National President

Major General John Hemsley Pearn AO RFD

MD(Qld), BSc, PhD(Lond), M.Phil(Qld), FRACP, DCH(Lond), Hon DSc(James Cook), FRCP(Lond), FRCP(Edin), FRCPS(Glas), FACTM(USA), FACTM(Australas), FRACMA, FAMA, FAIM, FADI (Hon), FLS.


Professor Emeritus, the School of Medicine,  The University of Queensland;

and Paediatrician, The Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane.

Sometime Acting Dean, Sometime Preceptor, The Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland;

Sometime Surgeon-General, The Australian Defence Force


Normal john pearnProfessor John Hemsley Pearn AO RFD  was appointed National President of the Scout Association of Australia on 15 June 2013. A  paediatrician, doctor-soldier, adventurer, author and historian, he brings a wide perspective to this Office, perhaps reflecting the many faces of endeavour and fulfilment that typifies Scouting today.

Professor John Pearn is a legendary character in medical and defence circles. Not only is he a renowned Brisbane paediatrician and much-loved mentor to several generations of Queensland doctors but the scope of his contributions extend far outside the wards of the Royal Children's Hospital and the halls of the Medical School at Herston. The generous nature and quiet determination of this gentleman medico have taken him from research in the Arctic to the aftermath of two tsunamis, from war in Vietnam to genocide in Rwanda.

Professor John Pearn is a full-time  clinician based at  the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane, where he has cared for tens of thousands of children and their families, throughout the past forty-five years. For more than four decades he has served severally as a senior clinican, Head of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Queensland, Deputy Dean and Acting Dean at the Faculty of Medicine,at that University. Besides his vocations in general paediatrics, he has post-graduate qualifications also in genetics and neurology, holding various national and international positions in these specialities. His research publications in  the international literature have contributed to child safety and welfare, clinical genetics, neuromuscular disease, poisoning and invenomation, and medical ethics. He's been an international Guest Professor in  five  continents and  published some 600 papers, 40 books and 200 chapters in multi-authored books in the refereed literature. His  clinical  work  has  meshed with  his  Scouting background  in  clinical, research and teaching areas of resuscitation, first aid, injury prevention, child and youth safety, and the welfare of young people.

Professor Pearn joined the Faculty of Medicine in January 1966, initially as Clinical Lecturer in Pathology and in 1968 was appointed Clinical Lecturer in Child Health. He received his higher Doctorate of Medicine in 1969, for work relating to his discovery of a new mammalian teratogen, indospicine; and was subsequently promoted to Senior Lecturer (1974) and Associate Professor (1978) at the University of Queensland. John has been the Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at The University of Queensland and the Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital since 1986 and Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney since 1999. He has served as a doctor and educator across five continents.

The former Queensland Father of the Year (1994) has also worked in conjunction with the World Health Organisation and UNESCO on health issues. As well as his international aid work, John has carried out lifesaving research into accidental deaths and worked closely with St John Ambulance Australia and the Royal Life Saving movement. In 2002, he was awarded the international Royal Life Saving Society's Medal for Meritorious Service in honour of his seminal work in the area of childhood drowning and prevention. He also established the first genetics clinics in Queensland.


In  a parallel military career, Major Genera John Pearn enlisted in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps in 1965; and has served in a succession of executive and command appointments since that time. Such have included Training Major at 1 Casualty Clearing Station, Training Officer to the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles based in Goroka, Platoon Commander of the Assault Pioneer Platoon of the Royal Green Jackets in London (1971-1972), and Regimental Medical Officer of 4 Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (UK) from 1972 to 1974. His operational service included that and the 2nd  Battalion Pacific Island Regiment during Confrontation (1966-1967); physician and intensivist to the Australian and New Zealand forces in the Vietnam War in 1970;  and intensivist and specialist physician to  the post-genocide United Nations Emergency Force, UNAMIR II, in Rwanda in 1994-1995.

He was promoted to Major General in 1998,and appointed as the Australian Surgeon General, a tri-Service appointment within  the  Australian Defence Force in which he served from 1998-2000. He currently continues to serve as Honorary Colonel at  the  Queensland University Regiment and as national Patron of the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association, "the blue beret" servicemen and women of the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police who have served in some sixty overseas "hot spots" since 1946.

In 1979, John was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), for distinguished service in paediatrics and other medical fields. In 2004, he joined the Australian Emergency Response Team to the Asian tsunami. The list of his prestigious offices and awards show his work and contributions are held in high regard throughout the world. He is a founder, later National President and currently Honorary Life Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine. He is a Member of the Committee of Management of the International Society of the History of Medicine, a Gold Medallist of the American Biographical Institute (for his services to medicine, history and medical ethics) and an Honorary Visiting Fellow of Green College, Oxford, United Kingdom.

John was named Senior Queenslander of the Year and The University of Queensland's 13th Alumnus of the Year in 2004. John retired as Professor of Paediatrics in 2005 and was appointed part-time Preceptor within the School of Medicine. This counselling role gave him a little more time for another passion that had previously taken a back seat to his medical and aid work - writing. His publications and text books relate to military and clinical medicine, medical history and life in general, including Genetics in Society, The Prevention of Childhood Accidents, Medicinal Herbs, A Little Book of Maxims, A Doctor in the Garden and Milestones of Australian Medicine.

In 2009, John was promoted to the rank of Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. He received the award for service to medicine, particularly in the areas of paediatrics and medical ethics, to medical history, and to the community through injury prevention and first aid programs. In typical fashion, when interviewed about the award by the ABC, he is quoted as saying:

"One realises that such awards are very much team recognition, because professional people are never working in isolation," he said. "They're always linked up with wonderful nurses and therapists and researchers and school teachers and administrators - all those who work with children."


John Pearn joined the 1st Auchenflower Scout Group in 1951.  He became a proud Second and an even prouder Patrol Leader in 1953 and a First Class Scout in 1954.  He was awarded the Scout Cord on 181h  March 1954.  He became a  Counsellor of  the  Queensland Branch in  1992, and  served continuously in that role until his appointment as National President in 2013. Since 1987 he has served in various positions including adviser in First Aid and pre-hospital care at the 18thAustralian Jamboree and Adviser on child protection and safety to the Chief Commissioner (Queensland) from 1997.  He wrote the  book "Youth  Suicide Prevention -A Parent's Guide" for Scouts Australia, published in 1997.  Since 1997 he has served as a National Counsellor of the Scout Association of Australia. In March 1999 he published "A Parent's Guide on Adolescent Health" published by Scouts Australia.

General Pearn has enjoyed, and enjoys an adventurous and sporting life. He rowed for Queensland in the Australian Universities Rowing Championships in 1960. He climbed Mt Wilhelm, the highest mountain in Australasia, in 1969; Mt  Taranaki in  New  Zealand in  1991; and  with  a party  of  adult  Scout colleagues made a successful ascent of Mt Kilimanjaroon 15thFebruary 2013. He holds a current Bronze Medallion of the Royal Life Saving Society.  Major General Pearn holds a current Wood Badge and the Silver Arrowhead Award "for outstanding contributions to scouting".  He is privileged to hold the rank of Honorary Commissioner in the National Office.