited Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kimberley and Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary in far western New South Wales where he was inspired by AWC’s work to restore Australia’s disappearing wildlife.
Irvine had a quiet disposition and a warm spirit – he could tell a funny story. We shared many conversations about AWC’s efforts to conserve wildlife. He often asked me about AWC’s fundraising strategy, sent me articles and shared ideas about how we could increase support. How appropriate then that his legacy formed the first $1 million of AWC’s recent $3 million matching challenge. He would have been delighted with the enthusiastic response the challenge received.
Irvine’s generous gift is now enabling the scaling up of AWC’s actions to control feral predators and rewild vast feral-free areas. Most importantly, his legacy is rewriting the future for some of Australia’s most threatened species. In recognition of Irvine’s generosity, the arterial road through Scotia’s massive (8,000 hectare) feral predator-free area has been named Hunter’s Way. The road provides crucial access for AWC’s field team to effectively conserve Scotia’s endangered mammal population. Fittingly, the most common tracks on this quiet road in Australia’s outback are not from tyres, but the footprints of some of Australia’s most iconic species, like Bilbies, Bettongs and Numbats.
Irvine celebrated his 94th birthday with family on 6 September, 2020. Two days later he died peacefully. Always courteous and full of respect for others, Irvine was a true gentleman. Rest in Peace, Irvine John Hunter. We will remember you.
Every bequest makes an important difference to the future of Australia’s threatened wildlife.