Peter Fannin, a great friend of the Garden community, passes away.
The Olive Pink Botanic Garden community are saddened by the news of the passing of a remarkable person and great friend of the Garden, Peter Fannin.
Peter, a 2006 Finalist for Australian of the Year, lived humbly yet made a tremendous contribution to Central Australia. He was as a botanist, conservationist, art lover and most of all, a generous philanthropist and contributor to the Olive Pink Botanic Garden and his local community.
In the 1970s, Peter was instrumental in encouraging Indigenous Australians to express their culture through painting, leading in part to the world renowned, watershed Papunya art movement. Peter’s unique collection of early indigenous art was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. Believing that artists should benefit from the trading of their works, Peter returned much of the money he received to the original artists and their families via a trust fund. Peter was also an extraordinarily generous contributor to Central Australian Indigenous health and art organisations.
For most of the past forty years, Peter lived and worked within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park as an employee, and then as a volunteer. “As a volunteer I can do as I want” he told us. In retirement he continued to conduct guided plant walks, train others to do so, and work on the herbarium he helped established.
Peter, who met Miss Pink, had been closely involved in the Garden from the early 1990’s. Connie Spencer AM has had a long standing friendship with Peter grounded by their love of desert flora. In an extraordinarily generous deed, last year Peter made a founding donation of $100,000 to set up an Indigenous Horticulture Traineeship fund. Peter’s wish was that this fund would engage young Indigenous people in restoring an important sacred site – Annie Meyers Hill – whilst learning the skills of botanic gardening.
Peter said at the time, “It is originally money from Aboriginal paintings so it is going to support Aboriginal people”. He wrote:
“I am now 85 and coming to the end of a career in plants in Central Australia. Among problems encountered are weeds, particularly Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris)…..There are disputes over Buffel Grass, but clearly it has no place in a botanic garden devoted to teaching and conservation. This is particularly true of Annie Meyers Hill”.
For the last two years Peter lived at the Old Timers Village, which gave him the opportunity of being a regular visitor to the Garden; and although never having children himself, he was closely involved with his family.
Peter died in hospital on Sunday, aged 86. He will be truly missed.
Peter’s funeral will be held on Saturday 1st July at 10am in the Flynn Uniting Church, Todd St Mall, followed by a gathering and refreshments in the Garden’s Gallery at 1pm.