VALE: Industry Trailblazer Dr Kim Ritman

Dr Kim Ritman
(Tribute is provided by Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia. Reprinted here with permission)

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Dr Kim Ritman, Australia’s Chief Plant Protection Officer.

Many of you will have met and worked with Kim and understand that he built a deep and rich legacy within the biosecurity and scientific community, across industry and government and all sectors more broadly, and with anyone who knew him.

Kim’s distinguished career spanned many years in the Australian Government. In 2002, he commenced with the Bureau of Rural Sciences in Landscape Management Sciences before taking up various General Manager roles and the Acting Executive Manager role.

In 2010, Kim was appointed as the Chief Scientist in ABARES and led and managed science-based policy advice for government in many areas. In 2013, Kim was instrumental in creating and launching the Department of Agriculture’s inaugural Science Strategy. As Chief Scientist, Kim also hosted the annual National Science Exchange conference and championed our Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

In 2014, Kim’s role as Chief Scientist was integrated with the Australia’s Chief Plant Protection Officer role. He became the primary representative and advisor to the Australian Government on all matters relating to Australia’s plant health status and its supporting systems.

Kim has represented the Australian Government at the International Plant Protection Convention, the G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists, Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed meetings, the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative and the national Plant Health Committee.

Kim’s distinguished career has resulted in a substantial legacy of strengthened biosecurity systems for managing the risk that exotic plant pests and diseases pose to Australia. He developed strong relationships with counterparts all over the world and was a highly respected and influential member of the international community in science, plant biosecurity and biosecurity more broadly. He was key in developing, promoting and leading science policy to strengthen credibility and integrity, and to increase the nation’s scientific capability.

Kim’s enthusiasm, passion and knowledge and his willingness to share this with others for the betterment of the whole biosecurity system across plants, wildlife, environment and animals is something he will be well remembered for.

Sadly, Kim’s notable contribution to agricultural science was cut short in 2019 following a serious motor vehicle accident which, after a long and brave battle, he unfortunately did not recover from.

Kim will be remembered in many ways and to honour his distinguished career, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment have established a departmental award called the ‘Dr Kim Ritman Award for Science Excellence’ to be awarded to individuals or small teams who have made significant contributions to the scientific work of the department.

In addition, a new Australian Biosecurity Award category named the ‘Dr Kim Ritman Award for Science and Innovation’ will recognise innovation in biosecurity across industry, government and the community.

We offer Kim’s family our most sincere and deepest condolences during this difficult time and feel privileged to have known Kim as a colleague, a mentor and a friend.