• Tony Bosworth

Farmer, historian, Hawkesbury ambassador, and staunch family man – John Miller remembered

One of the Hawkesbury’s best known residents and a man who loved the area deeply - John Miller - sadly passed away on Friday aged 91 and will be fondly remembered by many locals.

Hawkesbury councillors have also spoken of how he always fought hard for the Hawkesbury, was an advocate for local tourism, a writer of local history, and above all a man dedicated to his wife Beryl and his extended family.

“He was knowledgeable, interesting, kind and encouraging,” said Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett.

“John was passionate about the Hawkesbury, its river, its people and its potential,” the Deputy Mayor said.

“He was widely respected and was regularly called upon for advice on many topics.

“It was a pleasure to have known John for many years, to have been friends, and to have shared many wondrous discussions about all things Hawkesbury.”

Mr Miller received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours List to add to his other official titles of Champion of the West and an Ambassador for the Hawkesbury.

Mr Miller was born in Crown Street Women’s Hospital in April 1929, and came to the Hawkesbury in 1955 where he farmed fruit orchards and vegetables. The farm was flooded no less than seven times in the following year and for a while Mr Miller moved to the Hills to farm there.

But the Hawkesbury was always his home and he soon returned and worked tirelessly to get support for local mushroom farmers – he was very active in the Australian Mushroom Growers Association for years.

In 1978 Mr Miller took a trip to France where he successfully lobbied for Australia to host the 1981 International Farmers Conference.

In 1986 he joined the Hawkesbury SES and laid the groundwork for much of the flood advice we take for granted these days in the Hawkesbury.

That same year he was appointed social secretary of the Hawkesbury Historical Society, and by 1996 he was training young people to be guides for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to develop a greater understanding of both Aboriginal and European heritage across the Hawkesbury.

He was also one of the first people to start lobbying the State government to raise Warragamba Dam wall, a story we’re still following today, and he was passionate about protecting the Hawkesbury, its citizens, and its farms from flooding.

Cllr Sarah Richards with Mr Miller on his 90th birthday

Liberal councillor Sarah Richards said Mr Miller had been a huge supporter of hers, “and I will be eternally grateful for his guidance, friendship and kindness.

“John lived his life deeply committed to the Hawkesbury and to championing countless projects that would improve the lives of its residents,” Cllr Richards said.

“He was a member of numerous local boards and committees over many decades, while he fought strongly for our best interests, constantly writing letters to Ministers and phoning those with decision-making powers to get things done.

“He also had a deep appreciation of local history, authoring the DVD A Review of Hawkesbury History and writing the book Sister Julia Bligh Johnston, a Hawkesbury Angel of Mercy.

“John was a farmer, historian, family man, Hawkesbury ambassador, loyal Liberal, but most importantly of all, husband to the absolute love of his life, Beryl,” said Cllr Richards.

“Thank you John, for your lasting legacy. You will be greatly missed.”

Greens councillor Danielle Wheeler said, “the Hawkesbury has lost one of its great champions with the death of John Miller. John and I disagreed on a few big things but he was always respectful and reasonable in any debate, with the very best interests of the Hawkesbury as his focus, and a tireless advocate for a better deal for the area he loved so much.

“He was a knowledgeable, articulate and thoroughly decent man, who will be sadly missed.

“My greatest memory of John will always be his absolute devotion to his wife Beryl. My deepest sympathies to Beryl and John’s family and friends,” said Cllr Wheeler.

The Deputy Mayor said Mr Miller had “documented much material through written and video recordings which is a magnificent legacy to have left future generations.

“His knowledge of local history and specific issues such as our flood vulnerability, agriculture, military involvement, tourism and more, will be remembered and valued for generations to come.

“What I loved most about him was his tolerance of alternative points of view and his willingness to entertain other ideas and perspectives - sadly, all too rare a quality these days. He was knowledgeable, interesting, kind and encouraging,” said Cllr Lyons-Buckett.

Cllr Nathan Zampogno said he was saddened to “hear of the passing of local legend John Miller OAM”.

“John was a good friend, and a tireless advocate for the understanding of our history, especially as it relates to flooding,” Cllr Zamprogno said.

“It wasn’t possible to start a conversation with him without it turning to the risk floods still pose to our community, and the work he continued to do right up to the end to get the ear of Ministers and press that cause.

“John was a teacher and mentor and I'm proud to continue his work – to raise awareness of flood risk and to promote infrastructure that will make the community safer. I will miss his counsel and frequent phone calls goading me on.

“John had an encyclopaedic memory for facts and figures relating to the Hawkesbury,” said Cllr Zamprogno.

“I was privileged to attend many of his historical walks of Windsor and hear him speak of his work in recognising the Green Hills burial site, or commemorating early pioneers, or reminding us of the need to raise Warragamba Dam, or advocating for a new crossing of the Hawkesbury River near North Richmond.

“John was an active member of the local Liberal Party of many decades standing.

Our thoughts are with his beloved wife Beryl and John’s family. Vale, John Miller.”

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