Ukraine Many oligarchs in Russia have mysteriously died despite access to the best healthcare and serious security details, since around the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The BBC and the New York Times have each reported the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff estimate that each of the Russians and the Ukrainians have suffered about 100,000 dead or injured in 2022, including 40,000 Ukrainian civilians, and that 15 to 30 million Ukrainians have been displaced, nearly 8 million of whom are in other countries. Of course many deaths allocated as military deaths were in fact the deaths of civilians who volunteered in Ukraine or were conscripted in Russia and sent to fight a fortnight later.
Brazil The last member of a group of indigenous people died in Brazil, the others having succumbed to genocide by 1995. He died in his hammock, ornamented by a tomahawk and macaw feathers, as if awaiting death. He had lived alone in a protected territory in the Amazonian state of Rondonia, as a hunter gatherer.
Then there was the man known mononymously as Pelé, the first black global superstar of sport, scoring two goals in his World Cup final debut in 1958 as a 17 year old, then the youngest player ever to participate in a World Cup. He was once Brazil’s Sports Minister, was ‘Athelete of the Century’ as judged by the International Olympic Committee, and he was FIFA’s player of the century. He averaged nearly a goal per game, and is the only player to have won three World Cups (1958, 1962 and 1970). His was a true rags to riches story, since his parents could not afford a soccer ball and he practised with a sock stuffed with rags and tied with string. Before his death, he penned an open letter to Vladimir Putin urging him to end the madness in Ukraine.
Cricket Shane Warne’s premature and unexpected death in Thailand came just hours after that of the legendary wicket keeper of my youth, Rod Marsh. (The dreadlocked bad boy of cricket and gun fielder Andrew Symonds also died prematurely.) Like the up and coming Oscar Warne, Shane was a leg spinner, taking 708 test wickets, a record until 2007 when he retired from test cricket, and made 3,000 test runs. He was a vice-captain of Australia and was once engaged to Elizabeth Hurley, the actress Hugh Grant cheated on with Divine Brown in a carpark near Sunset Boulevard. I remember my grandfather only half-seriously predicting a long time ago in his Bendigo living room that an unknown Victorian cricketer named S. Warne was one to watch out for. A memorial service was held at the MCG.
QE2 England’s longest reigning monarch died in the year of her Diamond Jubilee, for which she cheekily arranged tea with Paddington. Four billion people are estimated to have watched her funeral. Some say plausibly that no one met more people than QE2. Linda Dessau claims that on the first of 11 royal visits to Victoria, four in every ten citizens of Victoria lined the streets from Essendon Airport to welcome the first reigning monarch to visit. My grandfather constructed and transported a special wooden platform so that his family could have the best possible view. Geelong Grammar-educated Charles became king and QCs (but not SCs) became KCs.
TV, Film and Theatre The scriptwriter of ‘Love Serenade’ died, along with the director of ‘Diva’ and ‘Betty Blue’, Peter Brook, the director of ‘Lord of the Flies’, Jean-Luc Godard, and the director of the movie ‘Das Boot’. Monty Norman, the composer of the James Bond theme, died. If you’re wondering what the royalties on that would be, it is said that he received around £485,000 in royalties between 1976 and 1999. ABC’s Caroline Jones died. Nichelle Nichols’s lips came together with William Shatner’s in a ‘Star Trek’ episode in 1968. Remarkably, that was the first televised black and white osculation. Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. John from Playschool also died.
The instantly recognisable and beatific Jack Charles, the Victorian Senior Australian of the Year in 2015, died. He starred in ‘Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith’, ‘Blackfellas’, and the excellent ABC documentary ‘Cleverman’. He was, like Archie Roach, a member of the stolen generations, and toured a one-man show called ‘Jack Charles v The Crown’. He was the subject of a documentary, ‘Bastardry’. His mother was 15 years old when he was born and she put him into the care of an Aboriginal community near Mooroopna, but he was removed by the State as an infant and placed into the notorious Box Hill Boys Home run by the Salvation Army. In the 1940s and 50s he suffered racism, sexual and physical abuse, usually as the only Aboriginal child there, believing himself an orphan. He learnt the identity of his father only in 2021 in the course of an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ He was given a state funeral.
Music and Dance Cambridge-born Olivia Newton-John was the grand-daughter of a Nobel laureate, and her mother fled Germany in 1933. Her father was MI5, attached to the Enigma project at Bletchley Park. As the BBC put it, ‘Olivia Newton-John will be remembered for her ability to re-invent herself. The pop princess of the late 1960s morphed first into a country star, got raunchy in Grease, and then glided into an ambassadorial role on behalf of a number of worthy causes.’ Her turn opposite John Travolta in ‘Grease’ when she was 28 resulted in the biggest box office hit of 1978.
Mooroopna-born Archie Roach, the 2020 Victorian of the Year, was given a state funeral at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. He and two sisters were stolen by agents of the state who told him he was going on a picnic, and he was put into the foster care of the Coxes, Scottish immigrants. He was told that his parents had died in a house fire. He left home at 15 having learnt of the name of and death of his mother and went looking for his sister Myrtle, who had written him the news. He never saw the Coxes again. He was itinerant and alcoholic for a long time, but caught the hearts of the nation with his song ‘Took the Children Away’, the public love affair that was his relationship with Ruby Hunter, his non-confrontational education about the stolen generations, and his penchant for informally adopting any kid who looked the worse for wear (perhaps 15 of them). He toured alongside or opened for Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Tracy Chapman, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and Patti Smith, and had a long association with Paul Kelly. Archie Roach was not just an artist who contributed to the public discussion of the stolen generations, but the man who brought it, early, to public consciousness. The famous song was penned in the late 80s and received its first major performance in 1989 at a Paul Kelly gig. The government did not launch the stolen generations inquiry until 5 years later. It concluded, in the words of the Washington Post, that
from 1910 to 1970, as many as 1 in 3 Indigenous children — many of mixed White and Aboriginal descent — were removed from their communities and taken to churches and foster homes, under the premise that a Western upbringing was more humane. Many of the children faced physical and sexual abuse, according to the inquiry, which likened the forced-removal policies to genocide.
One of the Pogues passed as did the Irish-American guitarist in the best Irish ensemble of recent times, The Gloaming. Meat Loaf passed. ‘Bat Out of Hell’ sold 43 million copies, and ‘Bat Out of Hell II’ 20 million. Trinidad and Tobagoan calypsonian Kenny J died along with the oldest living calypsonian, Mighty Bomber.
Glenn Wheatley was a convicted fraudster who managed John Farnham and launched Delta Goodrem. Max, brother of the Cat Empire’s Felix Riebel, was a counter tenor who contributed to the band’s ‘Misere’, and died aged 30.
The ballet critic Clement Crisp, Australian composer Nigel Butterley, and George Crumb died. Crumb wrote a work called ‘Vox Balaenae’, an acquired taste, the purpose of which seems to have been to find out how closely an electric flute, electric cello and amplified piano could mimic the songs of whales.
William Bennett was a great British flautist lucky to have had some lessons from Jean-Pierre Rampal and Marcel Moyse. He played with the London Symphony, Sadlers Wells, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and I Musici. And Jimi Hendrix.
Simon Preston was a chorister at King’s College and an organ scholar under Sir David Willcocks before becoming the organist at Westminster Cathedral. He recorded the complete organ works of JS Bach, including the boring ones.
Evangelos Odysseas (‘Vangelis’) Papathanassiou was a Greek composer of ambient electronica and other music who knocked out the ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘Blade Runner’ scores. The main theme of the former (in the recording of which he was the sole performer) went to no. 1 in the US.
Essendon-born and Ruyton- and Melbourne University Conservatorium-educated Judith Durham was a soprano in the quartet that was The Seekers, the first Australian band to top the British and American charts. Their first album featured a version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’, but ‘Georgy Girl’ was more enduring. They thought they were a folk ensemble (Durham started out singing folk in a Melbourne café) but their popularity turned them pop, knocking The Beatles off the charts.
Writers and journalists David Ireland worked for a long time in an oil refinery. The Unknown Industrial Prisoner is his best known novel, set in an oil refinery.
Dervla Murphy was my kind of girl, an impoverished Irishwoman from deeply rural country who set off from Dublin on a bike with a pistol and a compass and published her journal upon reaching Delhi via Afghanistan (about which she was ‘afghanatical’). She wrote many other books as well, including an account of her journey with a mule from Asmara to Addis Ababa.
Bruce Grant was a diplomat, foreign correspondent for The Age, and foreign policy adviser to Australian governments from Menzies to Hawke. He wrote the seminal Indonesia in 1964 and advocated for Australia to recognise its place in Asia.
Hilary Mantel who penned the Woolf Hall trilogy about Oliver Cromwell was 70 when she died. The first two books in the trilogy each won the Booker Prize.
Tim Page was the inspiration for Dennis Hopper’s journalist in ‘Apocalypse Now’, a photographer of the Vietnam War who campaigned against land mines in his later life. Jill Joliffe was a journalist and historian of the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor, having been on the ground when Indonesia invaded, and reporting on the death of the Balibo Five. She lived in Portugal for 21 years and specialised in the post-colonial history of its territories.
Fashion Issey Miyake was a Japanese fashion designer who innovated with high-tech permanent pleating of garments and made the black turtle-necked shirts sported by Steve Jobs. He was seven when he saw the explosion of Little Boy, dropped by the American bomber the Enola Gay on Hiroshima.
Public figures Philanthropist Baillieu Myer died. The University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library is not named after him. He was the son of Sidney Myer who founded the Myer Emporium and Bails oversaw the merger with GJ Coles & Coy to create Coles Myer.
Kimberley Kitching, a senator for Victoria, died at 52 of a suspected heart attack. She once lived in one of Melbourne’s best houses. She was passionate about human rights and foreign policy and critical of China’s human rights abuses and the Andrews government’s since torn-up accession to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Jane Garrett also died prematurely at 49. Ex-Slater & Gordon, and a Mayor of Yarra, she was for a time the Emergency Services Minister in the Andrews Government in Victoria in which she served as the Member for Brunswick.
Moss Cass was Whitlam’s environment minister. He failed to convince Whitlam not to dam Lake Pedder, but succeeded in protecting Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef, and in introducing the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974. He was an abortion and gay rights activist and an environmentalist long before it was fashionable. As media minister, he set up the SBS.
David Irvine was a director of ASIS and then ASIO between 2003 and 2014, after diplomatic postings to Rome, Jakarta, Port Morseby and Beijing. An Indonesianist, he published two books about the country’s arts.
Peter Reith was once a solicitor in Cowes. He is better remembered as a Howard government Minister, for his role in Patrick Corporation’s contest with the Maritime Union of Australia and for the Children Overboard scandal.
John Landy was the first Australian and the second person known to have run a 4 minute mile, and the Governor of Victoria before David De Kretser. Roger Bannister narrowly beat him to the sub-4 minute record. When he grazed the fallen Bannister in a subsequent race with his spikes, he famously went back to help him up, and still won the race.
Sir David Smith was the Official Secretary to Governors-General from Paul Hasluck to Ninian Stephen. It was he who read out the proclamation of the dismissal in formal garb on the steps of the old parliament house in Canberra immediately before Whitlam thundered in his odd cadence ‘Well may we say God Save the Queen because nothing will save the Governor-General.’
Shinzo Abe, grandson of a Japanese prime minister and himself Japan’s longest serving prime minister, was assassinated. A conservative nationalist, he launched Japan’s remilitarisation. Madeleine Albright was a Czech-born Democrat who was Ambassador to the United Nations and then first female Secretary of State in the Clinton government.
Mikhael Gorbachev was the Soviet Union’s last president. In the words of Wikipedia, ‘Gorbachev is considered to be one of the most significant figures of the second half of the 20th century. The recipient of a wide range of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, he is praised for his role in ending the Cold War, introducing new political and economic freedoms in the Soviet Union, and tolerating both the fall of Marxist–Leninist administrations in eastern and central Europe and the reunification of Germany. In Russia he is often derided for facilitating the dissolution of the Soviet Union—an event which weakened Russia’s global influence and precipitated an economic collapse in Russia and associated states.’
Science Richard Leakey was the white Kenyan son of eminent paleontologists, but did not have academic qualifications. Having crossed the Omo River in southern Ethiopia myself in a wooden boat, I was alarmed to read that his ‘hominid gang’ nearly perished in a crocodile attack on the Leakey boat. (All that happened to me was that a very big fish jumped out of the water and thwacked me hard on the head, falling flapping into the pirogue.) He bravely fought poachers who are thought to have tampered with the plane in which he lost his lower legs in an accident. Fluent in Kiswahili, he founded a political party and served as a corruption-busting Cabinet Secretary for a few years.
Paul Farmer was a doctor who founded Partners in Health, which did much to enhance the health care of some of the world’s poorest. James Lovelock the English environmentalist who came up with Gaia hypothesis, and the inventor of the electron capture detector also died.
Murderers A Lithuanian who murdered a 17 year old girl after molesting her was stabbed in the neck with an improvised knife by a man also serving a life-sentence. Then a father was allowed to execute the murderer of his child by shooting him thrice before a crowd in western Farah province in Afghanistan, after the Taliban started whipping and publicly executing again. Some of the whipped women were convicted of running away from home, very likely because they were escaping family violence. The second caliph of Islamic State blew himself up when the Americans raided his compound. More than ten died in the explosion and a shootout, including 6 children.
Lawyers Melbourne barrister John Bryson wrote Evil Angels, an account of the Chamberlain trial. We lost a character in Greg McDermott. As a solicitor, I once briefed him in a Magistrates’ Court crash n bash (a field in which he was a leader) only to find that he was opposed to one of his two barrister brothers. The last of his three children to join the law won the Supreme Court prize. Another grand character of the Bar to go was Mal Titshall KC, a doyen of personal injuries litigators. And another was Brendan Murphy KC, a great criminal lawyer not afraid of taking on the police or the powerful more generally.
Doug Meagher KC was a leader of the Victorian Bar who at the age of 39 was counsel assisting ‘the Costigan Commission’, a Royal Commission into the shenanigans of the Federated Painters and Dockers Union which was represented by Frank Galbally, and then practised across the profession from corporations law to crime. It was to him that the Commonwealth turned in the test cases for stolen generations compensation brought by Lorna Cubillo and Peter Guner, and the claim was defeated despite the best efforts of Jack Rush leading Mark Dreyfus QC and Melinda Richards, now respectively the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, and a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria: Cubillo v Commonwealth  FCA 1084.
Sir Gerard Brennan was the 10th Chief Justice of the High Court. Fr Frank Brennan’s father, he is best known for penning the lead judgment in Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 166 CLR 186, and for cementing equitable estoppel into place in the most famous of the judgments in Waltons Stores (Interstate) Ltd v Maher (1988) 164 CLR 387. He would have been pleased by Minister Andrew Giles’s decision to grant the Nadesalingams of Bilolela permanent residence, having penned ‘Obnoxious Cruelty to Tamil Girls is un-Australian’.
Peter Vickery died of cancer. He was a construction lawyer, a human rights lawyer, a generally highly regarded Supreme Court judge who developed the Red Crest electronic filing system, and a bad poet. Bob Brooking was a Supreme Court judge for 25 years. A great construction lawyer, readers of this blog may also recall his judgment in Spincode Pty Ltd v Look Software Pty Ltd (2001) 4 VR 501 where at 521-524 his Honour developed the duty of loyalty ground for enjoining conflicted lawyers from acting, but it is only one of nearly 1,000 judgments. He also at one time presided over the Board of Examiners. Clive Tadgell was a Supreme Court judge for 21 years, prominent also in the government of the Anglican Church.
Charlie Wheeler died. His 14½ year stint as Master of the Supreme Court was coming to an end when I was learning the craft of litigation, at a time when you could whack out a chambers summons by 2 p.m. and be in Master Wheeler’s or Master Evans’s court at 10 a.m. the next day. One quickly learnt not to remove the staples in an affidavit and in exhibits for the purposes of copying them for service, lest the integrity of the filed copy be queried.
Adi Andojo Soetjipto was a member of the Supreme Court of Indonesia between 1981 and 1997, and an anti-corruption campaigner. Remarkably, he repeatedly exposed the corruption of the court, for example by taking bribes, whilst a justice of the Court.
Kenneth Starr was a lawyer whose career was associated with sex scandals. Assisted by now-Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh, he pursued Bill and Hilary Clinton in the Whitewater investigation in the course of which Bill gave a statutory declaration which would later see him impeached, to the effect that he had never had a workplace affair. Star went on to act for Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein, along with Blackwater mercenaries accused of murdering civilians in Iraq.
Oldies Some very old people finally shuffled off the mortal coil, like the 119 year old Kane Tanaka, whereupon the 116 year old Tekla Juniewicz was the second oldest person until her shuffling (a Frenchwoman will turn 118 in February, having recently sailed through a COVID infection), and Stanisław Kowalski shuffled off as the world’s oldest man at the age of very nearly 112. He was still competing in masters athletics sprint and shotput events at the age of 105.
Prelates and monastics Osthathios Pathros, the Metropolitan of Bangalore died at the age of 58, as did Polycarpose Zacharias the Metropolitan of Malabar, aged 51, and Qerlos, the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.
Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese zen Buddhist, fluent in eight languages, a darling of Western practitioners, publishing over 100 books. He taught religion at Princeton and Columbia and was influential in introducing the concept of mindfulness to the West. He advocated social action as a manifestation of Buddhism, a welcome contrast to some over-introspective groupings within the faith.
The last notable death of the year was Pope Benedict, aged 95. When he announced in Latin at the age of 85 that he would become the sixth Pope to resign, and the first since 1415, he decamped that day by helicopter. But the conservative German, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, is thought to have spent nearly the entirety of his last ten years in his residence in the Vatican.
Names Finally, Lady Myra Butter, Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby’s girl, and a childhood friend of Her Maj, died. She only makes the list because I like her name, like the Mangos (Cyril and Mabel) last year. TBH, Clement Crisp got in on a similar basis.
- Never before, never again: Chief Justice of Norfolk Island gets a gig in the Victorian Court of Appeal
- Next election important for composition of the High Court
- Rumour is, Legal Service Commissioner yet to lay a charge; VCAT news
- 2018: Not Such a Good Year (Africa)
- 2019: Not Such a Good Year (deaths)