Born in 1958 in Ballarat, Malcolm possessed a deep understanding of Land Surveying and a strategic, logical approach to running a surveying business. His journey began when he was only four years old. His family relocated to Devonport and his father, Neville, co-founded Lester Franks Surveyors with colleague Earl Franks. Over the next 25 years, the family company flourished, with Malcolm spending his holidays and spare time working and chaining, learning the trade.
Malcolm’s academic pursuits initially led him to study Medicine at university. However, his love for travel led him to explore Europe, India, and Malaysia. Fortunately for our profession, he returned to study Surveying, obtaining a Bachelor of Surveying from the University of Tasmania, in 1980. During his travels in the early 1980’s, he met his first wife Ellen, a Norwegian. They were married in 1987 and spent the next decade working between Norway and Australia.
In the early 90’s, Malcolm faced personal challenges as Earl Franks passed away, and his father suffered a severe heart attack. Malcom, once carefree, stepped up as a director in the family company, transforming it from a company of eight or so employees, into a company of nearly 50 with offices across Australia.
Nicholas Davies, Veris Client Director, reflected on his time at Lester Franks and noted that Malcolm saw the beauty of the profession, was to be able to take a range of evidence and solve a complex Land Title question, and enjoyed using his ability to solve complex engineering problems to create solutions for clients. Malcolm was generous with his knowledge, a trait that led Nicholas to join the company.
Malcolm was always keen to give back to his profession. In the early 1990’s he followed Malcolm Leary as a Tasmanian director for Association of Consulting Surveyors Australia (ACSA), which became integrated into SIBA in 2003, now incorporated into Geospatial Council of Australia. He was Chairman of ACSA in 1995-96, and Chairman of Consulting Surveyors Quality Corporation (CSQC) from 2005-17.
Trevor Grant, a long-term ACSA director from South Australia as well as director of Todd Alexander Surveyors, was impressed by Malcolm’s boardroom leadership. Trevor found this skill extended to project management and entrepreneurial flair, leading to a successful merger of Todd Alexander and Lester Franks. Trevor fondly remembers Malcolm as forward thinking and always the philosopher with respect to running a business.
Simon Wood, the first Program Manager for CSQC, remembers his first meeting with Malcolm, in the mid 1990’s, where he was reflectively gazing out of the window at National Surveyors House in Canberra, having just arrived for his first ACSA Board Meeting. Malcolm spoke enthusiastically of his desire to learn from his time on the industry governing board. Over the ensuing years he built a major surveying practice. He also willingly gave his time to assist others with his experience and insights. Simon praised Malcolm as CSQC Chair, noting that he focused strongly on strategy and performance, thinking creatively in response to periodic challenges confronting the organisation.
John Carter, a New Zealand based surveyor and director of CSQC from 2006-17 under Malcolm’s Chairmanship, states: “Malcolm was clearly a man in control of his business, with a strong emphasis on QA systems to better manage his survey practice – i.e. better manage deliverables, better manage finance, better manage risk, and better manage staff. He instilled in me a strong desire to improve those aspects of my own business, and to share with my NZ colleagues the bottom-line benefits that arise through implementing an effective quality assurance system. There were no compromises.”
In 2009, Malcolm met his soulmate, Professor Shuhong Chai, at the University of Tasmania Maritime College. Their marriage in 2015 marked a significant chapter in his life. Although Malcolm faced health challenges in recent years, his decline was swift, and he passed away peacefully, surrounded by his close family.
While Malcolm’s impact extended beyond the boardroom, his calm presence, intellectual curiosity, and interest in diverse perspectives left an enduring impression. His legacy as a mentor and leader will be remembered fondly by those who had the privilege of knowing him.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to Malcolm’s family, friends, and all those whose lives he touched.