Vale George Brown – Darwin Lord Mayor 1992-2002
George Brown was born on 29 July 1929 in Paddington, New South Wales. He was the first of four children born to a Scotsman from Glasgow and a French Canadian woman with Sioux Indian ancestry. Educated at Burnside Central, Sydney to matriculation level, he later qualified by correspondence at Ryde School of Horticulture in greenkeeping.
By all accounts the youth of George Brown was completed in hard times. In a light hearted reflection on his youth George said, “My father brewed his own rum, and rum was cheaper than milk, and my breakfast food, the old biscuits, were soaked in rum rather than milk. I can remember my mother when I was about 12 years old saying, “You were the quietest baby that I’ve ever had or ever seen.” And I said, “For God’s sake mother, I was drunk for the first five years.”
The irrepressible character that was George Brown then had a number of colourful occupations including seaman, plant operator, woolpresser, drover’s cook, share farmer, station hand, kangaroo shooter, horse-breaker and butcher. He would often recount many of his life’s experiences based on his time in those differing professions.
George Brown arrived in Darwin in 1968. He fell in love with the city and, despite having a public service job back in his home state of New South Wales he sent a note to his then boss saying, “Am not returning.”
In 1969 George met and married his wife of 33 years, Noreen. They had four children – Yvonne, Patrick, Stuart and Bruce.
In November 1969 George Brown started his long association with the Darwin City Council where he rose to be Superintendent of Parks and Recreation. Evidence of the influence George Brown had on the greening of a city can be pretty much found all over the City. After Cyclone Tracy he played a big part in the replanting of trees around the City and often said he and a few others were to blame for the reintroduction of green ants.
“We drove to Adelaide River and brought back a nest,” he recounted.
During this time George Brown also became a regular media contributor across all mediums – print, television and radio. He ran a regular Saturday morning gardening program on commercial and public networks. This no doubt helped his public profile that would eventually elevate him to Lord Mayor.
From September 1990 to June 1992, he worked for the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory as curator of his much loved Botanic Gardens. He often boasted that for 25 years his garden has been the Darwin Botanic Garden but he said proudly that wherever he has been or worked since he was 12 years old he has planted trees. This period represented a tumultuous time in his life following several attempts by Darwin City Council to ‘move George on’.
In June 1992 George Brown was elected Lord Mayor of the City of Darwin. Using the slogan – ‘Go Green with Brown’ – later he admitted that he had harboured the desire to be Lord Mayor for 15 years, and that ambition had become stronger in the last decade. So started one of the most colourful political careers in Territory political history.
In 1996 and again in May 2000 George Brown was re elected as Lord Mayor of the City of Darwin. He was also a member of the NT Planning Authority from 1992 to 1997. A key figure in Local Government’s campaign against changes to the Planning Act in 1999 and 2000, he was passionate about the City and wanted Local Government to have more of a say in planning. This was typical of the way he approached Local Government.
George was never afraid to stand up for Local Government regardless of whether it was a State or Federal Government or their political persuasion. Summarising his personal life is best done by outlining his interests. They were plants and people, family and friends, dining out, reading, golf and photography.
George died suddenly in January. He will be greatly missed by the people of Darwin.