Faces of Tamworth: barrister, grazier, politician and philanthropist Ian Sinclair

Ian Sinclair.

Ian Sinclair.

The longest-serving member for New England – by a country (party) mile – was Ian McMahon Sinclair AC.

After 35 years in the seat, Mr Sinclair was a name almost synonymous with the Tamworth area, abiding as the party he represented morphed from the Country Party to the National Country Party to the Nationals.

A barrister, grazier, politician and philanthropist, Mr Sinclair was born and educated in Sydney before making our region his home.

He served in the 22 Squadron Citizen Air Forces from 1950 to 1952.

He settled in Bendemeer in the early 1950s as managing director of Sinclair Pastoral Company, after having been admitted to the bar in the Supreme Court of NSW in 1952.

Mr Sinclair married Margaret Tarrant in 1956; they had three children but, tragically, she died of brain cancer just 11 years into the marriage.

Mr Sinclair was the director of Farmers and Graziers’ Co-operative Limited from 1962 to 1965, and was elected to parliament during this time, in the Menzies era.

Mr Sinclair spent nearly 20 years as his party’s federal leader or deputy, and worked in many senior portfolios including social services, primary industry, shipping and transport, communications and defence. 

He served under six different prime ministers.

In 1977, when the then-president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Bob Hawke – later to hold the position of PM himself – wrote that the trouble with Australia was that it was being run by five farmers and a sheep, one of the farmers he was referring to was then-primary industries minister Ian Sinclair.

Mr Sinclair and Rosemary Fenton married on February 14, 1970, and about two years later, they had a son, who became the fourth child in the family.

After his retirement from politics, the one-time Speaker of the House was still heavily involved in public life.

In 2000 he became president of international aid agency Austcare, chairman of Australian agency Good Beginnings Australia and chairman of Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.

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Also among the items on his extensive resume are roles in: the Australian Sheep CRC, of which he was chairman from 2001-07; what was then called the Murray Darling Basin Commission from 2003, of which he was president; and Scouts NSW, of which he became president in 2005.

In 2001, Mr Sinclair was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, for distinguished service to the Australian Parliament and to the community, particularly through promoting the expansion of opportunities for those in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.

Mr Sinclair and Mrs Sinclair – herself an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) for her work in the prevention of child abuse and neglect – moved from Bendemeer that year.

They now also fatten cattle on the mid-north coast.