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James John Reilly (1938–2008)

by Keith Jennings, Ian Bevege and Ian Ferguson

[James] John Reilly was born in Injune, Queensland, the third of eight children of Norman and Gladys Reilly. The family moved to Strathpine in 1944 on the northern outskirts of Brisbane where his father was appointed head teacher of the primary school. John attended Strathpine primary school before attending St Josephs Roman Catholic College on Gregory Terrace in Brisbane City for his high school education (1953–56). He was an outstanding student and sportsman (athletics, 1st XI and 1st XV) and a Cadet Under Officer.

He then commenced his forestry studies as a State Forestry Scholarship holder at the University of Queensland in 1957–58. A field year with the Queensland Forestry Department followed in 1959 before heading to the Australian Forestry School (along with Ian Bevege) in Canberra for two years. He graduated to the Diploma of Forestry in 1961 and to the Bachelor of Science (Forestry) degree (University of Queensland) in early 1962. While in Canberra John played first grade rugby in the forwards for the Forestry School and subsequently ANU.

He returned to Queensland after graduation and spent two years in Forestry Department survey camps in north Queensland. Following a high school romance, he married Jill Alvos in 1961 and they subsequently had four children – Maryanne, Paul, Anthony and Sarah.

He was then posted to Imbil (outside Gympie) in 1964 where he was engaged in tree breeding research relating to hoop pine. One outcome of this work was the publication of a Queensland Department of Forestry Research Paper 4, 1974 Geographic Variation of Hoop Pine, still quoted today. An appointment to Head Office from 1968 to 1971 followed, and he undertook part-time studies to graduate to a Bachelor of Commerce degree from UQ.

He was awarded a research fellowship by the Rural Credits Development Fund and the family moved to Canberra where he commenced his doctoral thesis under Dr Ian Ferguson at the Australian National University. In 1978 he was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree for his thesis titled Forest management strategies for the lower south coast of New South Wales. The thesis developed a large economic planning model for the lower south coast region covering some 1.2 million hectares and aimed at optimizing land use of marginal farm lands and forest production for the region. His research papers have been widely referred to in the international literature.

John returned to the Forestry Department in Queensland, continuing his economic work until 1980. He was ahead of his times in a forestry agency that was yet to adopt the realities of the commercial world, under the politics of those times. He accepted a senior position in the Premier’s Department and subsequently in (what is now known as) The Port of Brisbane Corporation. In both these organisations John’s economic expertise was utilised across a wide range or projects and industries such as

  • Development of the Port of Brisbane Strategic Plan—Key Port Brisbane—that outlined arrangements and broad directions of the port to the year 2005 and beyond;
  • Redirecting the Port of Brisbane’s international trade development program to be more forward looking and strategic, e.g. marketing strategies, landbridging studies, northern NSW cotton exports, motor vehicle imports, and property development and transport logistics initiatives (attracting new warehousing to the port);
  • Managing key aspects of the State Economic Development Strategy—Quality Queensland—including regional development and natural resource management;
  • Facilitated economic and trade cooperation agreement between Queensland and Fujian Province in the People’s Republic of China, resulting in the signing of a formal agreement between the two States;
  • Responsible for, or involved in, coordination of Government arrangements for several large development projects in Queensland:

Callide ‘B’ Power Station (700 MW capacity)
Stanwell Power Station (1400 MW capacity)
Bleach Kraft Pulp Mill (200,000 tonnes per year)
Newsprint Mill (180,000 tonnes per year)
Coke export plant (up to 8 million tonnes per year)
Rundel Oil Project
Mini Steel Mill
Large open cut mines (Oakey Creek, Riverside, Callide and others)
Woodchip export projects
Hydro-electricity power projects in north Queensland.

John was a modest but cheerful, able and affable man who could jolly people along, as the preceding list of projects attests, whether on the job or over a beer. He made many friends across forestry and economic circles and was highly regarded as a forester and as an economist. He was a life-long member of the IFA.

John retired in 1998 and moved to Eumundi with Jill where she ran a successful art gallery with his assistance. He was also a member of the Cooroy Golf club and was instrumental in having grants approved to expand the course from 9 to 18 holes. Subsequently they moved back to Brisbane in 2007.

He is survived by his wife, their four children and seven grandchildren—a family he was devoted to and proud of, and by his three brothers and four sisters.

Original publication

Citation details

Keith Jennings, Ian Bevege and Ian Ferguson, 'Reilly, James John (1938–2008)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 August, 1938
Injune, Queensland, Australia


17 July, 2008 (aged 69)

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