Maffra architect awarded for his time and talents

Stephen Ashton was the talent behind many of the important buildings in Sale and Maffra.

Stephen Ashton was the talent behind many of the important buildings in Sale and Maffra.

FORMER Maffra resident and part of the an architectural dynasty that built much of Maffra and Gippsland, the late Stephen Cameron Ashton, has been posthumously awarded a Member of the Order of Australia medal.

The honour is for significant service to architecture through management and design roles, to professional organisations, and to motor sport.

His father Stuart, and before him his great-great uncle Stephen Percy, had run an architectural practice in Maffra, and were responsible for designing many of the region’s early public buildings, hospitals and schools, as well as many private homes. 

Following in his father’s footsteps, Mr Ashton himself designed a number of buildings in the district, including Maffra Memorial Hall and the Foster Building.

Mr Ashton, who was born in Sydney but grew up in Maffra, was Gippsland Grammar dux in 1971.

After graduating in architecture from Melbourne University, his talents were instantly recognised and he found work with Daryl Jackson in 1977, later working for Peter Sanders and then for Max May. 

Mr Ashton was a founder of Ashton Raggatt McDougall, later ARM Architecture, and was well recognised for his vision and talent, leadership, cooperation and creativity. 

Australian Institute of Architects national president Ken Maher had described the multi- award-winning architect and former Victorian chapter president as “inspiring”.

Mr Ashton had acted as project director for many large and complex projects around the country, including the Victorian desalination project, Sydney’s King St Wharf, the Shrine of Remembrance visitors’ centre and Perth waterfront (Elizabeth Quay).

He was also a passionate car racer and competed in rallies for more than 40 years.

He was involved in motorsport governance for 20 years, and was awarded a life membership of the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport  last year.

Drawing on his driving skills, he campaigned in the Australian Safari, London to Sydney Marathon, Rally Australia and Round Australia events, and joined the CAMS National Rally Panel in 1990.  The panel then became the Australian Rally Commission and in July 1995, Mr Ashton was appointed deputy chairman, a position he held for 11 years.

Mr Ashton founded Rallycorp (which was the commercial arm of the Australian Rally Championship) in 1999 and was its chairman until the end of 2009.

After falling ill from an asbestos-related disease because of exposure to asbestos brake pads in the 1970s, he and his wife established a philanthropic bequest to support architecture, medical research and environmental causes. 

The father of two girls, Louisa and Kate, died of mesothelioma in July last year.

His wife, dermatologist and Associate Professor Rosemary Nixon, also received a Member of the Order of Australia honour this week for her career in the field of dermatology, academia and community work.

Gippsland Senior
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