Celebrating Don Chambers

Don Chambers, a key spirit in keeping Australia and Victoria beautiful, and a charming, intelligent and generous man, died unexpectedly recently.

Don was Chair of the National Association for 10 years and Chair of the Victorian Association for four years.

Don became one of the nation’s most effective advocates and lobbyists for litter reduction, and helped in the key recognition of litter prevention as part of making better and more beautiful spaces to live – and in doing that, making stronger and more vibrant communities.

He championed fighting litter and celebrating community action through the close relationships he set up with the Federal government, state government, waste management groups, industry, communities and individuals.

“Don was a colleague, a friend, a mover and shaker, and a mighty store of knowledge and networks,” said Dick Gross, President of Keep Victoria Beautiful.

“Don’s style was unmistakeable. He cared deeply for the environment and the community, would lobby as easily in Parliament and boardrooms as in living rooms and parks. And when you saw the twinkle in his eye, which was often, you knew he was enjoying stirring for a cause.”

“If there was history…he knew it.

Understanding needed … he sought it.

A contact needed…he found it.

A connection required … he made it.”

Fellow Indigo Shire councillor and close friend Roberta Horne said, “There were no if’s in Don’s vocabulary.  He approached problem-solving like a chess game. You lined this up, and you moved that across there. You just thought it through.”

Don is the focus of a book written and published by the students of Rutherglen’s St Mary’s Primary School in 2013 for the Murray-Darling Association’s Creative Catchment Kids’ program.  The book was titled ‘Don: Small Town Man with Big Ideas’. It opened with the words: “This is the story of Don Chambers, a local boy from a small country town and how, as a man, he made a difference.”

And what a difference he made. From working for 28 years with CSR, with his wife Margaret at his side, to back to Rutherglen, to Marketing Manager for Chambers Wines, to key positions on boards, and management and advisory committees, including the Victorian Local Governance Association – awarded Life Membership in 2007, Keep Australia Beautiful National Association – Chair for 10 years, Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria – Chair for 4 years, Australian Packing Covenant Council, North East Regional Waste Management Group – Chair for 5 years, EcoRecycle Victoria, Sustainability Victoria, North East Water, Victorian Litter Action Alliance, Municipal Advisory Association – Human Services, Planning and Environment Committees, Timber Towns and Murray Darling Region Committee, Indigo Shire Heritage, Burke Museum and Rutherglen Gold Battery Advisory Committees;  Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee, North East Catchment Management Authority Board Advisory Sub-Committee, Australian Alpine Valleys Agribusiness Forum, a long term member of Rutherglen Landcare, and a dedicated member and supporter of the Rutherglen Historical Society and Rutherglen Common School Museum, and Rutherglen Gold Battery Committee of Management.

He was a leading member of the National party, lobbied strongly for the Victorian Marine Parks legislation, and worked in gaining acceptance for the ‘Towards Zero Waste’ policy for Victoria. In between all this, Don was a roving ambassador for Masters Athletics, holding masters records in hurdles, long jump, triple jump and high jump. Like everything Don did, he did that thoroughly, building a practice hurdle track in his back garden.

Indigo Mayor Bernard Gaffney said the four-term councillor – who had served as Indigo mayor in 1999 and 2000 – had been “a fighter for what he believed was best for the community.  Don was a fierce proponent for his Rutherglen community, but he always had an eye for the bigger picture and where Indigo Shire fitted in the scheme of things.”

Beechworth Heritage Group’s Pam Browne said that Cr Chambers was “always approachable no matter the issue. In a time of self-focus and self-interest, Don – through his professionalism, passion, integrity, caring, sense of fairness, and dedication – was a welcomed breath of fresh air. If he could not personally help he made the appropriate introductions or set up meetings with those that could.”

Indigo chief executive Gerry Smith said “Don had a remarkable ability to constructively challenge and to shape contrasting views and opinions into outcomes.”

In his last months, Don was supremely happy, with his old friend and new partner Lori, and his continued passion and commitment to his local community, and a sustainable environment.  He is missed.

Kirsty Richards – Director KABNA Board

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