Mr David Crawford AO honoured with Outstanding Achievement award

By Tessa Shaw

Vision, integrity and family make up the pillars of success for David Crawford AO (BCom 1966, LLB 1973), who has dedicated his life to serving some of Australia’s largest public companies, sporting organisations and arts and educational institutions.

For his outstanding passion and leadership demonstrated throughout his distinguished career, David has been awarded the 2021 Faculty of Business and Economics Alumni of Distinction award for Outstanding Achievement. This includes his involvement in numerous public companies, his focus on the review and restructure of national sporting bodies, and his contributions to arts and educational organisations.

And even while at university, David’s leadership stood out to his peers.

Hugh Morgan AC, 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award recipient, recalls going to the University of Melbourne with David.

“He must surely be one of the most remarkable individuals to have been a student of what was the Faculty of Commerce at the time of his presence at Melbourne University.”

I make that generous statement in the knowledge that his business and voluntary commitments found him almost exclusively as the peer group selected chairman of each entity for which he was engaged.

David’s first job after graduating with his accounting degree was working for his father-in-law, Jack Couzens at Couzens and Co., for about four years.  During this time, he developed a keen interest in insolvency; he saw not only the opportunity to specialise in it, but also an opportunity to take that specialisation to one of the big accounting firms at the time.

Having been knocked back by one of the big firms, KPMG (then Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co) believed in David’s vision, and made him a partner ‘sight unseen’. Around this time, David went back to the University of Melbourne to study law part-time.

Outstanding achievements

Over the course of the next three and a half decades, David made his mark at KPMG. He was appointed to manage and advise on Australia’s largest corporate collapses, including Massey Ferguson, St Kilda Football Club, Adsteam, Bond Corp and Ansett.

David Crawford
David Crawford, AO

David rose to become the Chairman and Managing Partner of KPMG Australia. According to Hugh, David was fearless in stating his views, particularly with respect of governance and director responsibilities. He delivered resounding improvements for some of Australia’s largest sporting organisations, including The Australian Football League, Cricket Australia, Australian Soccer (which led to the formation of Football Federation Australia) and The Future of Sport in Australia.

After leaving KPMG, he became a non-executive director, holding numerous roles such as Chairman of Foster's Group, Lend Lease Corporation, South32, Australia Pacific Airports Corporation and The Australian Ballet, Director of BHP Billiton and Westpac, and Vice-President and Treasurer of the Melbourne Cricket Club, amongst many others.

Love what you do

David kept a conscientious schedule throughout his career. A typical day would start at 5am with a run with his two Border Collies, followed by a paper. He would be at his desk in the city by 7am, then home in time for dinner with his family by 6.30pm, following which he would work in his home office until at least 10pm.

“Six years ago, when our house was being renovated, my husband, twins and I moved in with mum and dad. At 70 years of age, dad was still keeping those same hours,” says his daughter, Anna McCallum.

“He is relentlessly diligent. I put this down to him truly enjoying his work.

"He would always say choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Behind every successful man…

…is his family.

David with wife, Maureen Crawford
David with his wife, Maureen Crawford, at the Australian Open

One of David’s passions is sport, which was fostered by his father, Frank Crawford, former Editor of The Weekly Times newspaper. Frank also had a profound impact in shaping who he is today. David was acutely aware of where he came from and his dad instilled in him that honesty and integrity were fundamental and non-negotiable.

According to David, “Without those traits you were nothing and with them you were somebody.”

Later on in life, David’s wife and children helped shape his choices.

“Behind my father there is a wife and three children who have witnessed and been a part of all that his career has brought,” Anna tells us. “There have been highs but there have been lows, and throughout them all Maureen has stood by his side.”

They are a partnership, and she is a major player in all he has achieved.

And this was how the sports fan in David has become such a strong supporter of the arts.

“At the beginning, I’m not sure supporting the arts was one of his passions. He and mum had an agreement: she would go to the football with him if he would go to the ballet with her,” Anna says.

“That’s how it started. Mum introduced dad to the more ‘cultural side’ of life, and he grew to really enjoy the ballet, became a regular patron and that led to the opportunity to join the Australian Ballet board. The rest is history.”

David also ensures that he is always there for his children. “As a child I had no idea what dad did or how many people he was working with or the amount of pressure or stress he was under,” Anna recalls. “But even though he was away for long periods of time, he was always available.”

I never hesitated in calling him or going in to see him at work. He always had time for me, no matter what was going on at work.

David’s legacy

The honesty and integrity instilled in David by his father is something he has passed on to his children. To him, one’s moral compass is everything.

This, along with his capacity to absorb information on complex issues, to focus on the core problems, and provide solutions in an understandable manner, makes David a natural leader.

Anna says that these traits have not gone unnoticed by his staff, either, with a former colleague writing to David last year, to thank him:

“Many people talk about your… capacity for crystal clear thinking, ability to make impossibly hard decisions, calling people to account and being the consummate Chairman and Director (amongst so many others).  
“For me, I also saw a man… who cared deeply about people, the company and business in ways others just didn’t – or maybe couldn’t... You never prioritised yourself over others.”

David believes in being a mentor to others who have followed in his footsteps, and loves championing those he believes in. One of his proudest achievements is being able to give back to Scotch College. Aware of how much his parents sacrificed to send their children to a private school and how he benefitted from the experience, when to the opportunity arose, David worked tirelessly for the school and was Chairman of both the Old Scotch Collegians Association and School Council for many years.

He has also extended his service to the University of Melbourne as Alumni Council Member. Of his time at the University, during which he resided at Ormond College, David remarks, “It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Learn more about the Faculty of Business and Economics Alumni of Distinction Awards.