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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment


15 July 1998

The death of John Bechervaise - scholar, teacher and explorer - would leave an enormous gap in the ranks of Australia's Antarctic pioneers, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Senator Ian Macdonald, said today.

Melbourne-born Mr Bechervaise died on Monday night after a long illness, aged 86. "John Bechervaise was one of the larger-than-life figures of the early years of Australia's modern Antarctic program," Senator Macdonald said. "A gifted writer and classics scholar, he was a highly-respected and admired leader of the Australian stations of Heard Island and Mawson in the 1950s, when leadership was critical to the success of these remote, isolated communities.

"Most importantly, he earned the lifelong goodwill of the people with whom he served. "He brought his literary skills to bear in writing about Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE), working individually and in close collaboration with his friend Dr Phillip Law to bring the story of ANARE to the people of Australia," Senator Macdonald said.

John Bechervaise, educated in Melbourne and the United Kingdom, was instrumental in the development of outdoor education in Victoria. He was also for many years the assistant editor of the Australian magazine "Walkabout".

He had a close connection with Tasmania, leading the first party to climb precipitous Federation Peak in the State's south-west and also the first party to land on Tasmania's most northerly point, Rodondo Island off the coast of Victoria.

In 1988 he returned to Tasmania as guest speaker at the opening of a major exhibition of Antarctic art at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Mr Bechervaise is survived by his wife Lorna, and their children Elizabeth, William, Judith and Anne.

Information and contacts:
Mr Phil Wood, Australian Antarctic Division: 03 62323 513
Mr Peter Boyer, Australian Antarctic Division: 03 62323 515
Mr James Shevlin, Senator Ian Macdonalds Office, (Canberra) 02 6277 3665

Mr Bechervaise's colleague and friend, Mr Fred Elliott has kindly made himself available to talk with media representatives on Mr Bechervaise's life and achievements. Ph 03 9768 9053

Commonwealth of Australia