Legislative Council Tuesday 22 September, 2020
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I wish to pay my respects and acknowledge the passing of Vice Admiral Ian Donald George MacDougall, who passed away at the North West Regional Hospital on 1 July this year aged 82. Ian was a former submariner who rose to high ranks in the Royal Australian Navy and chose to retire to the town of Marrawah in the far north-west of my electorate. This was to be his final resting place.
He was laid to rest beside his wife, former journalist and television presenter, Sonia Humphrey, who died in 2011. It was reported that she laughed when she heard he had already organised burial plots for them
in the town's smallest cemetery, soon after they moved there. At the family's request it was a small funeral service which is probably just as well as the narrow road and small graveyard might have struggled to accommodate an event on the scale of a full military funeral.
Vice Admiral Ian MacDougall was born in Sydney on 23 February 1938 and joined the Royal Australian Navy a month before his sixteenth birthday in 1954. He graduated the following year and undertook professional training at the Britannia Royal Naval College in the United Kingdom. Upon graduation he was awarded with the Queen's Telescope for leadership. From the start Ian demonstrated a strong aptitude for leadership and seamanship and his natural abilities led to a series of rapid promotions over the next few years. His postings included some of the Navy's most prestigious ships, such as the HMAS Vampire II and the aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne. In 1963 he volunteered to be part of the first group of Australians to undertake submarine training to support the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service. After three years of arduous training, he was appointed as executive officer to the newly launched HMAS Oxley, which was the first of the Oberon class submarines built for the Royal Australian Navy.
After further training in the United Kingdom and in recognition of his unique skills, Ian returned to Australia to command submarine HMAS Onslow between 1971 and 1973. Peter Horobin, his second-in-command in 1972, said -
From the point of view of the submarine force, without his energy and vision and preparedness to make changes, we wouldn't be where we are today.
For the submarine community, Ian was unique in that he always encouraged us to be accountable ...
Mr President, further promotions and responsibilities were awarded to Ian in the following years, too many to list in full. They include in 1982 being appointed as Commander, Australian Submarine Squadron, the first Australian-born naval officer to be so. In 1989, he was appointed Maritime Commander Australia. One of the highlights of his time in the command of the fleet was attendance at Gallipoli during the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Anzac landing in 1915.
In 1991, Ian was promoted to Vice Admiral and served as the Chief of Naval Staff for the next three years. He is the only submariner so far to command the Royal Australian Navy. Among the many reforms he initiated during his leadership was one that Ian was a strong proponent of - women serving at sea, including in submarines. He worked to make the navy a more diverse, equal and tolerant workplace. He believed it was not only the right thing to do, but it would also make the Royal Australian Navy more innovative and resource-efficient.
Vice Admiral MacDougall's 40 years of service to the Royal Australian Navy were further honoured in 1993 when he was appointed as a Companion in the Military Division of the Order of Australia for distinguished service and exceptional performance of duty.
He went on to become the Commissioner of New South Wales Fire Brigades in 1994, a position he retained until 2003. He was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal. After his retirement over 15 years ago, he and his wife, Sonia, moved to Marrawah where he had a family connection dating back to the 1830s. There they were warmly welcomed by the community. He was proud of his Scottish heritage and Marrawah reminded him of the west coast of Scotland.
According to a friend of his, Bob Dobson -
He just loved Marrawah. He couldn't live anywhere else.
He volunteered for the Marrawah Fire Brigade for 14 years, and would occasionally enlist Mr Dobson's help in getting surplus uniforms sent down. Mr Dobson said -
He told me once he got into trouble from the commissioner of the Tasmania Fire Service because Marrawah Brigade had more gear than most brigades in Tasmania - that's what he told me anyway, whether it's true or not.
Having met the man, you would not know whether it was true or not. He also played Santa each year for the children at the Redpa Primary School, always with his own beard and fireman's boots. Rob, my husband, and I were lucky enough to meet him and share a meal with him with mutual friends in Marrawah a few years ago. He was a truly delightful man and a real character. A great teller of stories.
Vice Admiral MacDougall and Sonia Humphrey were described as a true partnership. Neither was afraid to challenge the status quo. He is now resting safely beside her. He is survived by his two sons, Hamish and Fergus, and stepsons Gideon and Daniel.
Vale, Vice Admiral Ian Donald George MacDougall. We were honoured to have a man such as you choose to spend your latter years in our midst and find your final resting place in such a peaceful place. May you rest in peace.
Members - Hear, hear.