Where are They Now – Don Grant

June 14, 2016

The College reconnects with Don Grant (SPC 1943-50) who- has enjoyed a varied career in the Army and as former Surveyor-General for New South Wales.-

What are your lasting memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?

The lasting memories were the loneliness starting as a boarder at the age of 9- and the sadness when I finally left the community with which I had lived my early impressionable life. Brother Bill O’Malley had a lasting impression in more ways than one. I recall he walked me down Sturt Street to the dentist for the first time in my life to give me confidence. It was not my sporting ability that was of interest – that was average – but he showed compassion as he took care of a stray kid who needed some guidance and direction.

How did your education shape the man you are today, both professionally and morally?

As is to be expected, the style of education was far different from the present. Punishment was normal and when I developed an -attitude-, this got worse. On reflection it did me no harm and overall I deserved everything I got. For some reason I was asked to do a number of management tasks to do with the laundry, young farmers and the dairy. All this gave me a sense of responsibility and I guess a sense of achievement – even a taste of leadership. I think this stayed with me and joining the Army was a little like moving from one organized trusting community to another where you felt that your colleagues would support you as a team member. This mutual support has stuck with me and most of the people for whom I have worked and those I have managed have exhibited this mutual trust. Obviously there are exceptions but they have been rare. In my working life I probably struggled with the choice of decisions early on as I lacked the courage and confidence to make unpopular decisions. That changed as experience and mentoring kicked in and the background of school experiences and work interactions welded to form whatever characteristics emerged. I am sure that the influence St Pat’s had on me were lasting and without them I would have likely floundered much more than I did.

What have been the highlights of your professional career?

My early army life exposed me to a variety of experiences both at home and abroad. Perhaps sailing an army landing craft from Yokosuka to Sydney and later travelling down the Sepik River with Goya Henri -“ the first man to fly under the Sydney Harbour Bridge (among many other things) – stand out. The highlight of my job as Surveyor General of New South Wales was an international first, through the merging of all States and Territories, to provide national spatial information and the creation of the Public Sector Mapping Agencies (PSMA). After resigning as Surveyor General in 2000 I consulted and advised a number of countries on land reform; in total number about 20 countries spending two years in Greece, three in Vietnam and much the same in Mauritius with the remainder in South East Asia, Africa, Europe and the Indian sub-continent. Each country had unique issues but the prevailing issue was corruption, usually at the highest level. Nevertheless, the interaction with various governments and the associated staff members provided the opportunity to have an influence, no matter how minor, on the future of land tenure in those countries. Perhaps some of the legacy will survive.

What have been the highlights of your life outside of work?

There has been little outside of work as the creation of land systems becomes a way of life since it is far-reaching, embracing the education, operational, social, cultural and tenure aspects of land -ownership-. However, I have always been interested in the relationship between man and food – the evolution of food, customs and manner of eating. Accordingly I am a -foodie-, an enthusiastic cook and a maker of cheese now that I am semi-retired. The creation of a successful cheese is a real highlight!

After a lifetime of achievement, what words of advice would you pass on to the youth of today?

Being removed so far in age it is difficult if not irrelevant to advise youth. Success comes in many forms – the best is probably when you feel successful whether others think so or not. Whatever topical jargon of advice is afoot from time to time I would be careful from whom I accept advice and, simple thou’ it may be and age old, try to do the right thing by your fellow man.