Doug Sawkins

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Doug Sawkins.

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Unsung Heroes

Revealing the Remarkable in Seemingly Ordinary People

Doug Sawkins

Born and raised in the Perth suburb of Claremont, and being brought up around the Swan River where his father owned the boat shed at the bottom of Mounts Bay Road, Doug decided, after winning a scholarship to UWA, that he'd study Fisheries. He was, however, given a place in Agriculture and newly graduated with his degree, he was immediately conscripted into the Army for service in the war in Vietnam..

As part of the 1st Australian Civil Affairs Unit he describes as a hearts and minds operation which included Engineers, Doctors, Dentists and Teachers, Doug, as an Agricultural NCO, with a driver, armed guard and translator, travelled in their Jeep between villages doing jobs for the inhabitants. One of those jobs was building chicken coops which earned Doug the nickname "chicken man." He did this work for the better part of a year with the possibility that he might be killed at any time, but still, Doug insists, having reasonable conditions, the contribution he made was nothing compared with that of the front line soldiers. Doug considers his experiences in Vietnam were valuable, though he and all those who served, not having a choice to refuse, returned home where many were ostracised by the society that had sent them.

Transferred to the Narrogin Department of Agriculture in 1986, Doug has from that time to the present enjoyed, with his family, walking, bike riding and volunteering in Foxes Lair. It is a place of solace for him.
When the Friends of Foxes Lair formed in 1999, Doug was the group co-ordinator and had a major role in the preparation and ongoing implementation of the Foxes Lair Management plan. He created and manages the Foxes Lair website www.foxeslair.org and a popular Foxypress blog, as well as being an administrator of the Foxes Lair facebook group. In recent years, Doug has branched out into local tourism and has created tourist information that includes brochures for eco-tourist attractions in the Narrogin region. With interests in Geology and Natural Science, Doug is keen to keep learning.

Doug's wife Aileen tells of an occasion when he was invited to join his son Andrew's troop of Scouts when they were to learn about camouflage. Andrew, aged about 8 or 9 and having an ex serviceman as his father, was at a distinct advantage and learned the craft well. After extensive preparation, concealment in Foxes Lair and a most successful experiment, everyone piled into the bus for the homeward journey. They had already started off and Doug had not missed his only son who was padding frantically up the track after them. Aileen was incredulous to learn of these events, particularly as Andrew had dead-give-away very blonde hair.

Doug loves being in the bush, considering it a privilege to be able to work in Foxes Lair and share his knowledge with visitors, many of whom travel long distances specifically to see him and share the Foxes Lair experience.


Unsung Heroes
Revealing the remarkable in seemly ordinary people


Portrait painted by Graham Smith 2020.
Text compiled by Jan Smith from notes provided with the nomination in 2020.

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