Paul Couvret

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Paul Couvret
OAM JP
33rd Shire President of Warringah
In office
19 September 1979 – 24 September 1983
Deputy Richard Legg
Mark Hummerston
Brian Green
John Bradford
Preceded by Gavin Anderson
Succeeded by Darren Jones
Deputy Shire President of Warringah
In office
21 June 1978 – 19 September 1979
President Gavin Anderson
Preceded by Gavin Anderson
Succeeded by Richard Legg
Councillor on Warringah Council
In office
24 February 1973 – 4 December 1985
Preceded by Thomas Farrell
Constituency B Riding/D Riding
In office
14 March 1987 – 9 September 1995
Succeeded by Liz Jones
Constituency D Riding/C Ward
Personal details
Born (1922-06-05)5 June 1922
Batavia, Dutch East Indies
Died 5 July 2013(2013-07-05) (aged 91)
Belrose, New South Wales, Australia
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Hilja Seltam
Children Paul Couvret
Thomas Andrew Couvret
Michael Anthony Couvret
Christopher Mark Couvret[1]
Occupation Teacher
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
Military service
Allegiance  Netherlands
Service/branch Netherlands Royal Netherlands East Indies Army
Naval Jack of the Netherlands.svg Royal Netherlands Navy
Years of service 1941 – 1947
Rank Pilot Officer
Unit Netherlands Naval Aviation Service
Battles/wars World War II

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 June 1922 in Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies, the son of Paul Couvret, an accountant, and Anne-Marie, a trained nurse. 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 on board the Asama Maru 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]

Immigration to Australia[edit]

Upon being liberated by sailors of the US Navy on 11 September 1945, 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 the Netherlands. 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 Seltam, an Estonian migrant.[1] They were married at the St Peter's Presbyterian Church, Cowra, on 25 August 1951. 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, retiring in August 1982.[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 Deputy Shire President in 1978 and then 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][10] In June 2014, Warringah Council voted to commemorate Couvret's service by installing a plaque in his honour, to be placed at the Oxford Falls Peace Park, of which Couvret had been a driving force in its establishment and conservation of the historic one-room school.[11] The plaque was unveiled on ANZAC Day 2015.[12] In August 2014, the Dutch Ambassador to Australia, Annemieke Ruigrok, launched the publication of Couvret's memoirs: "Memoirs of Paul Couvret: A story of colonialism and war, peace and reconciliation in the Pacific", compiled by historian Edith van Loo.[13][14]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Community service followed POW experiences for former teacher" (PDF). 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" (PDF). Warringah Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2009. 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. 
  10. ^ Morcombe, John (9 July 2013). "Paul Couvret: A life of dedicated service to the community". The Manly Daily. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  11. ^ Deare, Steven (9 June 2014). "Warringah Council tributes to honour Paul Couvret, Dennis Pecover and Jim Somerville". The Manly Daily. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  12. ^ Morcombe, John (18 August 2015). "Veteran joins the dance of peace but also remember the pain of war". The Manly Daily. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  13. ^ "Memoires Paul Couvret" (Media Release). Embassy, Consulate-General and Consulates, Australia. Kingdom of the Netherlands. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  14. ^ Van Loo, Edith; Compufax Publishing Company Pty Ltd (issuing body.) (2014), Memoirs : Paul Couvret, Mooroolbark, VIC Compufax Publishing Company Pty Ltd, retrieved 14 June 2016 
Civic offices
Preceded by
Gavin Anderson
Deputy Shire President of Warringah
1978 – 1979
Succeeded by
Richard Legg
Preceded by
Gavin Anderson
Shire President of Warringah
1979 – 1983
Succeeded by
Darren Jones