Tears and tributes flow for dairy leader Niel Black

THE big contribution made by Niel Black of Mount Noorat to his family, the Victorian dairy industry and the south-west was widely hailed at a memorial service that celebrated his life yesterday.

About 600 people attended the service at Glenormiston College, which was originally part of the land owned by the pioneering Black family.

Mr Black, 77, died on November 4 when his ute rolled down a steep embankment on his Mount Noorat property.

Duncan Morris, who served on Terang’s DemoDAIRY with Mr Black, said he was a champion of the dairy cooperative movement, helping found the Noorat Artificial Breeders Co-operative and the DemoDAIRY and was active in Co-operatives Victoria.

When Mr Black was recently listed on the Great South West Dairy Industry honour board, he made a call for more support for co-operatives and expressed concern at the rise of investor-focused multi-national dairy companies that sought to pay milk suppliers the lowest price.

Mr Black was concerned the shift away from co-operatives, which focused on suppliers’ interests, was allowing dairy profits to be taken overseas, Mr Morris said.

Paul Ford, who worked with Mr Black on the Bonlac Foods dairy co-operative, said Mr Black made a massive contribution to the leadership of the “dairy value chain.”

Mr Black was a humble man who was known for the “quiet way he could make things happen” such as his advocacy with his late wife Josie to establish the South West Community Leadership Program, the audience heard.

“Niel didn’t subscribe to the concept that he was born to rule but rather built his technical proficiency in dairy by attending Melbourne University and Dookie Agricultural College,” Mr Ford said.

“He then travelled to the USA to study dairying.

“The building of diverse networks quickly followed so that rather than just regurgitate facts, he could draw together threads from a range of sources to create insights that meant for Niel, one plus one defied the laws of mathematics and equalled three or five.”

While Mr Black’s work in the Victorian dairy industry gave him a public profile, it was his contribution to his family about which many of eulogists spoke.

Mr Black’s cousin, Maggie Black, from the UK, said he had great goodwill towards everyone.

“He was always positive, he was a great listener,” she said.

Mr Black’s stepsons said he was a good father to them after they moved to Mount Noorat from Melbourne in their teens following his marriage to their mother Josie.

Marcus Hunt said Mr Black was his moral compass.

“I didn’t want to be like him but I wanted a pinch of his generosity and a spoonful of his dedication,” he said.

Tara Reid, a daughter of Mr Black’s second wife, Eve, said Mr Black was an “interesting and interested man”. 

ehimmelreich@standard.fairfax.com.au

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