Vale Frank Badman - 1943-2015

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Botanist, birdo, bushman, park ranger, sometimes nomad, and all round jack of all trades Dr Frank Badman sadly passed away in September. Frank spent much of his life in Australia’s outback and much of it in South Australia as an itinerant road builder and repairer and later as a resident of Marree and botanist at Olympic Dam.

Posted 16 November 2015.

“Anyone who has spent time with dad will each be able to recall their own memories of stories dad would have told: from breaking in horses, chasing scrub cattle down to how he went into town once to get the exhaust fixed on his ute... but then left with a brand new car,” read his son Shane’s eulogy. We share some of those memories forged from several of his close friendships in the region. These – and Shane’s eulogy – speak to Frank’s colourful life and love of nature. We extend our sympathy to Shane and Frank’s wife Evan and thank Sharon and Darryl Bell (Dulkaninna Station) for suggesting we recognise Frank in Across The Outback.

Frank Badman eulogy by Shane Badman (2 October 2015)

Francis, or Frank, was born in 1943 in London to parents who were ambulance drivers during the London blitz. Following the end of the war the family comprising of Frank, his brother Michael and his mum and dad, made the decision to relocate out to the countryside, calling Dorset in south west England home. For the next 16 years farming became more than the focus, it became a way of life and also introduced to the world dad's siblings: Carol and John.

In 1960 a huge decision was made. Boarding an ocean liner on a one way ticket, the family left England, bound for Australia. On arriving, the family eventually called Bowral in NSW, home. Shortly afterwards, Dad chose to leave wishing to pursue his desire to work in the countryside and to further discover his new homeland.

Over the next 10 – 15 years, dad worked on a number of stations across the Northern Territory and particularly Queensland. Here, he learnt all he could towards managing livestock and life in the arid Australian Outback – a far cry from the much wetter and more established farming communities back in England and his earlier Australian home in Bowral.

Anyone who has spent time with dad will each be able to recall their own memories of stories dad would of told: from breaking in horses, chasing scrub cattle down to how he went into town once to get the exhaust fixed on his ute... but then left with a brand new car.

These years spent in the bush and working on stations left a lifelong impression upon him. Dad was fond of recalling how he saw the sun rise every day for nearly 15 years. The mateship, experiences and life lessons he learnt would be things that would continue to shine through him throughout the duration of his life, both professionally and personally. It is also where his love for nature grew and developed. Dad's life spent working on stations was soon to take a turn. Following a circumstance of events involving his brother John crashing his motorbike and dad going to collect him from hospital (which is another story in itself!), he ended up also leaving with not just his brother, but also a truck. In what was to be his next career, dad spent a number of years building and fixing roads in outback south australia, leading a largely nomadic life as home was wherever the need for them to fix or build roads existed. Effectively his backyard again, became the outback where his true calling always lay.

It was during this time that one of the biggest changes was about to happen in dad's life. Through a mutual friend, he became introduced to a lovely Filipino lady and the two quickly became pen pals where they continued to diligently write to each other over the next few years. Despite the distance and difference in culture, dad continued his pursuit (and I am certainly grateful for this!) and eventually married that lovely lady, my mum, Evan. Dad was always fond of telling the story of how the wedding in the Philippines cost $100 and there was food left over at the end!

With mum now in his life, dad had to make a few decisions. Something which still boggles my mind now, is that mum came from one of the most heavily populated countries to arguably one of the most desolate ones with the first few years spent in a caravan on the shores of Lake Eyre south. One of those changes included upgrading from a caravan to building the family home in Marree, a tiny town in outback south australia with a population of about 80. And it was also during this time that another major change came along: me.

For the next few years as I grew up we lived in Marree. Recognising that there would need to be a few changes, mum and dad moved to just outside Port Augusta. Pursuing a career change dad worked for a short time at a service station before landing a job as a National Parks Ranger. While I have nothing but great memories from my childhood, I think my own fondness for nature and the outdoors grew a lot from the time that dad spent working as a Ranger at Mount Remarkable National Park. I would often visit during school holidays with mum, with my time spent helping dad with park maintenance especially after a huge bushfire had gone through and destroyed some large areas.

I would always say that dad's first and foremost love was plants and nature. He had spent considerable time over the years involved with various conservation boards and had already made some pretty big contributions to the regional scientific communities. Perhaps one of the major career defining moments happened when he was successful in becoming the on-site botanist for Olympic Dam where we made the move to Roxby Downs; again a return to outback south australia that dad was always so fond of.

For the next 16 years or so, dad made some huge contributions to the mine and it's community, particularly as an ambassador for the environment where we always made sure things were done correctly. During this time, it also afforded him an opportunity for further study across his profession. After I went to boarding school in Adelaide, mum and dad soon made the move down and after only a few years in the big city dad was made redundant from his job. The universe works in mysterious ways and perhaps this little push was the opportunity that dad needed to get his studies completed. Originally starting at Adelaide University pursuing a Masters in Environmental Science, once the professors saw the depth of experience and knowledge that dad behind him, they encouraged him to go for his PhD – which he was successful in applying for, in fact he received a scholarship to complete it.

A few short years later, we were proud to be able to introduce him as Dr Badman. Certainly one of dad's finer moments and one that I know he was incredibly proud of. Mum and I both were, particularly in knowing that dad didn't even finish 10th grade at school... but now had a PhD!

For the remainder of his professional career, dad consulted to a vast number of household name mining companies. As an expert in his field, he was often called up as his knowledge and experience was second to none across these areas.

So what an amazing professional journey that travelled on: he began his life with pack horses and finished running complex statistical analysis of plant quadrants that he often had to do to complete the reports that he was required to deliver. I think this highlights very well both the intelligence and drive that was behind the man. As a person, dad was fiercely loyal to his family always there to lend a hand and often went above and beyond what was required over the years – his generosity knew no bounds. Despite his earlier nomadic lifestyle, he always made the effort to keep in touch through letters to his family and of course during his courtship of my mum of which they were happily married for nearly 40 years. In his later years, he enjoyed the company of mum, hearing of the travel and life stories of myself and his extended family and of course reading literary classics.

Dad – we will always miss you and wish you a safe journey on your next big trip.

An ordinary man who led an extra-ordinary life.

Julie and Rick Mould (formerly Coondambo Station)I have fond memories of following behind Frank at Coondambo with him randomly identifying plants left right and centre – it was magic like a living plant book a bit like a David Attenborough of plants.

John Read (Ecological Horizons)I can reiterate, from a different perspective, the unparalleled depth of knowledge and dedication Frank had for the environment and people of the desert country. He was a great source of knowledge for me, personally, and for many others for whom the diversity and fluctuations of desert birds and plants were almost overwhelming. If Frank didn’t know, which was rare, he would find out!

Frank’s great wealth of experienced pushed me to strive to find new or unexpected treats – but when I returned he invariably could cite many occasions when his own observation trumped mine! But he wasn’t boastful and never stretched the truth – one of the things I admired most about Frank was that you could be assured, down to the number of stamens or the precise locations of his records, that he was reliable, precise and accurate.

I, like many others, was really, really fortunate to have such an experienced passionate and credible sounding board and I remember Frank with the highest respect.

Greg Campbell (S Kidman & Co)I first met Frank on the side of the Oodnadatta Track in 1993 where he was collecting plants. It was during his period of employment with Western Mining Corp. as a field botanist. Frank’s knowledge of the region’s botany was most impressive, and even more so when you realise he was entirely self-taught.

He confessed to his first love being birds, with several scientific publications as proof. But that as he got older and his eyesight faded somewhat, plants didn’t move and were easier to catch. The field collections of pressed plants that Frank and Evan produced for the pastoral leases, and the master herbarium donated initially to the Arid Zone Botanic Garden in Port Augusta, are substantial legacies of Frank’s passion for the South Australian bush.

As many would know, relatively late in life Frank embarked on postgraduate study and completed a very fine PhD. Impressive itself, but even more so that without any undergraduate training, Frank mastered advanced statistical methods such as numerical classification and ordination. A measure of his hard work and great intelligence. His wonderful contribution to the far north of South Australia was not only immensely practical but also academic.

His quiet friendship and deep knowledge of the botany of the north will be sadly missed. I thank Evan and Shane for their forbearance and support over the years which allowed Frank to pursue his passion for the bush and improve the knowledge and understanding of so many of us.

Douglas Lillecrapp (Todmorden Station) (as told to Janet Walton, NRM Officer)Until getting involved with Frank through the Marla Oodnadatta Soil Conservation Board, I didn’t have much of an understanding of the different plants throughout the district let alone their scientific names. I learned a lot about plants from Frank.

Frank was a salt of the earth sort of person, with a lot of practical bush knowledge.He lived close to the country, with a passionate interest in natural sciences.

Frank and I initiated the development of a herbarium for every pastoral property as well as for the Soil Conservation Boards. The Marla Oodnadatta Soil Conservation Board also commissioned Frank to develop the plant manual Plants of the Marla Oodnadatta Soil Conservation Board.

Tony Williams (Mount Barry Station)I have fond memories of the first time I met Frank. He was a tall, lean, wiry looking fellow with a pommy accent. I soon realised that he was a true bushman as he had been a ringer up on the Barkley tableland for some time. It was 1976. He arrived at Nilpinna Station, where I was working, to sink three dams, one of them that is to this day known as Badman’s Dam. He was working for a contractor. I had a lot to do with him as I helped him shift his camp which consisted of a van, a 4WD, a dozer and a rubber tyre scraper. We camped out with him and helped him weld up the flumings.

It was a challenging time as there was a rat plague. Rats were chewing everything and anything. We had to camp on trailers so that the rats didn’t chew our hair while we slept. Frank was an extremely good welder and I was fascinated by his skill.

We would regularly go out and visit Frank, taking him food and the mail. It was at this time that he had been writing very regularly to his wife to be, Evan, who lived in the Philippines. Every time we visited he would shut the machine off and ask if there was any mail. It was quite obvious that he was hanging out for some correspondence from Evan. He wouldn’t talk to us until he had finished reading his letter, then he would make us a cup of tea.

Soon after Frank bought a Leyland tip truck and was a contractor carting road base for the highways department based in Marree.

After he was married, he and Evan used to visit Nilpinna quite often and stay for a few days. In the ensuing years we worked together on a number of occasions. When Frank was working for Western Mining he was engaged to put together plant identification manuals.

Douglas Lillecrapp and I, as members of the Soil Board, helped to gather plant samples that Frank and Evan pressed, collated and distributed. He played a role in ILUA Native Title negotiations, and carried out some flora and fauna surveys leading up to the GAB bore capping programme.

Frank approached every job professionally and thoroughly. He was very easy to work with and he was an excellent mediator. The pastoral industry is a better place as a result of Frank’s professional and personal contribution.

Lyn & Gordon Litchfield (Wilpoorinna Station)We met Frank when he worked on the road going past our front gate for the highways. Frank drove a tip truck.

Gordon and I welcomed him at the front gate as newlyweds, where he told us the tree we were standing near on the dusty flat was probably 400 years old. This immediately grabbed our attention and that Milgee is still Gordon's favourite tree.

Maureen and Barry Wright had suggested we spot birds for the Australian bird atlas and Frank was doing the same. He then began to educate Gordon and I on the birds on Wilpoorinna and Mundowdna, an amazing teacher, gifted with a memory for bird calls and classic Latin.

Frank married his sweetheart penfriend Evan and brought a very long brown andwhite caravan. Our young family enjoyed Evan and baby Shane's company as Frank would tow the caravan into our garden and they would stay with us while he went up the Cooper or anywhere on the highway breaks, that the birds were.

As Frank’s eyes deteriorated he taught us more about the bird habitat and the vegetation on Wilpoorinna. Counting the plants in the soil board exclosure was always great fun as Shane with our boy Adam hunted for lizards, while Evan and our young daughter Sarah organised the picnic.

Shane had the same eloquent gift for Latin when naming lizards that made his father very proud. We are now passing on the names of plants, birds and lizards to our grandchildren, not in Latin.

We still refer to the herbarium Frank and Evan made and are very grateful for all the delightful times we spent together in the 70s and early 80s.

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