Obituary for Lynn Brake

Walton, C. S. (2020)


Lynn Brake was an outstanding leader in the sustainable management of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), Lake Eyre Basin and the GAB springs. His enthusiasm and professionalism were evidenced in national, state and local projects for over 35 years. Lynn’s philosophy – that first-hand experience is the best teacher – meant he worked tirelessly in the field on sustainable water resource management with state and federal governments, regional natural resources bodies, industry groups, communities and land managers across inland Australia. Lynn moved to Australia in 1971 with a Master of Science from Oregon State University, originally to teach secondary school science. In 1972 he joined Murray Park College of Advanced Education and was the principal driver behind the Outdoor Education movement in South Australia during his tenure there, and later with the Park Management courses at Salisbury College of Advanced Education. His approach equipped trainee teachers and park managers with real-life experiences to personalise their book knowledge. Many South Australian teachers and environmental officers fondly recall their university days with Lynn as their lecturer, and as organiser of camps and field trips that ranged from diving on Yorke Peninsula reefs to bushwalking remote gorges of the Flinders Ranges. Lynn still held a Senior Research Fellowship at the University of South Australia – created in 1992 from the amalgamated Colleges of Advanced Education – at the time of his death. Lynn’s most prominent national role was as a founding and 20-year member of the National Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee (GABCC), developing the first national Strategic Management Plan in 2000. Adoption of this plan led to the development and implementation of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) dedicated to the restoration and repair of uncontrolled bores and bore drains across the basin. At the conclusion of the GABSI program in 2017, it was estimated that water savings exceeding 250 gigalitres per year had been achieved through the program. At the state level, Lynn led the preparation and adoption of the South Australia Water Allocation Plan for the Far North Prescribed Wells Area in 2009, covering water extraction from the Great Artesian Basin in South Australia. Maintaining water in the Great Artesian Basin to sustain mound springs was a central objective of this plan. He was also involved in the multi-million-dollar National Water Commission South Australian-based project Allocating Water and Maintaining Springs in the Great Artesian Basin. Over several decades Lynn also held a number of other significant state roles focused on the Lake Eyre and Great Artesian Basins, including: Chairperson of the South Australia Arid Area Water Resources Committee; Inaugural Presiding Member of the Arid Areas Catchment Water Management Board; and Chairperson of the Water Advisory Committee (South Australian Arid Lands NRM Board). Lynn also devoted time and energy to local projects. He had been a supporter of the Friends of Mound Springs group activities in South Australia since the group’s inauguration in 2006 and was made a Patron in 2016. It was his positive, calm nature and his outstanding ability to engage well with people and communities that enabled him to bring them along on the journey to improve how water was managed and used in the Far North of South Australia. Lynn was widely respected for his integrity, knowledge, leadership and determination to achieve positive outcomes. Although Lynn had been undergoing treatment for cancer for many years, he devoted an enormous amount of time and energy in 2018–2019 to a project designed to provide a sound ongoing basis for the management of GAB springs – the development of an Adaptive Management Plan for GAB Springs. A paper describing this plan forms part of this Special Issue (Jensen, Lewis & Lewis, 2020). Lynn was the instigator, inspiration and primary driving force for the project, and he was presented with a copy of the completed project report in December 2019. Lynn championed GAB springs at a national and state level for many years, and there is no doubt that he made a difference and achieved significant advances in helping to conserve springs. Just before Lynn’s death, the Commonwealth Government announced it would establish the Lynn Brake PhD Scholarship in his honour to support the development of future scientists and to help foster links between academia, the wider community and governments.