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Thursday, 21 June 2001
Page: 28374


Mr NEVILLE (9:49 AM) —Today I would like to pay tribute to Mr Fred Petersen who died last Monday at the age of 81. He was born in Longreach in 1919, the fifth of eight children. His parents, Wilhelm and Eliza, moved to Bundaberg in 1920 where Wilhelm served as the mayor of Bundaberg from 1943 to 1946. Fred was educated at the East Bundaberg State School and Bundaberg High School. He enlisted at the outbreak of World War II and reached the rank of sergeant-major, appropriately so because his war service included the training of Islander troops in the Torres Strait and Thursday Island. His skills as an organiser were well recognised then. He met his wife Gwen while training in Brisbane and married her in 1944.

You can say a lot about Fred Petersen. He was a carpenter, a wheelwright by trade, an entrepreneur, a hardware and housing materials operator, sawmill owner, Rotarian and Paul Harris Fellow for his community work. He co-founded, with his brother Larry, Petersen Brothers which had a huge impact on the commercial life of Bundaberg. At its peak, Petersen Brothers encompassed three hardware stores, two sawmills and workshops for joinery, plumbing, cabinet making and painting employing, colleagues would you believe, 200 people. This is one man's operation.

His greatest success in business was when he tapped the market for prefabricated homes. He built a home called the Petersen Brothers panel built package home and this went all over North Queensland, western Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, even into the Pacific Islands. It was interesting that the whole thing could be packed on a truck and taken to these areas. During the Darwin cyclone, they were some of the buildings that did not blow away, a tribute to his great skill.

Following a heart attack in the 1980s he sold his company to the Adelaide Steamship Co. His great community success, however, was the building of the Bright Horizons complex. In those days, we did not have things for disabled children. Over two weekends he organised a team of people, donated most of the materials himself and built Bright Horizons which was a huge education complex for disabled children, now known as the Endeavour Foundation.

Fred's wife, Gwen, predeceased him, passing away in 1996. He is survived by his sister, Edna Hills, brother Charlie, son John and daughter Jean Mallett. I extend to them my profound sympathy and my admiration for a great Australian.