Paul Couvret

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Paul Couvret
OAM JP
34th Shire President of Warringah
In office
19 September 1979 – 24 September 1983
Preceded by Gavin Anderson
Succeeded by Darren Jones
Personal details
Born (1922-06-05)5 June 1922
Netherlands
Died 5 July 2013(2013-07-05) (aged 91)
Belrose, New South Wales, Australia
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Hilja Couvret
Children Paul Couvret
Thomas Couvret
Michael Couvret
Christopher Couvret[1]
Occupation Teacher
Military service
Allegiance  Netherlands
Service/branch Naval Jack of the Netherlands.svg Royal Netherlands Navy
Years of service 1940 – 1947
Rank Pilot Officer
Unit Netherlands Naval Aviation Service
Battles/wars World War II
Awards OrderAustraliaRibbon.png OAM
Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Centenary Medal
NLD Order of Orange-Nassau - Knight BAR.png Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau

Paul Couvret OAM, JP (5 June 1922 – 5 July 2013) was a Dutch–born Australian military veteran, New South Wales schoolteacher and local Councillor. He was a councillor on Warringah Council from 1973 to 1995 and was previously Shire President from 1979–1983.

Early life and background[edit]

Couvret was born in 1922 in the Netherlands, but soon moved with his parents to settle in the Dutch East Indies, where he grew up. When World War Two came to the Netherlands in 1940, Couvret signed up to the Royal Netherlands Navy but by the time the East Indies were invaded by the Empire of Japan, he was taken prisoner during service in the Indian Ocean on 8 March 1942, aged 20. He was subsequently transported to Nagasaki in October 1942, where he spent the rest of the war. On 9 August 1945, Couvret was working in the a sunken dock in Nagasaki harbour when an atom bomb exploded six kilometres away. He dived under the ship he had been working on and was thus protected from the explosion.[2]

Upon being liberated, Couvret returned to service with the Dutch Navy, this time as a pilot in the Netherlands Naval Aviation Service.[2] His father had died in a Japanese prison in Bandoeng and his mother had died of starvation in a nearby women's camp. Therefore, at the end of 1945 he came to Australia for six months to assist with the evacuation of prisoners of war from the East. Couvret was eventually demobilised in July 1947 and then repatriated to Holland. However, he decided to return to Australia, arriving in Sydney on the SS Volendam in January 1949, aged 27.

Couvret eventually settled in the rural town of Cowra, New South Wales, becoming a Primary School teacher at the Cowra Migrant Centre, where he met his wife, Hilja, an Estonian migrant.[1] Here, he eventually acquired Australian naturalisation in 1951, which enabled him to gain employment with the NSW Department of Education. His first position was teaching physical education at Cowra High School, where he remained for ten years, and then as Special Master at Lithgow High School. Eventually he took the position of Special Master at Balgowlah Boys High School, which enabled him to move back to Sydney and settle in the Forest district of the North Shore. His last position as a teacher was his role as Deputy Principal of the NSW Correspondence School.[2] He strongly involved in his local community, joining the Apex club, Frenchs Forest Rotary and was a founding member of Belrose Rotary Club.[2]

Council[edit]

Couvret started his career in local government when the local 'B' riding councillor, Thomas Farrell retired, sparking a by-election for his seat on Warringah Shire Council. Couvret was subsequently elected as an Independent on 24 February 1973. For the 1977 elections, C Riding was split into two and Couvret's B riding was renamed D riding.[3] Couvret eventually rose to be Shire President in September 1979, where he presided over long-term planning for the Warringah area and various projects, including the Glen Street Theatre and the Oxford Falls Peace Park. He served as President until 1983.[3]

Couvret remained as a councillor until the council was dismissed in December 1985 by the Wran Government following supposed discrepancies in council planning decisions. However, following a successful legal challenge against the government by the NSW Fraud Ombudsman, it was subsequently found that there was no evidence of corruption to support the dismissal, and that “the elected councillors were denied natural justice and were both unfairly and unlawfully dismissed". When the council was returned on 14 March 1987 after the local elections, Couvret was returned as a councillor.[4] In 1993 Couvret returned to Nagasaki to attend a conference of Mayors for Peace. He met a Japanese woman who as a child had been forced to work in the same shipyard.[5]

Remaining on Council, following the proclamation of former A Riding as Pittwater Council, his D Riding was renamed 'C Ward', and served until his retirement in 1995 (following the passing of the Local Government Act 1993, Warringah Council dropped 'Shire' and Shire Presidents became Mayors).[3] In addition, Couvret served on the executive of the Local Government Association of NSW for eight years.[1]

Later life[edit]

In 1998 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) "for service to local government through the Warringah Shire Council, to veterans, and to the community"[6] and is also on the Order of Australia Medal Committee. Couvret also received the Centenary Medal in 2001.[7] He is also the President of the Dutch Australia Association and the Netherlands Ex-Servicemen & Women's Association. Couvret has also been President of Wakehurst Public School and Davidson High School parents and citizens associations.[2] On 25 February 2011, he was appointed by Queen Beatrix as a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau and invested at a ceremony commemorating the Battle of the Java Sea by the Dutch Consul-General in Sydney, Jaap Fredericks.[8] Couvret died aged 91 on 5 July 2013.[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Community service followed POW experiences for former teacher". The Cowra Guardian. 9 August 2013. p. 11. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e O'Dea, Jonathan (28 June 2007). "Mr Paul Couvret". Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Presidents, Mayors, Councillors, Shire Clerks and General Managers of Warringah Council". Warringah Council. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  4. ^ Collier, Shayne (26 March 1987). "Warringah Reborn". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  5. ^ Caulfield, editor, Michael (2007). Voices of war: Australians tell their stories from World War 1 to the present. Sydney: Hachette Livre Australia. pp. 370–371. ISBN 978-0-7336-2237-3. 
  6. ^ "COUVRET, Paul - OAM". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "COUVRET, Paul - Centenary Medal". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. Retrieved 15 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "Arise Knight, Paul Couvret". The Manly Daily. 4 March 2011. p. 19. Retrieved 16 September 2012. 
  9. ^ "Obituary Notice - Paul Couvret". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
Civic offices
Preceded by
Gavin Anderson
Shire President of Warringah
1979 – 1983
Succeeded by
Darren Jones