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A tribute to...

Norman Coldham-Fussell AO

Published: Mon 23rd Sep 2019

"[He was] our Dad and we are all very proud of him and we miss him"

- Peter, Norman's loving son

A tough negotiator with a generous spirit, a photographic memory and a love of classical and Scottish music, Norman "Norm" Coldham-Fussell, crammed a lot into his 81 years.

Through a stellar career and his charitable endeavours, Norm's name is forever etched into the history books of Queensland's biggest mining and travel companies, the Queensland Youth Orchestra, the Queensland Mining Council and university honour rolls at the Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University.

Norm's story started with humble beginnings when he was born in Nambour on Queensland's Sunshine Coast in 1937. It developed to the point where he was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2005 for his service to the mining and travel industries and the community at large via the charitable organisations he championed and supported along the way.

Norm, who died in April this year, moved from Nambour to Toowoomba as a young child so his father, Ormonde, could work on the railways. As a child, he was a champion swimmer who won several State titles as he worked his way through school, first at Toowoomba East State School, then Toowoomba Technical College.

Norm left school at year 10 after his father became very ill and could no longer afford to pay for his education and he went to work for the Queensland Trustees where he completed the Associate of Accounting (AAUQ) through the University of Queensland (1959). While at the Queensland Trustees, he met his future wife, Amy - although soon after they met, he was posted to Cairns and their contact became restricted to phone calls from a public phone booth and handwritten letters backwards and forwards.

Not one to let a chance go past, Norm used the time in Cairns to study for a Chartered Secretaries (ACIS) qualification, which he gained with honours. The qualification and his experience with the Queensland Trustees helped Norm move to Dalby as company secretary for Napier Brothers. The move also meant he and Amy were able to see each other again, and on December 10, 1960, they married at St Luke's in Toowoomba.

Amy and Norm settled at Dalby. Their first child David was born the following year but died tragically in a day nursery accident. Then followed Peter, Julie, Geoffrey and Andrew. For nearly a decade Norm and the family stayed in Dalby, before Norm took a position in Sydney as company secretary with Thiess Equipment.

What followed for Norm was a steady ascendancy in the ranks of some of Queensland's biggest companies and a resume that speaks of passion, tenacity and generosity.

Norm transferred to Brisbane as company secretary for Thiess Holdings.

A caricature of Norman by John Shakespeare
A caricature of Norman by John Shakespeare

He then became Managing Director of Thiess before moving to Mount Isa Mines (MIM) to take the role of Executive General Manager and Director, rising through the ranks to become Managing Director and CEO of MIM from 1990 to 1995.

He continued to study and learn and became the Chairman of the Flight Centre board from 1995 to 2005 and a well-known director among multiple mining companies in Australia and beyond.

At the peak of his career Norm carried two nicknames - "Stormin' Norman" and "the Moon".

The first name was testament to his ability to get things done, the second a reflection on a hectic travel schedule that had him circling the world every 28 days. His travel history includes more than 100 trips to Japan alone.

On the career front, his roles were many and varied. They included being Chairman of the QIDC, Flight Centre, Hitec Energy and Indian Minerals Corporation and director with Namoi Cotton, Anaconda Nickel and Mesa Minerals.

He served as a President of the Queensland Mining Council, a member of the Business Council of Australia and a member of the Prime Minister's Science and Engineering Council and was briefly the Treasurer of the Queensland Liberal Party.

A life-long learner, Norm was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in 1994 by QUT after serving as an Executive in Residence for several months in the 1990s and from 1993 to 2000, he took his business skills to university in the role of Deputy Chancellor of Griffith University. His personal study extended to taking courses at Harvard Business School.

Outside of the business world Norm was generous with his time. For 13 years he served as President of the Queensland Youth Orchestra. While at Thiess he was a big supporter of the Scout's Gang Show, and together with his wife Amy, he was involved in supporting disadvantaged youth, including taking on the roles of Treasurer and Chair of Nathanael House, a refuge for young people aged 15-17 years.

Norm's son Peter says while his Dad could be aloof at times, driven by his passion for his work, he was always there for his children, determined to give them the "start that he never had".

He said he had a love of family and family history, a passion for Wales, Scotland, Scotch Whisky, and classical music, but most of all, he was "our Dad and we are all very proud of him and we miss him".

Norm is survived by his wife of 58 years, Amy, and his children Peter, Julie, Geoffrey and Andrew and their spouses Alfredo, Helen and Chantelle and grandchildren Harry, Anna, Alex, Bella and Beau.

Photograph of Norman
Photograph of Norman

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