Our esteemed colleague and Association Member, Alan Vizer, passed away on 25th August, 2020 at the age of ninety.

Alan had forty years of loving marriage with his wife, Gwen, and forty years productive service with the Queensland Water Resources Commission.

Everyone, including Alan, has humorous stories about Alan's career with the Queensland Water Resources Commission.

On this page, we present tributes from Alan's former colleagues preceded by selected incidents in Alan's history.


The following responses to the page have been received from members of Alan's close family:

  • Wow, I am so moved by all of the stories. I'm sitting here laughing and crying at the same time. He was so well loved, not just by us but by all who knew him. Thank you. (Lucinda McGlashan)
  • I am so moved reading all the stories and the truly beautiful memories so many had of my wonderful, beloved Dad. Thank you so very much for honouring him through Water Resources. So heartwarming. So kind. (Natalie Vizer)


Alan was born in Sydney and subsequently attended Wynnum State Primary School and Wynnum State High School.

It seems that, from an early age, Alan was destined for a professional career in drafting. A report card from Wynnum State High School in 1946 shows Alan as top of his class. He excelled most in Geometrical Drawing and Perspective and in Trade Drawing.

In the Junior Public Examination, Alan achieved three As, five Bs, and two Cs. One of the As was in Geometrical Drawing.

After leaving school, Alan became a cadet draftsman and pursued his studies at the Central Technical College as an evening student. On some evenings, the lure of the Bellevue Hotel proved too great and one or two beers were had on the way to college.



On 10th March, 1947, Alan was appointed Cadet Draftsman on probation in the Sub Department of Irrigation and Water Supply of the Department of Public Lands.

This appointment was Alan's own choice after having been offered other similar employment. He had initially commenced a cadetship with the City Electric Light Co after answering an advertisement in the press. Then he was offered a public service position in the Surveyor General's Branch of the Department of Public Lands. He was tested and judged suitable. He transferred to the Irrigation and Water Supply Sub Department of the Department of Public Lands after expressing a preference for engineering drafting.

Danbulla Bridge Survey Camp

At the tender age of about twenty, Alan found himself working as the survey draftsman at the Danbulla Bridge survey camp on the Atherton Tableland. The Mareeba-Dimbulah Scheme was under construction. The camp was in the area now inundated by Tinaroo Dam.

Alan described the working and living conditions in an article in Newsletter No 50. "The sleeping/living quarters were shared canvas tents - two people per tent - with a dirt floor ... and lighting provided by carbide lamps. ... The beds ... consisted of a tubular steel rectangular frame with collapsible tubular steel legs, with the frame supporting a rigid chain wire base, as per the wire in a modern chain wire fence. The mattresses were single-bed sized hessian bags stuffed with straw. ... The toilet - and that's a very loose description - required the digging of a large pit over 3 feet ... in diameter and some 6 feet ... in depth, with a largish post about 4 feet ... high placed vertically at what might be termed the front of the pit. Two forked trees were cut and trimmed, then embedded also vertically at either side of the pit, and a suitable log placed across the pit resting in the trimmed forks, thus providing a 'seat' and a post to hold on to; so to retain one's balance. Not pretty but practical. ... The 'office' was just another tent. ... The drawing board was supported on a somewhat rickety table which required frequent adjustment, relocation, and various other forms of attention to maintain stability. The storage area for all drawings, paper, and cardboard tubing (for plan storage) was one of the previously described camp beds, sans mattress."

Despite the salubrious accommodation, there were some problems for the dedicated draftsman. One of these was the lighting. Alan continued: "When working on dull, overcast days, or early mornings, light inside the 'office' was somewhat less than perfect, so that two carbide lights were used, one placed at each of the top corners of the drawing board. This proved to be quite satisfactory until ..."

One day, these conditions gave rise to pandemonium. The carbide lights set fire to the "roof of the office." There was great panic until the flames were extingushed. Fortunately, the main damage was confined to the arsonist's pride. The roof of the office, ie the tent, was slightly damaged but there was no damage to the contents of the office.

Another problem related to the storage of plans. Alan described this as follows: "Because the basic material on which drawings were produced at that time was waxed linen, a material easily subject to damage, particularly by water, which when coming in contact with a drawing would cause the removal of the wax, and anything drawn on it, drawings had to be carefully stored to avoid damage. With condensation occurring regularly on the inside of the roof of the tent (office) overnight it was therefore necessary to roll up all drawings and cover them with additional paper wrapping and/or place them in cardboard tubing for protection. Just another responsibility for the field draftsman."

It took a visit from Commissioner Fred Haigh himself to deliver Alan from these conditions. Commissioner Haigh immediately saw the need for more suitable accommodation. Alan recalled the conversation as follows: Commissioner Haigh: "We'll move you up to Tinaroo. You wouldn't like to work under these conditions in Brisbane, would you?" Young, brash, confident (stupid) Cadet: "I'd look bloody silly with a tent pitched in the middle of Queen Street, wouldn't I, Mr Haigh?" Commissioner Haigh: "You'll move tomorrow."

Tinaroo Dam Construction Camp

Thus Alan moved to the Tinaroo Construction Camp.

Here is Alan's description of his new accommodation. "Luxury! Sheer bloody luxury! An office comprising a corrugated galvanized iron shed with a concrete floor, sleeping/living quarters consisting of a canvas tent (one occupant) with an actual timber floor, a spring bed with a real mattress, and an outside wood stove (shared with three other people) protected from the elements by more galvanized corrugated iron sheeting - these being the staff amenities provided in the early stages of construction at Tinaroo Dam in 1952."

East Barron Survey Camp

Another memorable encounter between Alan and Fred Haigh occurred on one occasion when Alan was working at the East Barron Survey Camp. This camp was just out of Mareeba on the way to Cairns.

Things were very hot and humid in summer and there was no air conditioning. Perspiration was the enemy of the professional draftsman. Alan used to work in nothing but his jocks.

One day, Alan was attired in this manner when the phone rang. The call was from Col Taggart in Mareeba. Col announced that Fred was on his way just as Fred's car pulled up at the doorstep. Fred alighted from the car. Alan said: "Hello, Mr Haigh." Fred got back in the car and drove off without saying a word.

Gentle readers need to understand that Mr Haigh was a very imperious gentleman indeed. His demeanor was extremely intimidating in spite of the fact that he had a heart of gold deep down.

After this encounter, Alan always kept a pair of shorts handy while drafting in his jocks.


Alan's exploits in Mareeba are legendary.

Don Alexander remembers some of the stories. Don joined the Commission in Mareeba in 1964, some years after Alan had left. He heard stories from the local football club where Alan had played half back.

Rivers and Streams

In 1959, Alan was promoted to Senior Draftsman.

Jim Callum met Alan in 1959 when he joined Rivers and Streams Branch as a cadet engineer and they became close friends. Jim says: "Alan was a cartographer and a perfectionist in his work. He created hand drawn maps that were lodged with the Lands Department. They were masterpieces. He also created the perfect 'O.'"

Jim continues: "Alan had a caring nature and a creative sense of humour that brought sunshine to the workplace. He loved people and they enjoyed his kindness and generosity. He was always happy to see you. He was a great organiser and, when there was an opportunity, he would arrange a party or a picnic for all of his friends. Memories of those good times are still vivid. I met my wife Susan as the result of one of these occasions fifty-seven years ago."


Alan had a stint in the Commission office in Rockhampton.

Mick Merrin reports that he met Alan in 1969 when Alan returned to Rivers and Streams Branch from Rockhamption in a swap with Norm White.

Groundwater Branch

In 1982, Alan was appointed Supervising Draftsman in Groundwater Branch upon the retirement of Bill Bellion.

It was at this stage that Alan invented the name "Super Vizer" for himself.

Jon Henry recalls that Alan was indeed super. He took a keen interest in ensuring that all output from his section suited the purpose as perfectly as possible. Just after Alan joined Groundwater Branch, Jon was astonished to see him actually doing hands-on work himself. That was the way it was - Alan was a great team member as well as a very effective leader.

In 1986, Groundwater and Surface Water Branches were combined to form Water Resources Division. Alan was appointed Divisional Draftsman.

Computer Aided Drafting

Alan was very proud of his role in the introduction of Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) to the Commission around 1988 (and Gwen is too).

Gwen recalls that Alan came back from a conference in Perth with the idea. He did not like waiting for the plane, did not like flying, and did not like having to come back via Adelaide.

Neville Ablitt has kindly supplied further information on the initiation of the CAD revolution.

Some of the impetus came from a conference in Canberra on Computer Aided Drafting and Geographical Information Systems. The conference was attended by Alan, Neville, and Gary Russell.

Neville was appointed CAD Coordinator under Alan in Water Resources Division. Neville recalls that Alan was at the forefront of making submissions to gain the necessary approvals for the spread of CAD throughout the Commission.

One of the many problems that had to be addressed was the noise generated by the large printer that generated the hardcopy of the drawings produced with CAD. The draftsmen took pity on the ears of other staff and constructed a cardboard room to enclose the printer. Neville suspects that Alan had quite a job selling the idea to the Commission hierarchy and protecting the construction from the Works Department.

Another problem was that the mainframe computer that ran the early CAD software lived at the State Government Computer Centre. A high speed communication link was required to allow its use from other locations. Alan provided the support necessary for the installation of satellite communications to enable the Commission's Ayr office to adopt CAD.

Retirement from Commission

Retirement from the Commission came for Alan in June of 1990. This was a momentous event.

The draftsmen always liked to send off senior colleagues in style. Alan was such a popular bloke that he received extra special treatment. A realistic "newspaper" was produced with the headline "Mr V Retires." He was presented with an enourmous crossword, called the "Craptic Crossword" so as not to be confused with the "Cryptic Crossword" that appeared in conventioanl newspapers. This was in honour of Alan's habit of taking the newspaper under his arm if he had to leave the drawing office for a visit to the little office.

There was a well-attended function after work at a venue near the office. Jon Henry felt extremely honoured to be invited to share a cab home with Alan and Gwen. Once in the cab, Jon's pride soon gave way to great consternation. The cabbie somehow took offense at Alan's jubilance and threatened to throw him out of the cab on the Captain Cook Bridge. The cabbie had absolutely no empathy with Gwen's advice that Alan deserved due respect because he was retiring after forty years of service. Jon hastens to point out that the altercation had nothing to do with anything that any of the passengers had drunk at the function. Obviously the cabbie had no concept of forty years service with the one organisation.


Water Resources Retirees' Association

Alan was an active member of the Water Resources Retirees' Association. He and Gwen attended many functions.

Currumbin SLSC

Alan was, for a time, a member of the Currumbin Surf Life Saving Club. He rose to the rank of Vice Captain.

In one incident, Alan and his crew mates survived the demise of their club's champion surf boat in mountainous seas. The photograph below shows this boat.



From what we have heard, football, horses, and dogs were enduring interests of Alan.

The football feats of Alan at Mareeba have been mentioned above.

In Brisbane, Alan joined the Commission rugby league team, "The Sharks." The Sharks played in the Public Service League until about 1976. The left over team members then formed a touch football team, still called The Sharks. In 1980, The Sharks touch team joined the Brisbane Touch Association. The 1980 team is pictured in the photograph below, L to R: Mick Garvey, Don Alexander, Warren Hutton, Reg Barr, Alan Vizer, Grant Dreaver, Ray Head, Keith Carter, Wally Donovan, and Gary Schramm.



Neville Ablitt

Alan was a truly good and supportive boss.

Don Alexander

I started in the Mareeba IWS Office in 1964 as a 18 year old Cadet after leaving school. I had moved back to Mareeba from Cairns in 1961 and began playing club football whilst still at school. By this time Alan had left Mareeba a few years earlier and I was playing with some older players who told me about an Alan Vizer who played halfback with the Mareeba Club. He was renowned for his tackling ability playing football. They related many stories of this nuggety, single bloke who loved football, beer, punting and the young ladies, not necessarily in that order.

When I was transferred to Brisbane in 1977, my League Football days were over and I was playing Touch Football. I was invited to join the IWS Touch Football club playing in the Public Service Competition. This is where I met Alan whose reputation had gone before him. During a game, an opposition player had made a break and looked like he was going to score. Alan set off in cover defence. He caught up to him near the side line and launched into a tackle and bundled him over the side line in spectacular fashion. I had followed Alan in pursuit of the opposition player and when I caught up Alan was getting up off the ground and the opposition player still lay on the ground with a look of disbelief on his face. Alan had a wide smile on his face and I think his chest was poking out a bit more than normal. I said, "Alan this is Touch not League." Everybody was laughing, as well as the referee, with tears running down our eyes, by which time Alan had a very embarrassed look on his face and said "Well I got him." The referee awarded the opposition a penalty and the game continued.

Jim Callum

Alan should have won a Lilly Medal for Scholarship but he didn't. He deserved one. He never held grudges. He always looked on the bright side of life. We shared stories and laughed together and I enjoyed his company. He was one of a kind. He was my friend. He will be sorely missed.

Mike Gidley

I have fond memories of a great jovial bloke and a damn good boss. With nearly 45 years in the water industry only a few bosses have stood out like Alan. My condolences to Gwen Lucinda and Alan's other family.

Peter Gilbey

Really was a great bloke and we had some good times when he would come up to Rocky to relieve Norm White. I remember one Saturday morning we called around to where Alan was staying to be met by a very worried lady who had tried to wake him up and seeing the state he was in thought he had died! Turns out he had his spaghetti sauce all over the bed which she took for blood! They don't make them like Vize anymore.

Jon Henry

It was a great privilege for me to have experienced the warmth of Alan's friendship as well as to have worked professionally with him.

Just after Alan joined Groundwater Branch, Karla (my wife) was going to Bowen to spend Christmas with her mother and I was not able to go. Upon hearing this, Alan invited me to his place to have Christmas breakfast with him, Gwen, family members, and other friends. I could not believe that a new workmate could be so generous. The tradition continued for many years and I shall be forever grateful.

Alan liked Drambuie. One Christmas, Karla made some for him and we put it in a small presentation bottle - about 5 ounces. To show his appreciation, Alan drank the whole lot during the course of Christmas morning.

On another occasion, Alan and Gwen were coming for lunch with Karla and I. I rang to warn them that all beer at my place was premium quality, full flavoured, naturally brewed, chemical free, boutique ale personally crafted by me. The idea was that Alan could bring some XXXX if he wanted chemical beer. Gwen took my call and refused to have anything to do with bringing chemical beer. They duly arrived and Vizer got stuck into my pale ale. The rate of consumption suggested that he was enjoying it so I asked what he thought of it. In the driest and most unenthusiastic tone, he quipped "It's beer" and continued drinking with great gusto.

Warren Hutton

I first met Alan (Viz) when I was transferred to Rivers and Streams Branch in Brisbane from Emerald in 1970. Viz was a Senior Draftsman and I was an assistant Water Advisor but we soon become friends and that friendship lasted 50 years. Viz was an unforgettable character and he always had a smile on his face. Many times when I was feeling down I would go over and have a chat to Viz because I knew that, when I walked away, I too would be smiling.

Through Public Service Rugby League football and later though many years of touch football the Vizer family and the Hutton family came to spend many enjoyable weekends involved in these sports. Although Viz was perhaps the oldest member in the touch football side he played like a twenty year old. He had a fierce determination and a never die attitude.

In one game of touch, I was captain and Viz was playing on the wing. When the opposition scored a try through the middle I immediately replaced Viz on the wing. Viz was ropeable and after the game neither of us spoke to each other. When I got home Alan's beautiful wife Gwen invited me down to the pub to have a beer. When we arrived, Gwen told Viz and I to pick up our dummies and stop acting like kids. We did and walked out the pub the best of friends.

I first met Gwen when Mick Garvey and I were babysitting our five children while our wives were away on a girls weekend. After changing dirty nappies and refereeing kids' fights all day Mick and I were ready to play when Viz arrived with his new girlfriend Gwen. After copious beers and many hours later Viz, Mick and I were speaking in Braille while Gwen was speaking as the lady that she is. At that time we decided to pick the greatest Australian Rugby League team of all time. Viz Mick and I made that side.

Viz was a giant of a man in most ways. He was a superb draftsman and a super mate.

Bob McDonald

Along with many other Water employees, Chris and I attended Alan's funeral at Mt Gravatt on Friday 4 September. We all experienced the loving family side of Alan that I never saw him broadcast at work.

I am 15 years younger than Alan and living in Mareeba during the late 1950s, actually picnicked at the Danbulla bridge with older family many times. No sign of any burnt out offices by then. Wild jungle country, 2000 feet above sea level with giant pythons and big fast taipans. The Tinaroo Ck Road Survey Camp was in existence when I commenced work in the Mareeba office as a cadet in 1964 and the under pants event was still being discussed then.

Personally, I never worked in an office with Alan but one couldn't attend our irregular drafting meetings and not be influenced by his presence. I finally arrived on Fl 3 Mineral House in mid 1987 but Alan was many floors up somewhere and we only met occasionally.

Following six weeks sick leave in 1994, Alan's visits to Floor 13 to check if I was still surviving were much appreciated.

However, we got to know each other well and after retirement we met with Alan and Gwen on a number of occasions, even lunch at the Tweed Heads Golf Club when we lived in NSW. What a man.

Mick Merrin

I well remember those good times with Vizer in Rocky too. He was great guy with a little more "personality" than many of his counterparts at the time.

I first came across Vize as a 17 year-old cadet in Rivers & Streams Branch in 1966 when he came back to Brisbane from Rocky in a swap with Norm White.

Can't remember how this happened, but one night I ended up at the dogs at the Gabba with Vizer and he introduced me to some of the interesting characters and practices of those who followed the dogs in those days - a very interesting learning experience for a naive 17 year old at the time. The wonder is that I can actually remember the experience at all, as there was a fair degree of imbibing involved when Vize was around.

Gordon Paton

Alan was a respected and admired man in the Groundwater Drafting group. I recall that after he retired we organized a surprise Christmas party for him at his house, everyone and their families from the drafting group turned up, and that was during the Christmas break. As you might know he did like a drink or two especially port.

Ian Pullar

I knew him as an affable fun-loving bloke who liked a beer or three.

Phil Sternes

He was a stand out character amongst a bunch of other real characters of that era.

Some memories: He bought a you beaut Honda when he retired one with four wheel steering which cost a bomb. When our eldest Peter was a baby we ran into him at Garden City one day and he did a coothcie, coothcie, coo act on Peter and Peter was absolutely fascinated by him. At Harry Wright's retirement function Bernie Credlin began his speech along the lines (remembering that Harry had fallen down his driveway the night before); "as you get old you lose things; Malcolm Pegg has lost his sense of humour, Alan Vizer has lost his hair and Harry has lost his sense of balance" - brought the house down.

Roy Wheeler

My wife Vera worked with Al for over 10 years back in the seventies in what was then Rivers and Streams Branch. She clearly remembers that when she saw Al fold up his newspaper and head for the loos he would be gone for at least 1/2 an hour - maybe even a whole hour. She'd say "See you soon Al" as he walked past her desk. (You may remember Vera as Wilmington before we got married).

My own pervading memory of Al Vizer was that he had such a great sense of humour, and a really devilish laugh. He always seemed cheerful and I remember him always being involved heavily with any "draftie" get-togethers that were organised regularly back in the day.

Natalie Vizer

I have so many memories of traipsing into the city to see Dad in his office during school holidays. Often me and a school friend would "pick him up" so he could take us to lunch at the Pancake Manor.

And I have many football and touch memories as he would drag me around as a solo weekend Dad naturally would. So much fun.

His desk credenza was organised into neat flat piles of work and reminders and it looked just like his side of the long dressing table that he shared with Gwen!

I was and remain deeply connected to Dad despite living away from Brisbane for over 20 years. He was so dependable and hilarious and generous. And he truly respected me as a person from the time I was born, always being open to any of my ideas and opinions. Dad was also a treasure of a grandfather.

6th September, 2020