Building on his first degree by earning a Bachelor of Veterinary Science from The University of Queensland, Dr Thornber immersed himself in international experiences. Amongst other things he worked on tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication in the Solomon Islands, and filled veterinary posts in Swaziland and the United Kingdom.
Returning to Australia in the 1980s, he completed a teaching qualification and worked in vocational education and training, then entered the Australian public service. There he held a series of positions that influenced national and international regulations, policies and structures affecting animal health and welfare, and biosecurity. When he retired in July 2014, he was Director of Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and Communications.
He wrote Australia’s Animal Welfare Strategy in 2003, and continued to oversee its implementation for more than a decade, a period which included agreement by all Australian jurisdictions on uniform model regulations for the land transport of livestock, and planning for animals in natural disasters.
As Acting Deputy Australian Chief Veterinary Officer in 2007, he played a leading role in Australia’s successful eradication of equine influenza.
Dr Thornber’s international engagement continues. For instance he is the appointed expert regional member of the Permanent Animal Welfare Working Group of the OIE, honorary Treasurer of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association of 54 countries, and President of the animal welfare specialist veterinarians in the Australia New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists.
His many accolades include three Australia Day achievement awards, the prestigious Australian Veterinary Association President’s Award, and a Gatton Distinguished Past Students Award.