About Sir Vincent Fairfax
Sir Vincent Fairfax
The son of pastoralists, Vincent Charles Fairfax was born on 26 December 1909 at Cambooya in the Darling Downs of Queensland.
Throughout his life, Sir Vincent was recognised as a person who managed to give his time and patronage to a diversity of interests. He held numerous directorships and official positions with some of Australia's major financial firms, organisations with interests in rural Australia and the Church of England.
Sir Vincent was a director and Chairman of the AMP Society (now AMP Henderson Global) and a director of the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac). He served on both boards from the mid 1950's until his retirement in 1982.
He also served as Chairman for 16 years of the Stanbroke Pastoral Company, one of the country's largest beef producers, from its establishment in 1966. Sir Vincent was actively involved in both the New South Wales and Commonwealth Royal Agricultural Societies (RAS), serving as President and Deputy President respectively. He also gave his time to the Royal Flying Doctor Service serving as Vice President from 1954 until 1971.
It is Sir Vincent's long and distinguished career as a newspaperman that most clearly illustrates the nature of his leadership. Following the completion of a law degree from Oxford in 1936, he started working for the family owned newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, commencing his career as an advertising manager. He progressed to be the manager of the London office just prior to the outbreak of World War II.
Sir Vincent served as a gunner in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), attaining the rank of Major by the end of his service.
Returning to Australia and civilian life as a newspaper publisher, he became a board member of John Fairfax and Sons Pty Limited. With the exception of a short break to pursue other interests, he remained as a director of the company until it was privatised in 1987.
Sir Vincent's concern for publishing policy extended beyond his own company to the general protection of the freedom of the press. In 1974, he was awarded the Commonwealth Press Union's Astor prize in recognition of his "lifetime of service' .
His commitment to addressing the practical question of “What ought one to do?” in a given set of circumstances - which is at the heart of ethical leadership - is well reflected in his approach as a director of John Fairfax.
He questioned executives and fellow directors, but he did not try to dictate, though he might have. He disagreed but he never quarrelled. He consistently raised the issue of fair play at board meetings, both in the columns of the papers and in the activities of the company and its board ... Is it fair? Is it decent? The best characteristics of the Fairfax papers owed much to these persistent questions.
Max Suich, Chief Editorial Executive, Sydney, the Fairfax Group 1980 to 1987, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 1993
Perhaps more important than all the rest was his deep abiding interest in young people. He was Chief Commissioner and National President of the Scout Association of Australia and President of the Boys' Brigade.
Sir Vincent Fairfax had an extraordinary capacity for work and generosity of spirit. He believed that wealth and power brought responsibility and an obligation to serve the community.
Sir Vincent died in 1993 at the age of 83. By any standards he was an extraordinary person. A man of principle, energy and dedication Sir Vincent Fairfax well embodied the ideals and goals of the ethics in leadership fellowship established in his memory.