Vale John Richards OAM


10 May 2023

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that this article contains an image of a deceased person.

Vale (Frederick) John Richards OAM (1935-2023)

By Professor Irene Blackberry,
John Richards Chair in Rural Ageing Research


The Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) community is saddened by the news of the passing of (Frederick) John Richards OAM. John Richards was the 2007 recipient of an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for 'service to the community of the Moira Shire, particularly as a contributor to health sector development, and to the newsagency industry through the Victorian Authorised Newsagents Association'.

John, a former jackaroo, conscript and farmer, was the inaugural president of the Yarrawonga District Health Service board of management, and from there was instrumental in the establishment of the Moira Healthcare Alliance, of which he was president from 2002 to 2005. Among numerous health and community-related positions, John was also a member of the Rural and Regional Council of the Victorian Healthcare Association from 2001 to 2006. In recognition of his active community involvement, he was named Yarrawonga Citizen of the Year in 2004 and received the Rural Health Volunteers Award, Hume Region, from the Department of Human Services Victoria in 2005.

John’s vision to support ageing in country Victoria has been backed by a generous donation which has enabled the establishment of The John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research (an AAG collaborating research centre), at La Trobe University in Albury-Wodonga. We have been privileged to be the direct recipient of John’s private philanthropy since 2007, placing us among the leading global research centres that serve to improve the lives of rural Australians through interdisciplinary research. The Centre has actively collaborated with AAG to serve older adults in rural, regional and remote communities, including by co-hosting the annual JRC Oration and other community events.

In 2015, John was awarded a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) by La Trobe University. He was actively involved in the establishment and running of the John Richards Initiative at the Albury-Wodonga campus, and its growth to become an independent centre in 2018, and right until his passing. He was always modest about his own achievements as a champion in rural ageing and aged care research landscape in Australia. We were delighted to celebrate our 15-year achievements with John and the community last November, including 69 completed research projects, 242 publications, 225 conference presentations, 11 higher research degrees completion, 110 media appearances and $8.2million of external research revenue.

John is survived by his sister Margaret and brothers Rick, Glen and David. A memorial service in celebration of John’s life will be held at St Georges Anglican Church, 296 Glenferrie Rd Malvern on Friday 2 June at 2pm. The service will also be available on live stream.