Ann Leahy and Peter McRae, environmental scientist and founder of Save the Bilby Fund.
Ann Leahy and Peter McRae, environmental scientist and founder of Save the Bilby Fund. Ann Lahey

Remembering Peter McRae

HE WAS a respected scientist and beloved member of the community in Charleville, and Peter McRae's memory was at the heart of festivities at tonight's Fur Ball.

Colleagues and friends spoke on his behalf at the event, sharing fond stories of the man and his love of the outback and it's creatures.

Chris Evenson, Peter's coworker before his retirement, shared a story about the passion he had for the work that he did.

"His search for information was endless, and he was recording it with great diligence - that was Peter McRae at work.

"Pete was a great mentor to so many people across the state in the public service; a great challenger and questioner of people who had theories and ideas about our environment.

"He's got a lot of admirers within our little industry within the state government.

"The Save the Bibly Fund was just one aspect of that gentlemen's career when it comes to providing information to Queensland for it's environment, and everything he's recorded will go down in history - both in the herbarium and the museum.”

Mr Evenson described McRae as the kind of person who went above and beyond in pursuit of his passion and work.

"His job doesn't fit with any public service standard, it's not nine-to-five.

"In 2011 I was lucky enough to go and support Pete at Astrebla Downs, 11 hours from here.

"Pete's daily routine was to go out and count grasses, count reptiles that are moving around and checks the birds - the Leather Wing Kites, and checks the threat from cats by counting them asleep in the trees.

"He'd record, write, photograph, and GPS in this landscape until about four in the afternoon.

"Then, he'd pack up to do it all again - but this time we'd be spotlighting and I'd be in the back of the ute while we look for the nocturnal portion of the business.

"A lot of people have done that trip in the back of the ute with Pete and the spotlight over the years.

"We'd travel for five or six hours in the evening, but it wasn't without it's comforts; every so often a little cuppa would come out of the drivers seat up on to the roof - a little treat every two or three hours.

"He'd be looking for Kowaries and Bilbies, but that year there was long grass so they were hard to see.

'We saw owls flash across the windscreen as we drove through the night and when I got tired he'd put a little more bourbon into me, and we'd make it through to three or four in the morning.

"Back at camp we'd have a quick sleep and then do it all again.”

Pete's co-workers had intended to present him with a gift for his recent retirement from the Department of Enviornment and Science: a specially commissioned bilby sculpture, made of spoons.

While Peter never got to see the creation, it was shown to attendees of the ball in his stead.

More than just a public servant, Peter McRae will be remembered as a passionate scientist, inspiring mentor, caring husband, and a friend to all, especially the Bilbies of outback Queensland.

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