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Dr John Henry Morris AO MBE

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I speak today about the extraordinary Dr John Henry Morris AO MBE who was born on 24 December 1926 at the Latrobe Hospital. His father was a draper in Sheffield and his mother was a daughter of the former manager at the Montana Mine in Zeehan. He spent his childhood living in Sheffield attending Sheffield Primary School and at 12 went to boarding school in Launceston attending Launceston Church Grammar School. After college he completed a science degree at the University of Tasmania which enabled him to gain employment as a demonstrator in zoology at the university after graduating. It was during this time that Dr Morris became a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania, whose mission is the advancement of knowledge and its priorities; promoting Tasmanian historical, scientific and technological knowledge for the benefit of Tasmanians; fostering Tasmanian public engagement and participation in the quest for objective knowledge; recognising excellence in academia and supporting Tasmanian academic excellence; and providing objective advice for policy relating to Tasmanian issues.

During 1948 to 1953, John Morris left Tasmania and studied medicine in Melbourne. In 1953, when he returned to Launceston, he resumed his membership of the Royal Society of Tasmania and gained employment as a relief doctor on Flinders Island for one month.

Some years later he became involved with the Cape Barren Island committee and the interdenominational church and life movement. This started the lifelong relationship and connection with the Aboriginal people of Tasmania and its surrounding islands. One program which Dr Morris became involved in saw him working closely with one of the senior elders, Mrs Molly Mallett, in giving Aboriginal children the opportunity to move to Launceston for a period of time to attend schooling. The Aboriginal families on Cape Barren and Flinders Island were offered the choice to send their children to Launceston to increase their educational opportunities. Many of the parents welcomed this and sent their children across to Launceston, but it was entirely up to the individual families whether they accepted the offer.

When Dr Morris returned to Launceston, his first job was at the Launceston General Hospital. After that he went into private practice, continuing as a visiting senior physician at the hospital until he retired. In the 1960s, he was a member of the executive committee of the Royal Society of Tasmania for a number of years. He was elected chair of the northern branch management committee in 1969-70 and occupied the same position from 2005 to 2006.

In 1979, Dr Morris became the first chairman of the Scotch Oakburn Council and prior to that he was chairman of the Oakburn College Council, formerly Methodist Ladies College. In 1992, the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust was founded with Dr Morris the inaugural chairman. The original objectives for the trust were to raise funds for medical research into Northern Tasmanian health issues, to support our local hospital as a major teaching hospital, forge strong bonds between the hospital, the community and the northern campus of the University of Tasmania, and to provide funds to improve and develop the skills of our hospital staff. The John Morris Society is an extension of the Clifford Craig Trust and was established to enable the trust to acknowledge the very special group of people who have named the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust in their will.

Although always busy in the community, in the year 2000 Dr Morris considered himself mainly retired. In January 2001, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to medicine, particularly at the consultant position, and to the community for educational, medical research and social welfare organisations. During the period 2006 to 2013, Dr Morris was a member of the Executive Committee of the Royal Society, the president of the society, a member of the Northern Chapter Management Committee of the society and the northern representative of the Northern Royal Society Foundation. In 2013, Dr Morris was elected to the significant award of Honorary Life Member of the Royal Society of Tasmania to honour his almost 60 years of service and participation.

On a state level, Dr Morris has been president of the Medical Council of Tasmania and chairman of the Medical Services Advisory Committee, a Commonwealth committee based in Canberra. He has been a visiting physician at the Launceston General Hospital for around 40 years and was in private practice in Launceston for over 40 years. In partnership with Mollie Campbell-Smith, he co-produced a secondary school education program on relationships and sex education which in the late 1960s was used throughout the Tasmanian state system.

He was the founding chairman and has been the vice chairman of the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust and has published a comprehensive history of the work done by the late Dr Clifford Craig. He has also written various papers and a history of Launceston, as well as papers on the history of the LGH.

Dr Morris is an important person to the City of Launceston. He has been honoured on numerous occasions by having his name attached to buildings, including various Scotch Oakburn College buildings and the John Morris Diabetes Centre at the Launceston General Hospital. He is a tireless worker and a great man. I hope that he will reflect on his amazing life, be proud of his achievements and know how grateful we are for the enormous positive difference he has made to our community.

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