Industry Obituary for K. C. Mawson OAM

By on October 16, 2019

Written by John Mawson.

Last month the Quarry Industry lost one of its oldest and most esteemed leaders. At the age of 97, after a long and healthy life, Ken Mawson passed away peacefully at his home in Torquay.

Ken, Lloyd and Bernie Mawson cutting the
Mawson’s’ Centenary cake in 2012.

Ken was born in Cohuna, the oldest of E. B. (Barney) and Annie Mawson’s five children. Growing up in a small country town at the edge of the Redgum Forest and irrigated dairy farms along the Murray River, Ken enjoyed what he described as a “lucky” childhood. The Great Depression had engulfed Australia and times were difficult, but the Mawson family were frugal and resourceful, making ends meet through Barney’s hard work and business acumen.

Eventually prosperity returned to the Australian Community and Ken, having successfully completed all the schooling that Cohuna could offer, was enrolled in an Electrical Apprenticeship program at the local Butter Factory. Ken excelled at school in Cohuna and had a great thirst for knowledge which his Aunty Rehna, Annie’s sister recognised. Rehna’s son was the same age as Ken and she offered Ken the opportunity to join them in Melbourne and continue his education.

Attending Box Hill and Melbourne High Schools and Burnley College Ken thrived on the opportunity his extended family provided.

After school he continued on to Melbourne Teachers’ College and earned a Scholarship to Melbourne University where he studied Commerce. After University (having been rejected from military service because of his “Poor Skin”) Ken took up a teaching position at Melbourne High School.

During one of his regular visits home after the war Ken saw that his Father’s employees were earning more driving trucks than he was as a teacher. The lure of the country was strong, and the opportunity was great, so Ken made the move back to Cohuna. In 1947 Ken married Olive Stanton. Olive, a talented musician and teacher, grew up in Rutherglen and had met Ken at Teachers’ College. They formed a strong team and were very happily married for 72 years until Ken’s passing.

Returning to Cohuna Ken started work with his father and brother Bernie driving trucks and building timber bridges. The civil construction, cartage, wood-cutting and farming business that Barney had begun with his father and brother about 35 years beforehand was sound and steadily expanding.

Ken recognised that to continue to grow and prosper, more structure and sophistication needed to be introduced into the enterprise.

And so, it was that Ken’s formal commercial training came to the fore as he began his career as a modern manager at a little desk in the corner of his parents’ dining room at 139 King George Street, Cohuna.

Laying the administrative foundations which facilitated Mawson’s orderly growth and efficient management Ken, along with Barney, Bernie and younger brother Lloyd (who joined in 1955), formed E.B. Mawson and Sons Pty Ltd in 1960. By then the need for quarry products to provide materials for civil construction and work for the Mawson tip trucks had been well recognised and the new company was operating four quarries and several sand pits. His experience overseeing these businesses allowed Ken to develop a full and intimate understanding of hard rock, gravel and sand operations.

That expertise placed him in an excellent position to guide others and lead the Institute of Quarrying in years to come.

Life for Ken was not all crushed rock and numbers though; Ken was a devoted father, keen sportsman and a proud community leader. Ken was president of the Cohuna Tennis Club, an Elder of the Uniting Church, founder of the Cohuna Chaplaincy Foundation and served on the Cohuna and District Hospital Management Board for over 30 years.

He was head of the Masonic Lodge in Victoria and Australian and International President of the Institute of Quarrying. Ken served for many years on the Victorian Government Extractive Industries Advisory Board and as a trustee for the Institute of Quarrying Education Foundation. The CMPA was another industry body that Ken strongly supported; recognising the need for practical training and providing a voice for independent quarry operators, such as Mawson’s.

Ken was also appointed by the Kennett Government as one of three Commissioners for the then newly formed Gannawarra Shire. In 2006 his exceptional service to the Community and Quarry Industry was recognised with an Order of Australia Medal.

In 2007, after 61 years of diligent, selfless, hard work, Ken sold his share of E. B. Mawson & Sons to Adelaide Brighton Limited.

Ken and Olive moved to a peaceful retirement in Torquay and, while he remained vitally interested in the continued progress of the Mawson’s business, he relished the time he spent with his grandchildren and great grandchildren by the Sea.

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