16 December 2009

Gatton graduate, Mr Victor (Gerry) Collins, AM, will receive the Gatton Gold Medal in today’s Graduation Ceremony at 11am for his valuable contribution to the cattle and tourism industry.

The UQ Gatton Gold Medal is awarded each year to a past student who has made an outstanding contribution in their field.

Mr Collins’ vision and leadership has made a difference, not only to the cattle industry, but also to the environment.

His work in ecotourism preserving the Undara Lava Tubes System has allowed domestic and international tourists to view this unique geological phenomenon which has been recognised by the prestigious Queensland Environmental Tourism Award.

“I am so flattered and humbled to be a recipient of the Gatton Gold Medal, it is a huge honor to follow in the footsteps of so many influential graduates who have received this award in the past," Mr Collins said.

After graduating from the Queensland Agricultural College (which became the UQ Gatton Campus) with a Queensland Diploma in Animal Husbandry in 1957, Mr Collins went on to be a huge influence to the Australian cattle industry for almost half a century.

Mr Collins attributes his impact partly to the education he received at Gatton.

“My time at Gatton provided a wonderful education that provided people like me who weren’t terribly successful in the classroom with the opportunity to excel at a practical, hands-on career,” Mr Collins said.

“The education that I and the students graduating today received at Gatton will be pivotal in providing the answers to how we will continue to feed an increasingly hungry world in the next 50 to 60 years.

“The most important challenges that we face as primary producers is the need to feed the growing world population and protect our biodiversity."

He was actively involved in the Central and Northern Graziers’ Association (C&NGA), serving two terms as its President, representing the Association on the state-based United Graziers’ Association (UGA) executive for a number of years.

Mr Collins’ extensive industry experience as a UGA representative led to his involvement in a team instrumental in the formation of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) and the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA).

He has been at the forefront of genetic changes in the national cattle herd, including altering the genetic structure of his family company cattle herds from a base Shorthorn herd to a highly productive, tick-resistant Droughtmaster herd, the progeny of which consistently achieve premium prices both at sales and slaughter.

Due to his forward thinking in the early 1980’s the family diversified into tourism, developing an ecotourism business on his family’s cattle property based on the geological phenomenon, Undara Lava Tubes System.

The Undara Lava Tubes System is a labyrinth of underground tunnels, formed 190,000 years ago when the Undara Crater erupted and is now home to a wide variety of plant and animal life.

From this project he identified a need for well trained ecotourism guides in Northern Australia. Mr Collins became the driving force in the establishment of ‘Savannah Guides’, a professional organisation that provides accurate and easily understood ecotourism information and assistance to visitors.

He remains Managing Director and partner in a successful eastern gulf, family-owned cattle property and is a partner in a retail butchering company in North Queensland. The latter enterprise is part of a plan to vertically integrate beef production to Meat Standards Australia requirements from paddock to plate.

Throughout his life Mr Collins has developed a diverse range of interests from family, flying, bird watching, geography, travel, local history, sport and racing.

Mr Collins will return to UQ Gatton to receive his award at the Graduation Ceremony = today, Thursday, December 17, at 11am in the Gymnasium.

Media: Erin Pearl, Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science, on 07 5460 1229 or 0409 265 587.