Barry Johnston, a leading member of the Australian Educators' Union (AEU) has perished in the bush fires which have swept South Eastern Australia. Below is a tribute from the union:

TEACHING lost one of its most talented practitioners and advocates with the death of Barry Johnston in Kinglake.

During his primary school teaching career, the retired 58-year-old had been an active member of the Victorian Teachers Union and the Australian Education Union.

In the early 1970s, Mr Johnston had been a draft-resister and active in the Draft Resisters Union. His peace movement involvement continued during the 1980s. In 1999, Mr Johnston was an accredited UN observer in the East Timor independence vote, having visited the country many times before and after independence.

He later wrote a book Popular Consultation East Timor 1999: Reflections of a UN Accredited Observer.

Mr Johnston once described the book as ``one small piece of the jigsaw that was assembled to create a new, free and independent country''.

Until his retirement in 2007, Mr Johnston was teaching at the Mernda Primary School and enjoying his rural lifestyle on the outskirts of Kinglake.

Since retiring, Mr Johnston has continued to be involved in emergency teaching at local schools in the Kinglake and Whittlesea areas and retained his involvement in the AEU.

He was also a delegate to the Victorian Trades Hall Council and a member of the AEU International Committee.

As much as he loved teaching, Mr Johnston was also a passionate environmentalist. His home on the outskirts had no electricity and embraced the natural bushland.

Australian Education Union president Mary Bluett said: ``He loved the environment; that's why he chose to live where he lived.

``He lived by the principles he espoused to young people: to respect the world and to respect each other.

``I have never met anybody who had anything other than wonderful things to say about Barry.''

Ms Bluett's colleague Ann Taylor, also a friend of Mr Johnston, agreed.

``Barry was passionate about his students and the community, and wanted to make the world a better place, which was why he was a political activist,'' Ms Taylor said.

``He died defending his home from the flames. He will be sadly missed by so many people whose lives he has touched.''