An Inspiring Legacy in John Brunner
The New South Wales grain industry, Manildra community and Manildra Group remembers an extraordinary man who shaped Manildra Flour Mill to become the largest in Australia, the late John Brunner.
Manildra Group Managing Director John Honan told The Cultivator, John was a man of “extreme integrity, reliability and honesty” whose authenticity was reflected in his approach to staff, community, customers, and his family – which he adored.
Mr Honan recalled long chats in the car with John to-and-from the airport in Orange to the Manildra Flour Mill on many of his regular visits.
“He genuinely and sincerely cared about your well-being and family. He was always interested to hear how family and business was going,” said Mr Honan.
Flour milling was in John’s blood. He assumed the role of Manildra Flour Mill Manager in 2009, bringing with him decades of experience in the industry. His attention to detail, calm demeanour, and fair hand, made him a well-respected member of the team, with our Gunnedah, and Narrandera Flour Mill Managers reporting to him.
But his passion for flour milling came second only to his family, proudly sharing stories from his home with his beloved wife Janelle and children, Lachlan, Harry and Sophie.
Regardless of how busy his day was, John always found the time to stop and check in with his peers to see how they were getting on. Without fail, John would greet you with a cheery good morning or good afternoon.
“As a mentor and father figure to so many, John genuinely cared about “you”, his door always open, willing and at the ready to provide advice to so many at Manildra Group. He was the ideal sounding board, and an excellent strategist always troubleshooting problems together,” Manildra Group Human Resources Coordinator, Donna Strahan fondly remembers.
“John would hold the 9am meeting with all the departmental heads, meticulously managed – he would never deviate from its order. He had a wicked sense of humour and being a proud Queenslander, he would often include remarks about the colour maroon if Queensland had won the State of Origin. He’d repeat his cheesy dad jokes two to three times just to ensure you heard him.”
“And he was always up for a chat – and loved telling you about Janelle and their kids – sharing funny stories about how Chester the outside dog, would sneak inside!” laughed Ms Strahan.
Renowned for always being one of the first on site and one of the last to leave – he would do the usual laps of the site, checking on all areas, chatting to staff and ensuring that the Mill was in top shape. He knew every worker’s name on site and never failed to offer guidance and advice.
Manildra Flour Mill Administration Officer Rebecca Hartmann recalls that over a coffee he would sit alongside former and the late Manildra Flour Mill Manager Neville Yeatman, reading the papers, responding to emails, chatting about life and the running of the Mill.
John was a “jack of all trades”; he did it all, guiding politicians, bankers, and customers through the Manildra Flour Mill, holding press conferences for local media, calculating product costings, and sorting out logistical issues.
John really was a “perfectionist” always ensuring that the product was delivered on time and to the highest-quality standards whilst proudly promoting health and safety on site, celebrating the mills highest record of 1,006 days without a lost time injury.
At home time, without fail, John would give you a call, often starting with the famous have you got five minutes?, which led to a long chat.
He genuinely wanted to know how your day was, what was on your mind, ask about your family and then tell stories about his family.
Manildra Flour Mill Production Manager Tony Fitzpatrick, worked with John for more than 11 years.
“He brought stability, calmness and cared passionately about the health and safety of his employees at Manildra.
“He was our leader, mentor, and friend – we looked to him for guidance and advice, always thinking about others before himself. He would always be there in times of need – trying his very best to help and be there always for everyone,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.
He enjoyed being part of the Manildra community, and while waiting for his lunch in the main street he would often join staff and locals – chatting with plenty of laughter.
Considerate and thoughtful, he formed many friendships in the local community – and was always there for them. From checking in on Lyn Woodhart at the Amusu Theatre and other community members, to visiting local farmers at Christmas with gifts of home- baked Christmas cakes, made with Manildra flour.
Mr Honan summed up the extraordinary man that was John Brunner best. “He was a genuinely great man, leader and friend. John is an inspiration missed by all of us at Manildra Group,” said Mr Honan.
“His legacy will be felt for many years to come.”