Category Archives: Blog

LIONEL MURPHY: A MAN WHO MADE LIFE BETTER FOR ALL OF US.

Lionel Murphy was a man admired, even adored, by almost everyone who knew him.  (The Age – “Murphy papers’ release gives controversy fresh legs” -15-9-2017) Talk to his personal staff, the public servants he won over, or any of his wide range of friends and acquaintances and what do you find? No one who didn’t think he was top of the pops. Lionel Murphy dripped concern for his fellow human beings, as much as today’s leading politicians drip opportunism and expediency.
But he did attract the anger of the upper classes. They loved the old divorce laws as much as they love dirty coal power stations today. (“The destruction of marriage”). He fought long and hard for no-fault divorce, he abolished capital punishment, he established legal aid, he made women and aborigines civil celebrants, and frequently dissented from Garfield Barwick and the other judges on the High Court.
You don’t do those sorts of things without experiencing a backlash from those born to rule.
But let me pick up one part of your story. Even the establishment Royal Commission rejected 21 of the 41 “allegations” on first reading. So these absurd allegations – that he was soviet spy, that he had Swiss bank accounts full of money etc were dismissed.  My question is – who made these patently false allegations? What are their names? Why have they escaped punishment? So only 14 of the 41 allegations made their way onto the final agenda – the worst of which seem to be the words – “What about my little mate?“. Why is Lionel Murphy held to this absurd standard? Donald Trump tweets worse several times a day.
Instead of this outrageous anonymous innuendo, why not read scholar and historian Dr Jennifer Hocking’s carefully researched and admirable book on Lionel Murphy – and drink in the true story of a truly great man.
Dally Messenger III

from MUNGO MacCALLUM. (courtesy John hill)
Murphy was a political giant, a man of voracious appetites on many levels.

Sydney Morning Herald
18 September 2017

Murphy may have been flawed, but he was a flawed colossus, a Labor hero. Whatever his peccadillos, history has already redeemed him.  

Thirty years after his death, the archivists have exhumed Lionel Murphy, the incomparable Attorney-General from Gough Whitlam’s government.

Or rather they have not attempted to exhume the man, but only the raft of accusations that dogged him to his early grave.

Many of these were absurd, fanciful to the extent that even his toughest critics admit that they were obvious fabrications. But others have been given some credibility. This is unsurprising because Murphy was never the conventional figure his position, both as a cabinet minister and a high court judge, supposedly demanded.

Murphy was a political giant , a man of voracious appetites on many levels. He craved power and achieved it; but along with his ambition he also loved food, wine, and good company, especially that of attractive women. This infuriated many of his less successful colleagues, who could never understand what they saw in a man who was, let’s be frank, no oil painting; he was once slandered as a puce-nosed jackal.

But Murphy had charm, wit and a blazing intelligence: he considered himself Whitlam’s intellectual superior, partly on the grounds that while his leader had studied arts and law, Murphy had pursued the more arduous pairing of science and law. He was something of a polymath, a man of boundless curiosity and utterly fearless about where it might take him.

And this was the trouble. In his youth he had made some friendships that appeared harmless at the time but were regarded as dubious or worse when he achieved high office. But Murphy, being Murphy, refused to abandon them and at times, in open defiance of those who counseled discretion, even flaunted them.

There was, and is, no serious suggestion of corruption in the normal sense, but there was a feeling that he had crossed the line where cronyism became at the very least inappropriate. And so his enemies pounced, and there were plenty of them.

Whitlam, who had always regarded him as an unwelcome rival, hoped that he had disposed of him by agreeing to his appointment to the high court, to the fury of its then chief justice, the previous Liberal attorney-general Garfield Barwick. But when leaked illegal phone taps appeared in the Melbourne Age, one of which referred to Murphy talking about the overly colourful solicitor Morgan Ryan as “my little mate,” the shit hit the fan.

One trial convicted Murphy and an appeal cleared him, but then further stories emerged and a new inquiry was opened, only to close when it was revealed that Murphy had terminal cancer. And it was the subject of this second inquiry that had the voyeurs of the media salivating last week.

There were allegations but none of them were tested, let alone proved. But enough mud has stuck for some commentators to claim that Murphy would have been struck from the High Court for proven misbehaviour if the case had continued.

Personally, I doubt it: the Murphy I know was certainly indiscreet, even outrageous, but he was above all a lawyer and a bloody good one. I do not believe that he would risk his career and reputation, which remains that of one of the great reformers of Australian politics.

Murphy may have been flawed, but he was a flawed colossus, a Labor hero. Whatever his peccadillos, history has already redeemed him.

More than three decades after being sealed by Parliament, secret allegations levelled against the late Lionel Murphy QC have been described as a tawdry and repetitive exercise to cast doubt on the legacy of the former High Court judge.

New documents released by federal Parliament have returned the spotlight on one of the most controversial political and judicial scandals in Australian history. But the veracity of the archives and what they can add to our understanding of the truth remains contentious.

The Class A Records relate to a 1986 aborted parliamentary inquiry into improper misconduct allegations against the late Lionel Murphy QC (pictured). The former High Court judge and attorney-general, who served in two Whitlam governments, died from terminal cancer in October that same year.

In 1986, the Hawke government legislated to repeal the commission inquiring into various allegations of improper conduct and sealed the associated documents outlining the allegations against the judge for 30 years. That time period expired in 2016 and last week thousands of pages of declassified files were made public.

Lionel Murphy is the only High Court judge to have been subject to a parliamentary investigation that may have resulted in his removal from the bench under Section 72 of the Constitution for “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.

Historians, academics, journalists and legal pundits have been poring over the declassified files to get a better sense of how these new details add to what is already known about the sensational controversy the High Court judge was embroiled in the three years leading up to his death. He passed away aged 64.

Professor Jenny Hocking, the author of Lionel Murphy – A Political Biography, told Lawyers Weekly that it was incorrect to describe the latest tranche of documents as some final chapter to the affair. She admonished recent media commentary which implied the details of the allegations put to the commission of inquiry offered any kind of “final chapter” to Lionel Murphy’s legacy.

“The documents are, in fact, just the beginning of another episode of what is now another tawdry, repetitive search for error on Murphy’s part. There is no truth in those documents on their own,” Professor Hocking said.

“It is impossible to draw the truth, certainly from these documents because they are only the beginning of a commission of inquiry,” she said.

Writing for The Conversation, legal academic Professor Andrew Lynch said that the release of the documents would “reopen old debates and inevitably lead to fresh appraisals of Lionel Murphy’s life and career”. His assessment of documents conclude that it would have been untenable for the judge to remain on the bench but underscores that the commission did not have an opportunity to complete its inquiry.

“The records bring vividly to life the controversy that by mid-1986 swirled ceaselessly around Murphy. There are 41 separate files of allegations against the judge, as well as a general file of ‘accusations and letters of support’,” Professor Lynch said.

The legal academic from the University of New South Wales explained that a number of the allegations in these achieved files canvassed similar ground to the issues that were probed in two separate Senate committee inquiries two years prior in 1984, and the subsequent criminal trials of which the judge was ultimately acquitted of any wrongdoing.

Professor Lynch added however that some of the Class A allegations did raise new claims of illegal or improper conduct. These included an allegation of attempted bribery of Commonwealth officers or urging them to breach duties of non-disclosure. He also noted an allegation that the judge had tried to get a senior AFP policeman to act as an inside informant to the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Not only have the new public documents raised further questions about Lionel Murphy’s “complex” legacy, but the information has also gone some way to illustrating the scandalous nature of politics in 1980s Australia, Professor Lynch suggested.

Of those allegations which were set aside by the commissioners (comprising three retired judges who were appointed to the role) Professor Lynch listed a range of what he called “outlandish” claims, “reheated from years earlier and already known to be baseless”.

“These included allegations of tax avoidance, improper use of travel entitlements that Murphy accessed through his wife’s work as a travel consultant with Ethiopian Airlines, the provenance of a diamond owned by Mrs Murphy, and, an all-too predictable conspiracy theory given the times – that the judge was a Soviet spy and a member of an espionage ring operating in Canberra,” Professor Lynch said.

The question remains, to what extent can any of the 14 allegations against Lionel Murphy revealed in the past week better inform the historical record.

According to Professor Hocking, the fact that the commission’s work was never finalised is an important issue that must be considered. She noted that another thing to bear in mind was that the parliamentary commission terms of reference were remarkably broad and allowed for allegations against Lionel Murphy to be made in an open slather fashion.

“They were literally inviting people to come forward with any material from any time of Lionel Murphy’s life about any aspect of his life. There was a lot of criticism at the time that the terms of reference were not confined, that they were very broad and literally invitations to allege,” Professor Hocking said.

“You have to remember also that Murphy had already been through three such inquiries, two of them being the senate inquiries (in 1984), which both found the original material being inquired into, couldn’t be substantiated as verifiable material.”

The original material Professor Hocking describes is a series of telephone conversations, secretly recorded and transcribed by NSW Police and then leaked to journalists at The Age. The newspaper then used these transcripts to report that a judge and solicitor had discussed a range of potentially criminal matters, as well as raise the suggestion that the pair had ties to criminal groups.

One tape in The Age tapes supposedly identified Murphy under parliamentary privilege as the judge involved in the reported scandal. He was also accused of attempting to influence other judges who were presiding over a matter that involved forgery and conspiracy charges against solicitor Morgan Ryan, who later famously became referred to as Murphy’s “little mate”.

“There’s a real question mark over that very early material,” Professor Hocking said.

The Monash University academic said that she believed when a determination had been made to discredit The Age tapes, that is where the saga should have ended. But indeed, it continued and resulted in what she described was an unprecedented “reputational inquiry after inquiry”. She added that the shocking, targeted use of Parliament and courts to pursue the High Court judge cannot be removed from the political circumstances of the time.

“There were determined efforts to remove Lionel Murphy from the bench and you cannot separate out the politics from the legal aspects of this in any way, shape or form.

“I think he was treated absolutely appallingly. From the moment he went on the bench, it was very clear from the conservative side of politics that there would be moves made – and this was said publicly – to ensure that he would not remain long on the bench,” Professor Hocking said.

Justice Murphy took leave from the High Court when the second Senate commission of inquiry in 1984 found he had a case to answer. The Commonwealth DPP then laid charges against the judge before Parliament moved to make a decision about what it would do to address the judge’s position.

He was acquitted in July 1985 on one charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice but found guilty of another. Murphy successfully appealed the 18-month jail sentence imposed on him and was acquitted at the retrial for the second charge.

“The only truth of a person’s life can be gauged from an examination of their entire life and that’s the only way in which really to assess both the legacy of Murphy as a jurist and as a very successful reforming attorney-general,” Professor Hocking said.

“We also need to understand the context in which these documents have come from and why there was such determined efforts to remove him. Given that he’d been acquitted on the other grounds to come out at trial, the final commission of inquiry [in 1986] was extremely controversial.

“The bottom line is that he was acquitted of the charges he faced at trial and it’s an absolute tragedy and scandal that the matter was not allowed to rest there.”


Lionel Keith Murphy QC – Image courtesy of High Court of Australia

Donald Trump – the Ugly American

He is abusive:

  • When the cast of Hamilton asked  VP Pence to respect LGBTI people Trump called in a “third rate show”. In his abuse he is coarse, crude, vain, shallow and simplistic.
  • When Meryl Streep criticised him she was dubbed an “overrated” actress.
  • Hilary Clinton deserves to put on trial as a criminal (what for?)

He boasts lies:

  • This presidency has achieved more in the first 90 days than any other presidency.
  • More people attended his inauguration than for Barack Obama.
  • He is restoring “clean coal”.

He does things destructive to society:

  • Reversed environmental protections. Companies can now put waste into rivers (“reduced red tape”)
  • Denies climate change.
  • Reversed Dodd-Frank so that banks can take financial risks which threaten society.
  • Stopped funding birth control in countries that need it badly.
  • Proposed a budget which halves funding of Medicaid and decrease by 25% funding for food stamps.
  • tries to get rid of Obamacare such that  23 million would be without health coverage and older and ill people would be paying a lot more.
  • Positively supports the sale of armaments and encourages the war industry (e.g. $148 billion sales to Saudi Arabia – one of the most backward and punitive societies in the world.)

He breaks promises

  • Obamacare not repealed to something better in its place. (Just repeal Obamacare and we will work out the rest later.)
  • He will build a border wall which Mexico will pay for.

He is unstable

I write this bit on Aug 1, 2017. Eleven days ago, Sean Spicer his communications director was sacked and replaced by the foul mouthed Anthony Scaramucci.  Scaramucci immediately attacked Reince Priebus (white House chief of Staff). Priebus immediately resigned. Trump replaced him with General John Kelly who immediately requires the dismissal of Scaramucci (terrific name by the way). All this in eleven days!!

 

The Wentworthville CYO Sunday Night Dance

I was 16. The year was 1954. The 1960s hadn’t even dreamed of starting.

If you put a gun to my head and asked me what activity I most enjoyed in my teenage years, I would have a say it was the CYO (Catholic Youth Organisation) Sunday night dance. It went from 7:30 PM to 10 PM.

It was held in a small church meeting hall or in the complex of property which was the St Columba’s Catholic parish of Wentworthville, a suburb outside Parramatta to the west of Sydney. We, the young CYO members, would get there early and rub kerosene soaked sawdust onto the floor to make it more slippery. There were not many rubber soles and heels in those days. A beautiful man, Jack Walsh, was the pianist. His co-musicians played the violin and the drums. They played the same songs every week. I remember they always played “Jealousy” for the La Bomba.

As for me I would walk home at 10 PM on a Sunday night and I was already was looking forward to the next Sunday night. An older woman of some 19 years, Elsie McMahon, took me under her wing and taught me how to dance. This was the great barrier we had to cross — “learning to dance”. The joy of the evening for an extrovert like me was the Progressive Barn Dance which gave every male a short time with every young female in the room. 25 years later when the CYO had a reunion I discovered to my amazement that each female danced in exactly the same style with eactly the same quirks. We also learned the Gypsy Tap, the Maxina, the Jazz Waltz and many others.

Names I remember were Elsie’s younger sister Maxine McMahon, Peter McMahon, Marie Giblin, Jeanette Smith, Dick Lynch, the Trad family, Portia Trad (teamed up with a Kelly) Verity Trad and John Trad who had heart trouble and who died at a very young age. It was my close friend Dennis Gaul, my cousin Annette Dunstanthe fashionable Virginia Ligghezolo and the Maltese members– Charlie Zarb, Charlie Borg, Louis Camilleri, Esther and June (?) Camilleri. There was June SpiteriTomny Howard became the President later on, when I was secretary. He married the beautiful Marie DockingJim Docking came to Melbourne and married Faye – they were my first and longest standing Melbourne friends. Johnny and Marlene DoblerAngela Flamischand Brian McBride, Alan Goode, Ray and Colleen Hunt, Anita Bourke , June Mortlock, Sonia Crowe – my memory isn’t as bad as I thought it was. Many more names.

Frank Hentschker on Oz

Manus Island and Nauru

Asylum Seekers to Australia — and acting morally

Asylum seeker boat

Mr Malcolm Turnbull,
Prime Minister of Australia,
Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Mr William Shorten
Leader of the Opposition,
Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Malcolm and Bill

Manus Island and Nauru

There is some talk of cooperation so, living in hope, I am emboldened to write to both of you. Only by you both working together can this criminal behaviour cease. There are far better ways to stop people smuggling than imprisoning people in third world jails without charge or trial.

I am particularly ashamed to point out that in jailing people who ask for help we violate three international treaties — The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The United Nations Convention on Refugees, and the United Nations Convention against Torture. In simple terms, we are what we erroneously accuse the boat people of being – lawbreakers.  We have become the people who do not keep our deals, who break laws when it suits us, whose word is not our bond. The harm to our reputation internationally which results by these crimes – trashing every law and convention from Magna Carta to Habeas Corpus and “innocent until proven guilty” is immense. Have you any idea the harm you have done, the precedent you have set? (By you, I mean the governments of both persuasions up to now).

I am particularly alarmed to tell you that Eva Orner’s film “Chasing Asylum”, is about to be screened to 10,000,000 cinema-goers in Europe. This will ensure, following the articles in the New York Times, and reports by the BBC, that Australia’s reputation for fairness, decency and respect for the law will be well and truly trashed.

I am particularly embarrassed to remind you that when war criminals were tried at Nuremberg and elsewhere, their pleas that they were only obeying orders from their government was not accepted. Obeying unjust laws was no excuse. They were tried and sentenced. And when Mr Abbott, Mr Morrison, Mr Dutton and others (including public servants and government contractors) are placed on trial in a few years time, in the same way that we catch up with paedophile priests, the defence that everyone thought it was OK at the time, will have no currency.

I am particularly sickened, Malcolm and Bill, to cause you to face the fact that these crimes are all the more hideous because they are enacted by people, like you, who claim to be doing the right thing. Like all criminals committing criminal acts,  there is always the attempt to justify. But all the spin doctors in the world cannot make this one wash.

I am particularly galled to note that the worst perpetrators of this crime are practising catholics and practising christians. How am I supposed to get my brain around that? “Do unto others”, the most basic of all Christian tenets, has become a sick joke. The Good Samaritan has become a fairy tale for gullible “bleeding hearts”. Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” bears no weight with these churchgoers whatsoever. The Pope says:

When there are just reasons in favor of it, (a citizen) must be permitted to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there.(22) The fact that he is a citizen of a particular State does not deprive him of membership in the human family, nor of citizenship in that universal society, the common, world-wide fellowship of men.

I am particularly shocked to point out this whole scene, as both of you well know, is filled with stupidities. I know people who have come here by plane on tourist or student visas who have successfully gained asylum with very little trouble. Many many more than those who, misinformed, came by boat. How dumb are we that we do not lock up people who come by plane, but lock up those who come by boat? Why do boat people and not plane people deserve to be sent slowly insane on remote tropical islands because no one told them it was far better to come by plane? What about some full-page Kevin-Rudd-style ads in all the asian newspapers telling people to come by plane? (“It’s cheaper and safer and you won’t get jailed in the swamp infested tropics.”) Do I have to point out that those who came by boat, that minuscule number compared to plane people, are the bravest and gutsiest of them all. Historically boat people have made some of the finest citizens we have.

I am particularly distressed to point out that double demonising of “people smugglers” does not wash with intelligent people. They are criminals but they are not that bad really compared to the crimes of our big corporations who pay no taxes, and the ever ready rabble of “entrepreneurs” who exploit the government such as they did with the insulation scheme, or they now do in the educational sector. These exploiters who are all around us are far worse criminals. But it suited your predecessors to portray people smugglers as the worst kind because it attracted the vote of uninformed and uneducated people. How base is that – you simply did not attempt, or you did not have the skill, to “sell” decency to basically decent people. (Have a chat to Angela Merkel.) And the argument that these crimes we are committing are very effective  in controlling our borders! Mal and Bill, there are lots of crimes that are effective. In all areas of human life crime pays. Where is society heading if you act like that?

And when all this comes out from under the radar and the court proceedings begin, how will we explain how we turned boats around (with the help of people smugglers) and sent people back to certain wars (to which we contributed), or back to almost certain jail, punishment, persecution and/or torture. All this to get a few extra votes?

It’s like this, Malcolm and Bill, the first thing you have to do is to stop this horror, then you must apologise, then you must compensate and assist those you have wronged. It should be pretty cheap given that we are paying $500,000 per year person as we send people crazy by depriving them of hope, depriving them of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

I do understand your job is difficult but this is not a “policy”, it has crossed the line and become a crime. Please get together and fix it.

Yours sincerely

Dally Messenger III

Australian Citizen

Garry Wilson – Legend of the Brisbane Lions Hall of Fame

My friend Garry Wilson has just been named a Legend of Fitzroy (now the Brisbane Lions)

The dedication / tribute says it all.
Congratulations Garry!

Wilson_G1_HOFNominating the best of anything is a terribly imprecise science always skewed by individual circumstance and personal bias. Usually there’s no definitive outcome. No categorically right answer.

Yet a prominent Fitzroy player of the 1980’s recently said of Garry Wilson there were none better in the AFL in his era.

He sat comfortably alongside anyone in the game during his 14 fabulous years at Fitzroy from 1971-84, said his long-time teammate.

Of that, there can be no debate.

Wilson_G_HOFAs courageous and competitive as any player in history, far, far ahead of his time in professionalism, the pocket-sized rover from Preston Swimmers was truly an extraordinary player.

Known simply as ‘Flea’ and recognised by his trademark helmet, he played 268 games and kicked 452 goals for his beloved Lions, ranking third all-time in both categories.

Wilson_G3_HOFHe averaged 25 possessions and 1.7 goals per game, and kicked 30 goals or more in a season nine times – as a rover.

He won the club B&F five times in 1972-76-78-89-80, was leading goal-kicker twice in 1972-73, and was club captain from 1981-84.

He represented Victoria 12 times, was All-Australian in 1979-80, and was named vice-captain of the Fitzroy Team of the Century.

He was third in the Brownlow Medal in 1978, two votes behind Malcolm Blight and one vote behind Peter Knights, and second in 1979, one vote behind Peter Moore.

Five times he finished top 10 in the game’s highest individual honor, polling 161 career votes to rank 17th all-time.

All staggering numbers they are. But more staggering, still, are the numbers from his prime.

In 106 games from 1976-80 he averaged 28.5 possessions and the same 1.7 goals per game. He topped 30 possessions 58 times, or better than every second time he pulled on the boots. And he polled the equivalent of 75 Brownlow votes today. Or three votes every four games.

Yes, indeed, there were none better.

Inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1999, he was an inaugural member of the Brisbane Lions Hall of Fame in 2012, when Kevin Murray and Haydn Bunton were awarded Legend status.

In 2014 Michael Voss received the same very special honor, and tonight we welcome another member of this truly exclusive club.  A football masterpiece and one of the game’s great gentlemen, the fourth Legend in the Brisbane Lions Hall of Fame… GARRY WILSON

Sol Segal — 29-1-1932 — 18-5-2016

Remi and I with our beloved and much admired friends, Sol (right) and Eva Segal (second from left), at the wedding of their granddaughter Talia Weizman to Ben Bachar. Photo by Alida Segal – daughter of our friends and aunt to the bride !

A couple of weeks ago my friend died — and the world is an emptier place. I know I will grieve for him for the rest of my life. From the first time I met him in the early 1980s, I judged Sol Segal to be that rare phenomenon – a genuinely and completely good man. In the early eighties I was editor of a dance magazine. Sol and his wonderful wife Eva, who worked with him as a team, supported a dance company, and had daughters involved in the art form. We did things for each other. Both of us had three daughters.

How many people can you think of like this? if you were to leave your desk now, go to their home, knock on their door unannounced, have the door opened and receive the warmest welcome imaginable? The Segal home was like that.Sol Segal Fune

And what a gentleman Sol was. In a famous lecture John Henry Newman defined a gentleman as follows:

The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he cast — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint , or suspicion, or gloom or resentment; his great concern being to make everyone at their ease and at home. He has eyes on all his company; he is tender toward the bashful; gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring.”

Segal
Sol and me at the wedding of his grandson Nick Splitter to the lovely Amelia Plush

There is not a word in this definition which did not apply to Sol Segal. We, his friends, took he and Eva’s hospitality almost for granted. Almost. But in this world of security cameras and video and voice screening – you come to understand what this sort of friendship means.

One of my memories is in the eighties when Sol managed a business known as Van Dyke Fashions in Richmond. He often gave me an open invitation to “drop in”. One day I wanted to ask or tell him something, so I stood outside his warehouse asking myself whether it was fair to interrupt a man in in the middle of his work day. Anyway I gathered up the “courage” to go in. When I entered the door – the warehouse work stopped, I was welcomed like the Grand Rabbi, the Pope, or the Prime Minister. Out came the tea and biscuits etc. He always made me (and any of his friends) feel so very special.

And he became involved in Amway. His very presence gave them a good reputation. I was never comfortable with being a participant, so I decided to support him by buying stuff. When  I left my old office, I was severely upbraided for stocking up on 10 years supply of cleaning liquids, toilet and towelling paper.

And he was so generous it chokes me to think about it. You only had to mention that you liked a special film, or audiobook, or piece of music and before long he had made you a copy or copies – nothing like that was any trouble to him.

Segal_Berezowsky-
At the Funeral Memorial service for Madame Berezowsky: Ilana, Tammy, Sol, Valya Sime (Mme Berezowsky’s daughter), Alida, Dally, Barry Kitcher, Eva

I have so many wonderful memories. In his time he was a very distinguished violinist – I was told by Alida that he ”came out of retirement” and played the violin (having secretly practised with Tammy) at Alida’s 50th birthday. He then played with Emma at her 70th birthday, then at all the major family functions since September 2010. I was there when he played a special piece for Eva at her 80th birthday. (Dec 2014) It was the piece from the night he & Eva met – 58 years earlier! It was very moving, it was very romantic, it was a stark reminder of the shortness of life. Their last anniversary was on January 23rd 2016. It was their 59th, Eva was 81, Sol was about to turn 84 the following week.

When I was moving office about twenty years ago, some labels fell off the magazine collection so that copies of the original Dance Australias were accidentally thrown out as part of the cleanup of the move. As the foundation editor and publisher this was somewhat of an emotional personal tragedy for me. Sol and Eva were the first to insist that I take their collection of the originals  so that I would always have copies. You don’t forget gestures like that.

I remember Sol’s 80th birthday. I remember the Dance Australia times, the Russian/ Bolshoi/Moiseyev connections, the Kolobok Dance company,  and the weddings I performed in the family. Wonderful memories.


Alida
A Daughter’s TributeAlida Segal

Dad, I stand here today with your strength and courage…everything I am, and everything I will ever grow up to become is because of what you, together with Mum have done, said or taught me. When I say “I”, it is said in 3-part harmony together with my sisters Tammy & Ilana.

Dad has been our hero in every sense of the word. We remember our childhood wonder at his invented stories; explaining his small scratches and scars as wounds from long past wars & fights with wild animals; gleeful giggles when he announced we could have any chocolates we wanted from the store because secretly, he was actually Mr Darrell Lea; being in awe hearing him speak [what he told us was] Iceland-ish and rolling with laughter at the sound of him speaking Pig-Latin; joyful singing of musical numbers on our week-end family drives…too many fun memories to list. There was also deep admiration while watching & listening to him play the violin during practice sessions, recitals, or on radio & TV. It was indeed a selfless and heroic act to give away his career in music and successfully run a business to support his growing family. All this evolved into an adult respect and appreciation of his depth of character and moral fibre which will always remain a powerful example and inspiration.

Dad always said that we need to do what we have to do before we can do what we want to do…

Take responsibility; be disciplined; serve others…these are some of the values by which he lived.

Nothing comes from nothing, so if you want something, you have to earn it!

  • If you want to be respected; you must first be respectful and be respectable…
  • If you want to be loved; first be loving to others and also be loveable…

He showered all people with love… It’s no wonder that so many hundreds of people all over the world truly adored him. It only took a moment upon meeting him to fall in love – no-one was immune to his warmth & charm. Somehow, he just knew how to make people feel special, that they mattered to him, that he appreciated and respected them. And it never mattered to him who or what you were or where you came from – rich or poor; famous or unknown; educated or not…colour, race, social standing – it made no difference. As wise and pragmatic as he was when he needed to be, everything he did came from his heart. His advice, like his smile, his laughter and his hugs, were all from the very core of his being.

There was a magnetism about him…you didn’t even have to know him to feel that glow of warmth. He would even come across a complete stranger in the street, nod & smile at them or start up a conversation and you could see their face & their mood change. In just that brief moment, they felt better than they had before – he made life better wherever he went.

When you asked him how he was feeling, he’d respond with a “never been better”… or “fan-bloody-tastic”… or “I’m OK – don’t worry about me”. He’d often say something like “she’ll be apples”, even when times were tough and he really didn’t feel good at all. There was rarely ever a complaint from him about anything. For all the years of their marriage, Mum diligently prepared meals and he graciously and gratefully ate whatever she put in front of him with a sincere & genuine “thanks Darl”! It was only a couple of years ago, after nearly 6 decades together, that he quietly admitted he didn’t really like peaches or mushrooms, and even then, it wasn’t really a complaint, he simply said “it’s not my favourite”… To hurt someone’s feelings was something he would NEVER do.

To describe him as ‘one who gave generously of himself’ would be a massive understatement… He gave and gave and gave every day, everything he had, even when there was not much to give. He found a way of giving whatever was needed – whether it be time to talk, play or just hang-out with the grand-kids; funds to charities and to us girls when we were building our own homes; buying and gifting things to a certain person that he knew they’d love; giving a pat on the back; lending a hand, an ear or a shoulder to whomever was in need. Giving thought, giving acknowledgement, giving respect & gratitude to everyone. Knowing that people need to hear their names to feel appreciated, even the last of his nurses on night duty, hours before he passed was greeted with her name (Julie) in his friendly manner, with his cheeky smile!

He would always thank people…we sometimes joke about a young couple who came over for a cuppa… Mum brought tea & biscuits to the table and of course Dad said “thank-you Darl”… the other young lady turned to her partner and said … “oh, isn’t that romantic!” In a way it was funny, but she was obviously not as used to being on the receiving end of good manners as are we…

Speaking of romance, what Mum & Dad have is an all-encompassing, deep, affectionate, timeless & enduring love – it is almost tangible. As he arrived home after first meeting Mum 60 years ago, he announced to his parents that he’d found the girl he was going to marry. They never stopped BEING in love, DOING things & CARING for each other. They never stopped cuddling & kissing, holding hands when walking down the street and laughing together. Dad still referred to Mum as “my little girlfriend” … Their love overflowed into all of us, then cascaded over us and onto our children and grandchildren. To Dad, there was nothing more precious than his kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, each of whom he absolutely adored. May we all grow to be more like him, of people worth & value.

His devotion to his brothers was immeasurable, as was theirs to him. As the oldest of his siblings, he always felt a deep sense of responsibility for “the boys” as he called them, despite their advancing age… Joe was a constant companion through all the years, especially the last 3; Leon was always full of great advice about all manner of things… now I say to you, Uncle Joe & Leon, on behalf of us all, he has trained us well & passed on the baton – we will be there for you always, as would he be if he still could.

I can’t speak highly enough about the entire medical team at Cabrini who did everything humanly possible. The doctors (miracle-workers); the nurses (angels on earth); all the ancillary staff who did whatever was needed… Thank-you!

We can’t think of Dad as separate entity from Mum. If he was our shining light, Mum is his ‘shamash’ candle, his pilot light, always holding steady, supportive, loving, gentle, patient, and a tower of strength. Each light so beautiful in their own right, illuminated & magnified by the presence of the other.

He was somehow always a step ahead of us with a boy-ish hop, skip and a jump, wit, pranks & practical jokes as well as his talent & intelligence. Now he is once again that step ahead of us in life’s journey. The painful void that is left with his passing can only be filled with his reflection behind the smile and love in Mum’s eyes, and we can only be grateful for being his (and Mums) daughters.

Mum, without a doubt, you picked the best man on earth! We can only try to be a strong branches of his & your family tree. There is really nothing any of us could say or do to fill his place – but we can and will continue to bring forth memories of wonderful moments and reminders of him & his awesome life that filled us all with love, inspiration, joy, music and laughter.


18.05.2016

Jeremy’s Tribute
A grandson’s tribute

If you didn’t know Sol Segal, you would never imagine that so large a shadow could be cast by someone barely five-foot-tall. He was a true titan, looming large (or small) over the family.  I said to Mum the other day that he was idolised by everyone related to him. Probably everyone who knew him.

It is hard to describe the experience of being related to him without using the word “lucky”.

We are lucky to have had the time with him that we did. In 2013 we were told that our remaining time together would be measured in months, not years; and in the three years since, he got to see his youngest grandchild graduate high school, attend two grandchildren’s weddings – even serving as a groomsman in one – and fall in love with three beautiful great-grandchildren.

We were lucky to have someone with his combination of wisdom and gentleness, who thought and felt strongly but never held grudges and chose not to pick an argument. He and I disagreed on many things – but Opa believed that contentious opinions, much like gas, were best kept quiet and private. I failed to live up to that particular standard with my own opinions (much like he did when it came to gas). But the things we AGREED on were so much more important: The value of simple politeness. Time spent with family, which brightened his days til the last. Good humour. And that everyone is entitled to kindness, compassion and respect; be they relatives or strangers, serving staff in restaurants. He would treat everyone the same, even if they’re from another species: I’m told that, just last week, when I was tragically not in the room, he had a delightful conversation with my dog, which was highly amusing to mum and Oma, even if it was apparently a little one-sided.

We are lucky to have had someone with his sense of humour, from his wonky improvised rhyming slang, to his half-remembered jokes, and his amazing and terrible puns, which usually went over Oma’s head, even after over six decades of marriage.

And just by the way, how lucky are we to have heard him pick up his violin after all those decades, and sound as if he had never put it down. Many of us had never heard him play before, and all of a sudden it was commonplace to turn up at Eastaway St to a house filled with the music of Beethoven or Brahms or Bach.

But maybe most of all, we are lucky to have had his example. Which a privilege and a responsibility; we all have a lot to live up to. But we have a lifetime’s worth of guidance: I can’t think of a situation in which asking “What would Opa do” would lead us astray. Because he wasn’t just willing to give so much of himself for you, he was happy to. Years ago, to make that very point to someone else, I turned to him out of the blue and said “Opa, would you be able to drive me to Sydney and back?” And he said, without thinking, “Sure, when?”

It would have been enough to have all those things, but he gave so much more than there is time to describe. It would have been enough even if he had only been half as affectionate, half as kind, half as generous with his time and attention and energy. Dayenu.

And yet, it could never be enough for any of us. For my brothers, there could never be enough afternoons watching his footy team beat ours. For me, there could never be enough trips to the movies elbowing him every few minutes because the explosions and superheroics have put him to sleep. There was never a risk that he was going to fail to live up to the old showman’s adage “always leave them wanting more”. He gave us so much, but we’ll always want more.

His love for us radiated off him, as it does Oma, whom I am not up here to praise but has always been every bit his equal. Two people who barely come up to our chins, but we will spend our whole lifetimes living up to. How everlastingly, devastatingly lucky we are to have had him, and his bottomless supply of warmth, support, decency, and love, to fill our hearts for the rest of our lives.


 

 

Thank You Martin Foley MP

MartinFoleyThose of you who have been falsely accused will know what I am talking about. Those of you who have suffered a  significant injustice will know what I am talking about. You go numb with surprised outrage. You are immobilised with the shock of it.

You reach out as best you can for help.
The ACCC (The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)  is the most detestable arm of government imaginable.
Anyway, Martin Foley came to the fundraiser and gave me moral support. Liberal Senator Judith Troeth defended me in the Senate.

Three or four people in the media stuck up for me. Five lawyers helped me pro bono (Moira Rayner, Jenny Draddy, Greg Meir, Les Glick QC) It meant so much to have that support. Others let me down really badly.

Martin wrote to the ACCC again recently. For those interested or who want to know the story you will get it by reading Martin’s letter and Judith’s speech (short). I attach Martin’s letter and the original speech of Senator Troeth (p.3).
Many friends kicked into help pay the $47,000 fine and the $20,000 legal fees- I am grateful to you all.
Dally
PS The question that remains is what was the ACCC doing taking an old age pensioner to court on the absurd charge of price fixing?
Why did they pick on the most exploited people in the Funeral Industry – the funeral celebrant?
Why did they ignore the evidence that most funeral directors collude to fix a fee such that if a celebrant exceeds  that fee those celebrants  simply don’t get any work?
Why are they so threatened by a body of men and women whose only vision (Lionel Murphy’s vision) is to make sure that a life well lived receives a proper recording and tribute?
Read the story in the pdf attachment . Foley-Troeth-ACCC
Other articles / contributions can be accessed from – http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com/ACCC/TOC.html

Julia Messenger sings the Greats

 

JuliaMy Daughter Julia is singing at the
Melbourne Recital Centre

Songs made famous by — Sarah Vaughn, Julie London, Billie Holliday, Carmen McCrae, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack, Etta James, Cleo Laine, Nina Simone and Eva Cassidy

Saturday OCTOBER 17th @ 4pm and 7pm.

Her last 2 shows there were sold out – so please be sure to book if you’d like to come!
Accompanied by – Mark Fitzgibbon, Ben Robertson, James Sherlock and Darryn Farrugia.

…Messenger’s gift is her versatility, the warmth and passion that she brings to each song, and ability to convey the emotions. The songs she chose were all quite famous, but it takes a brilliant singer like Messenger to make you hear them as if for the first time.’   Sara Bannister, Stage Whispers 2012

Frank Costigan QC: National Conference: ALP Reform

Costigan-FThis week’s (July 25-26, 2015) National Conference of the Labor Party brought back the deja vu feeling in me and the memory of the efforts of Frank Costigan QC to achieve reform in the ALP – more influence to genuine members – less power to self interested power groups. Frank was a quiet and decent person, who did a power of good in his lifetime. He had a relaxed style about him, and a sense of humour.

Many decent people, I have observed, do not usually last in politics. They usually leave the political party in disgust at the ruthlessly immoral behaviour of those strange beings without ideals who have a single-minded ambition to achieve power (and money?) at any cost. Such decent people usually then move into an area wherein they can do good without the ceaseless skulduggery.

Then there are the others (stronger decent people?) who know that they must stay in the political cesspool because that is the infrastructure within which the most good can be done for the most people. Such was Frank Costigan QC.

I was a friend of Frank’s. I admired him greatly. I want to put on record an achievement — shared with Frank — one I unashamedly take pride in.

The scene was in 1970 at the Festival Hall near the current Docklands in Melbourne. The big question was “Intervention” and the reform of the Victorian Labor Party. There were human blockages in Victoria which were a threat to a possible big victory by the ALP, then led by Gough Whitlam. The key and burning question at this meeting was whether the ordinary member could participate in the decisions of the party.

I was the first to speak at the conference. I moved a resolution seconded by Frank Costigan that 50% of voting power in the party go to the unions (who had the lot at that stage). and 50% voting power go to the members. We argued quite cogently that if the branch members were not to be represented in the party we may as well go home.

Almost every other item on the proposed agenda depended on voting this in on principle. I remember looking up at the confronting faces of Tom Burns, Bob Hawke, Jim Cairns, George Crawford and other heavies and having them look down — and they were up on high on the stage like Judges in the High Court — gazing on us and strongly saying that they wanted to follow the agenda as planned. I couldn’t believe their stupidity — as I saw it.

Our motion was not accepted, it being contrary to the agenda or something like that. Frank Costigan and I had a meeting with a few other supporters (Max and Norma Edgar, Gerry Cunningham, John Champion?) and decided to keep fighting. We wrote a pamphlet and had it printed that night. It was headlined “50-50”. The next day we gave out these pamphlets advocating the 50-50 power sharing plan to all the delegates. We built up momentum.

In the meantime, the agenda of the heavies got nowhere. Towards the end of the conference Bob Hogg moved a resolution to grant 60% representation to the unions, and 40% to the members. Hogg did not even acknowledge Costigan and myself, and spoke as if he had suddenly found the solution himself, which pissed me off greatly at the time.

But Hogg’s resolution got through and the whole agenda then sailed through — and enough democracy came through to the Victorian branch to keep a fair few of the members. Enough “Reform” had been achieved. Gough Whitlam went on to win the election.

Years later I met Frank at Sydney airport when our mutual plane was delayed. We went off and had a few beers together an jovially reminisced about our party changing stand for 50-50. Frank Costigan, who later became famous as a Royal Commissioner into the Painters and Dockers Union, died with a track record of many achievements to his credit, but this unacknowledged one was one of his most influential, and a key element in restoring the ALP to government in 1972.

POSTSCRIPT: The Costigan’s are remarkable family. By coincidence, I have had a long-standing friendship with Frank’s twin brother Michael Costigan who has done some wonderful things in his life. I also ended up living in the same apartment block as another brother, Peter Costigan, a lovely and hospitable man, with whom I shared many a red. Peter, for a while, was Lord Mayor of Melbourne. We actually planned a Ceremony/Rite-of-Passage for the young people (teenagers) of Melbourne. He died suddenly.

Dally Messenger

Life Member of the Australian Labor Party.

American in Paris -Broadway NYC

So I was in New York and friends of ours invited us to dinner and a Broadway show as an out of proportion gesture of appreciation for a favour we did them.

The show was “An American in Paris”. I anticipated that it would be pleasant  – I had seen the movie years ago. I expected good but typical Broadway. I’d seen a few Broadway shows in the real and, of course, at the movies. A few minutes into the performance, however, I became aware that here we had something above-excellent-average special. It was not just competent show dancing of the Chicago or 42nd Street mode/ genre but a touch of class over and above that. I could not take my eye off (or “off of” as the Americans say) the leading lady. I had no idea who she was, or what her name was, or where she came from. I had not even had a chance to glance at the Playbill Program.

Leanne Cope
Leanne Cope

Now I need to tell you that for ten years I was the editor and publisher of Dance Australia Magazine.

Audrey Tautou
Audrey Tautou

In this position one is exposed to many of the best dancers / ballerinas in the world. You cannot help picking up a modicum of awareness of who has the gift. I was looking at this woman and saying to myself – this is some prima ballerina plus – she could hold her own in any of the great classical ballet companies. Not only that, she can act, she can sing (“The man I love”), she can superbly dance in the style of George Balanchine or Bob Fosse. She has the stage presence of Margot Fonteyn, the fluidity of Susan Jaffe, and the come-hither eyes of Audrey Tautou.

Later I found that Leanne Cope had come direct from the Royal Ballet in London – so there you go.  So had her partner Robert Fairchild. Many more aspects I could mention, but at least a sentence to express my admiration for Christopher Wheeldon‘s choreography and staging. The superb glitz and feathers “I’ll build a Stairway to Paradise” show dance was bookended by a hangdog presentation of a nightclub singer whose dreams of stardom were beyond him. So cleverly done. If you put “American in Paris Broadway” into Bing.com / youtube.com there is a collection of video clips of the Broadway show. This trailer gives you a bit of an idea. 

Ray Dahlitz (1926-2015) – Humanist -Contributor

Ray_DahlltzRay Dahlitz (1926-2015) – a true contributor

I knew Ray (and his partner Rosslyn) as movers and shakers in the Humanist society. Ray worked all his life to make the world a better place for its own sake. He had no “supernatural infrastructure” to support him, as he strongly concluded from his university days, that no religious system stood up to scrutiny.

He was a wonderful help to me in the establishment days of the Civil Celebrant Program in Australia. It was established by our mutual friend Attorney-General Lionel Murphy – the first “Humanist of the Year”. We avoided the trap of having “Humanist Celebrants” and “Civil Celebrants“.

The Funeral Ceremony was very enlightening. Raised in the Depression Ray had periods when the money ran out the only food his family could give a young boy was bread and dripping.

He made a great success of his business life as CEO of the firm Waproo which manufactures paper and other products. His staff, from what I was told, idolised him.

I will always remember him as a warm, friendly, personable and hospitable human being.

Civil Celebrant program in Australia 2015

This is to my friend Charles Foley. Giving my ideas on how to improve the Civil Marriage Celebrant program in Australia

Dear Charles
I have sent you these before but I still think they are relevant. The charging of  extra money has only solved the numbers problem to a very small extent. Once enthusiastic celebrants have lost interest – celebrancy has become only a small part of their lives. I have observed that because of the excessive numbers fewer come to celebrant meetings, and the ignorance shown on email forums is disheartening (I am a member of 3). 2000 celebrants would be plenty for this country but we have 8000, we used to have 11,000 we have 6000 in excess which leads to all the degrading of our role because of over competition and the lowest standards of ceremony in our history. I suggest a moratorium (with rare exceptions) – it might take five or ten years. Or thorough independent testing and assessments for applicants? (the applicant pays)
There have been many articles lately in the media on the exploitation of the government and the people by the plethora of Mickey mouse courses run by money makers — and not educationists. RTOs are generally bad across the board. TAFEs are going broke. Why are we in this system? We don’t have to be.
Citizenship Ceremonies
And then there are the possibilities for getting celebrants more involved in society and the culture. The late Tom Powell tried to get the government to approve celebrants (or selected celebrants) to preside at individual citizenship ceremonies. The person becomes an Australian citizen when they take the pledge in a ceremony. Then and only then. People who do not wish to go to a big ceremony, or who live in an area where the ceremonies are usually “sterile”, could opt to have a celebrant. Could the Department and the organisations work on this instead of legal trivia. Imagine how this would lift status, morale and enthusiasm.
 Here are my topics for the meeting which appear to me to come under the purview of the general agenda: the issues I raised before are still relevant. I have highlighted no. 4 in red because this is what should be 90% of any celebrant courses and OPD. Can you imagine a forum of surgeons ceaselessly talking about how to run an office, how to fill in the forms, how to market yourself better than other surgeons – instead of talking about what really matters – surgery that works, that saves lives, that help people regain health, and improves the body beautiful?
  1. The possibility of a new understanding of the relationship between the Attorney-General’s Department and working celebrants. i.e. Public Servants who are informed, supportive, and interested in what celebrants can do for individuals and society. AND celebrants who are informed with the knowledge of the history and purpose of civil celebrancy and who possess an attitude of cooperation.
  2. A thorough teaching of Section 48 of the Marriage Act – especially the last sentence of 48 (3). see – http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com/pages4/Sect_48-Marriage_Act.html
  3. A Transfer of Section 39A to M – the powers of the registrar – to, mutatis mutandis, standing orders within the department – and the powers and responsibility be returned to the elected and accountable minister i.e. to the Attorney-General.
  4. That public servants dealing with celebrants undergo a course of training in the nature and evolution of ceremony, the importance of culture, the psychological power of memorable events, and the nature of society. The course should include attendance at celebrant weddings, funerals, namings, and other secular ceremonies — with reports and critiques – a thorough knowledge of the art and delivery of ceremony. Resources should be extensive.
  5. There should be a serious ceremony at which celebrants are inducted into the profession, attended by the Attorney-General or his equal.
  6. That the Attorney-General assist celebrants expose our exploitation by Funeral Directors, who effectively control fees by not sub-contracting any celebrant who does not conform to their low fee, thus depressing standards.
There are other issues which I have outlined in the following articles and blogs:

Alex Hutchinson-Road to Gundagai

DRM-Hutch
Dally Messenger (left) and my mate Alex.

30,000 Youtube Hits!!

My friend Alex Hutchinson has been earning living as a Musician since he was fifteen years of age. A summary of Alex’s life and achievements can be found at  – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Hutchinson –
His own website is – http://www.jazzlegend.com

For many years, on Saturday afternoons, when I was an active marriage celebrant, if ever I had a time-space between marriages and I could manage it, I would go wherever he was playing (mostly clarinet) and listen to a master musician at work.

We share political ideals. We both believe in justice and fairness. How many of us are left?

They were the days, my fiend, before poker machines, when the hotels and many other venues valued Melbourne’s top class musicians. When I look at the scene now, I cannot help but think of the Buena Vista Social Club. Just like in Cuba, short sighted government money-chasing killed off much of the musical scene of Melbourne.

Alex turned 80 the other day. I was one of the few who had the privilege of attending his 80the Birthday celebration.

We are going to have another party to celebrate his 30,000 hits from all over the world. Music is the common language.

Have a listen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nrg6ytwDF0

Solar Powered House (only)

Solar Powered HouseLiving off the power grid gives me a buzz – July 27, 2014 – from the Age

Emma Sutcliffe

As the federal government touts the repeal of the carbon tax as a win for household energy bills, Australians are increasingly turning to renewable energy to save money.  My family and I went one step further, going completely off-grid and finding that it didn’t compromise our lifestyle.

My favourite phone calls start like this.

“Hello madam, I’m calling to reduce your power bills.”

My answer, usually a detailed description of why the caller is wasting their breath, can be distilled into two sentences.

“My house isn’t connected to the grid,” I explain. “I won’t have an electricity bill for the next 15 years.”

Usually I’m met with disbelief; most think it’s a novel excuse to get rid of them, others are more forceful.

“That’s illegal,” one telemarketer earnestly assured me.  “I can report you.”

I’m still waiting for the energy police to knock on the door, but, if they do, I’d be happy to show them around our own personal power station.

I’d point out the 30 panels on our north-facing garage roof, which connect to the two inverters mounted on an internal wall next to the mountain bikes and garden implements.

They’d admire my 24-cell battery bank contained within a neat plywood box complete with beautifully hinged sealing lid that my Dad, a former engineer, made for us.

In the house, we’d check the little electronic panel in the hallway that reads the current battery level which, on any averagely sunny Melbourne day, is usually at 100 per cent by lunchtime.

The truth is that living sans electricity grid is surprisingly simple.

When my husband and I bought our seven hectares of rocky clay in Little River, halfway between Melbourne and Geelong, we didn’t give any thought to power until we started to build in 2012.

The nearest power pole was over a kilometre away and a quote to install a new pole and connect power to our block came in at around $30,000, plus the costs of laying conduit-encased cable 400 metres up to the house site so the builder could fire up his nail gun.

Add ongoing quarterly power bills and it was tallying up to quite an expense; we were, after all, building a 38-square home for ourselves and two teenagers.

So began a search for an alternative which led us, via my parents’ plumber, to a couple of Geelong-based renewable energy gurus, Phil and John.

My first phone call to John was a confusing mish-mash of technical terms and questions about kilowatt hours, appliance energy efficiency ratings and absorbed glass mat battery banks.

However, it was clear that John knew what he was talking about, so I lined up a meeting and was given the address of his family home, a mud-brick four-bedroom house with composting toilets on  four tree-lined hectares in Wensleydale.

After lunch cooked on a proper wood-fired Aga, we crawled under the house to inspect gel-filled batteries and the small shed containing the back-up generator.

By the time we brushed the cobwebs off, we were sold; John and his family were living electricity-bill free in a beautiful, comfortable home – and without a dreadlock or tie-dye T-shirt in sight.

After completing an electrical audit listing which energy-guzzling appliances we’d be using, our 22 kilowatts an hour per day power station was designed and installed for $60,090, with a $7500 government rebate.

For the first few months we kept a nervous eye on the available power, but the anxiety soon wore off as the batteries hit 100 per cent almost every day.

Our first winter in the house had so few days of cloud cover that we postponed installing the back-up generator; we didn’t need it and we still don’t have one.

The maintenance required to keep the liquid electrolyte battery bank happy amounted to a quarterly top-up with demineralised water and ensuring tiny amounts of emitted hydrogen vented properly.

In two years, there have been a handful of days when we’ve been, unnecessarily, nervous about our available power, however a few hours with the TV switched off has been good for both the batteries and our square-eyed family unit.

Of course, it’s not for everyone, this off grid-goodness, especially given the upfront cost which we added to our mortgage and pay interest on.

It’s been difficult to work out whether we’ll be saving money in the long term, as somewhere around 2027 our battery bank will need replacing at significant cost.

However, with battery prices falling, we’re hopeful it won’t outweigh what we’d have saved on energy bills for the previous 15 years.

Whatever the monetary outcome, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s a wonderful feeling, this knowledge that we’re naturally harvesting energy while giving the metaphorical finger to the fossil fuel industry, climate change sceptics and a federal government seemingly intent on shutting down the renewables industry.

We’re just an average family hoping that our experience without an overhead power line prompts the type of conversations I enjoy having with people.

Especially those energy company telemarketers.

Emma Sutcliffe is a Melbourne writer. http://theoffgridsolarhouse.com/