5 March 1928 – 24 December 2015

It is with great sadness that the RBMS received the news that our inaugural President, Col Turnbull passed away on Christmas Eve. Aged 87, Col leaves behind his wife Leon, sons David and Phil, daughter Catherine and their families.

A professional and very proud Civil Engineer, Col commenced his 39 year career with the State Rivers & Water Supply Commission (SR&WSC). His early career saw him work in Robinvale, Murtoa and Ouyen before moving on to work on construction of several water storages including Eildon, Cairn Curran, Devil Bend and Eppalock.

It was not until 1970 though that Col’s career led him down a path that saw him become one of a team of senior Departmental managers that transitioned waterway management from a ribbon approach that tackled localised ‘problems’ to an integrated, whole of catchment approach that now tackles the ‘cause’ of many problems that continue to impact on the ecological health of Victoria’s rivers and wetlands.

Col’s preparedness to listen, and work with his science based counterparts in Fisheries & Wildlife, Soil Conservation and Crown Land Management was key to the formation of the Standing Consultative Committee on River Management (predecessor to RBMS) in 1978. This Committee commenced the difficult and complex task of integrating the many varied disciplines to truly care for the health of our rivers.

Col was a major contributor to the development of the ‘State of the Rivers’ report, and later to the ‘State of the Catchments’ report. Both were comprehensive documents that helped shape today’s Catchment Management Authorities in Victoria and the legislation that support them.

Col, together with Ian Drummond and Deanne Runge (dec), Ron Hodges (dec), Don Thompson and Peter Dunk all became disciples of non-politicised integrated catchment management…..the very principles on which the RBMS is still proudly, and firmly based today.

Col was a terrific mentor and support for his staff (including John Oates, Kishor Melvani, Russell Wealands and many more) all of whom he nurtured to go on to develop their own careers helping care for and protect the health of our State’s rivers and catchments.

Col retired from the Rural Water Commission, the successor body to the SR&WSC in 1986 and enjoyed an active, healthy retirement at Frankston with his family.

The eulogy at Cols’ funeral made mention of his role in establishing our Society. RBMS Members, Lance Lloyd, John Senior and Russell Wealands attended Col’s funeral.

The Society expresses its sincere sympathies to Col’s family and friends.

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