John Donal Madden (1936-2011)



John Donal Madden was born on 10 February 1936. His parents were Daniel Aloysius and Jean Madden.  In 1931 Daniel Madden was registered as a licensed surveyor in Victoria and was working with the Victorian Department of Lands at Surveys at Ballarat in the early 1950s.  Daniel Madden became a senior surveyor with that department.  The Madden family had emigrated from County Cork in the mid-1800s and some of John Madden’s ancestors are believed to have held high offices within the Victorian Government in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


In 1954, at age 18 years, John was conscripted to serve in the Royal Australian Navy under a national service scheme that ran from 1951 to 1959. That scheme was introduced to address Korean War contingencies and involved periods for full and part-time duty for the trainees who served in one of Australia’s three Armed Services.  In later years John spoke of undergoing sea duty during his national service training that took him across the Great Australian Bight to Perth.


Later in the 1950s John worked with the Victorian Department of Lands and Survey.  An electoral roll entry indicated that in 1958 John was a draftsman residing at Corinya in Phillipson Street Wangaratta. (Owing to later subdivisions, Corinya is now in Taylor Street and by 1954 was owned by Noel William Clark who operated a furniture business in Wangaratta.)


In the late 1950s and early 1960s John was articled as a pupil surveyor within the Victorian Department of Lands and Survey.  One of his fellow pupil surveyors was Con Veenstra who went on to become Director of National Mapping in the 1980s.  For a time in the early 1960s, John and Con worked together in the Examinations Branch of the department that was located in the Old Treasury Offices in Melbourne’s Treasury Place.  Here they examined survey plans and land titles.


John and Con sat their final survey exams together and on 15 June 1962 both John and Con were registered as licensed surveyors by the Surveyors Board of Victoria (register numbers 967 and 976, respectively).  Another electoral roll entry indicated that in 1963 John was a surveyor who resided with his wife Maureen at 7 Maxwell Street Wangaratta.


John joined Nat Map as a surveyor class 1 in September 1964.  By 1968 John and Maureen resided at 47 Heatherdale Road Ringwood.  During his time with Nat Map John was involved with various topographic mapping activities including obtaining vertical mapping control with the Johnson Ground Elevation Meter which was a then state-of-the-art vehicle-based ground heighting system.  John also became involved with Aerodist airborne distance measuring operations between 1966 and 1969.  Although mainly engaged in Aerodist ground marking activities during this period, John was occasionally a member of the Aerodist measuring party such as during Queensland offshore operations in 1968 and 1969.  John's proposal for a programme of coconut palm plantings to stabilise the islets and cays in the Great Barrier Reef gave rise to unsupportive comments that was reported on the ABC radio national news in October 1969.


On 11 January 1968, John's promotion to surveyor class 2 was promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.  In that position John was the senior surveyor responsible for planning and directing the work of the Aerodist ground marking section.  From early in 1970, John became involved in the map examination and map accuracy programme.  After Nat Map's Melbourne office moved to Dandenong in early 1977 John was a joint-manager in one of the Compilation Branch's joint management teams and later was the executive surveyor in the planning and staff development section.


A 1977 electoral roll entry indicated that John and Maureen Madden then resided at 5 Culbara Drive Vermont.


In the late 1970s John commenced post-graduate studies in environmental science in the Science Faculty at the Monash University’s Clayton Campus.  On 21 April 1982 John received the degree of Master of Environmental Science.


Between 1977 and 1989 John served as a councillor on the Nunawading City Council in Melbourne's eastern suburbs; including a term as mayor of the City during 1979-1980.


From October 1983 John spent a year on secondment with the Victorian Department of Agriculture.  Also during the 1980s, John had several extended periods of leave away from Nat Map to contest State and Federal elections as an Australian Labor Party candidate albeit without electoral success.  During preparations for Australia's bicentennial celebrations in 1988, John was the coordinator of the commemorative bicentennial beacons project.  Bonfires resembling historical beacons were lit across the country on the night of 18-19 June 1988 to form a ring of fires around Australia.  A map showing the placement and lighting times of these beacons can be viewed via this link.


John retired from the then Australian Surveying and Land Information Group as a senior surveyor in mid-1989 and settled at Palmwoods in Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland where he operated an avocado orchard.  In the mid-1990s John worked as a consultant with the Queensland Department of Lands where he was involved in a proposed regional open space land initiative.


Sadly John Madden died at Sippy Downs on the Sunshine Coast on 20 April 2011 after suffering for some time with the debilitating motor neurone disease; he was 75 years of age.  John was survived by his wife Maureen and by their children Bernie, Michelle, Sue and Ally and by several grandchildren.


Natmappers who knew and worked with John were shocked to hear of his passing that year and regretted not being able to farewell promptly a respected colleague.  Belated but sincere sympathies are extended to John’s family.


Thanks to Alan Thomson for the above article from the Whitehorse Leader of 4 May 2011 and to Laurie McLean for additional information.


Prepared by Paul Wise in 2012, updated by Laurie Mclean 2017