189 – Donna Brennan commemoration

Donna Brennan passed away in December 2010 after a long fight with cancer.

Donna was a high achiever throughout her life. I remember tutoring her agricultural economics class in the second year of her undergraduate degree (I was only in fourth year myself) and she quickly and clearly stood out as someone with intelligence and confidence.

She completed her PhD at the University of Western Australia in 1991. It was an outstanding piece of work that subsequently won the award of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society for the best thesis of the year in Australia or New Zealand.

Her work experience included stints at the Western Australian Department of Agriculture, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Western Australia, the Ministry of Food, Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, the University of Sydney, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and as a self-employed consultant. In all of these organisations and roles, she impressed with the consistently excellent quality of her work.

In recent years, she focused her work on Vietnam. As usual, she put her intellect and determination to excellent use. She engaged intimately with farmers and their families, cut through the Vietnamese bureaucracy with her intellect and willpower, astutely identified many problems with the farming systems she dealt with, and was able to find and implement a number of solutions. Her work meant that tens of thousands of villagers have more food and higher incomes.

Finally, here is a brief extract from Donna’s eulogy that speaks volumes.

“Donna was truly an intelligent and determined woman with a generous heart and we are all privileged to have shared her life. For decades she has faced mortality with strength of character as time and time again, she successfully battled the disease. Her strength, sharp wit in the face of adversity and positive outlook will forever inspire us all.”

 David Pannell, The University of Western Australia