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VALE PHIL HADLINGTON 1923-2021

Ion Staunton takes a moment to reflect on the legacy of industry stalwart Phil Hadlington, following his passing on March 29, 2021.

 

If you can identify and name a couple of dozen insect pests, three rodent pests, another three bird pests, then easily explain their life cycles, habits and maybe a dozen pesticides that could be used in treatment procedures to manage each of them… you are not alone. There are about 8,500 technicians around Australia who are welcomed into homes and businesses every day because they know how to control pests without endangering the safety of their customers and pets.

It wasn’t always like this. You would have been one of a kind back in the mid 1950s. In 1956, 65 years ago, one man changed our rag-tag vocation into what has become a respected and essential industry. That man was Phil Hadlington (pictured above, centre). He died on March 29, 2021 aged 97. If you’d met him, you won’t have forgotten him; you may have only seen his name on a couple of textbooks – Urban Pest Management in Australia and Australian Termites – but he changed us.

How? He became a teacher.

Before then, he was a forest entomologist with the NSW Forestry Commission and his knowledge about termites and borers was sought out by the managers of pest exterminators around Sydney. The NSW State Government was almost constantly fielding complaints: pests weren’t being controlled, chemicals were being dangerously misused… almost entirely through ignorance. A technical college course was needed and Phil Hadlington was asked to devise it and teach it.

It was a one-year course during which mature students took down handwritten notes and labelled their drawings in a book they had to hand in after the final exam in November. They also had to collect, label and pin out insect pests in a box, representing at least ten Orders and about a dozen different common pests. They watched, as with his misshapen fingers, he dextrously dissected phasmids while conversationally explaining internal and external anatomy. The students loved it all. Thirty students a year, and almost everyone completed the course because he was that sort of bloke!

During the half-time break, he discussed customers’ rights and the need to be responsible for the best job possible under varying circumstances. Honesty and integrity was the foundation of getting customer referrals. In 1963, Choice magazine really did a number on about ten companies that were called out to a home to inspect and quote for termite control. Some found termites, some didn’t, the prices and the warranties varied enormously. Phil had organised Ted Taylor to thoroughly inspect and itemise the various sites of visible termite activity and recommend treatment. The Choice exposé was taken up by all the Sydney newspapers, and some TV and radio stations.

The companies went into immediate damage control mode and Phil suggested they should get together and sort themselves out. The United Pest Control Association was formed in NSW. I was honoured to hold the position of first Secretary, and be co-author of the first textbook with Phil (and co-teacher of its contents). There were soon pest control associations in each mainland state and in time, the Council of Australian Pest Control Associations was formed to bring those associations, and the industry, together.

Sure, I was influenced and I had some effect on the development of the associations which in turn influenced the members, but I wasn’t the only one. Hundreds of students were influenced as were the managers of companies. Because of Phil, pest exterminators became pest managers and the industry as it is bears little to no resemblance to what it was prior to 1956.

Phil Hadlington AOM, change agent… we honour and thank him.

 

Ion Staunton