Tuesday, June 06, 2006

John Marsden Condolence Motion

The Late John Marsden - Condolences Motion 5 June 2006

The Council notes with sadness the death of solicitor John Marsden AM, and acknowledges his significant contribution to the community in the areas of human rights, civil liberties, gay and lesbian law reform and the legal profession. Council expresses its condolences to John's family and colleagues at Marsdens Law Group.

Motion moved by Councillor Shayne Mallard:

At John Marsden's epic funeral held at Campbelltown on Saturday, John wrote his own brief eulogy as the introduction to the glossy 24 page Eucharist program, "I have been described as tough, arrogant, noisy, outrageous, over the top, mega ego - but a tenacious fighter for what I want and what I think is right. "

Typical John Marsden.

Michael Knight said that Marsden's enemies described him as 'Offensive, rude, arrogant, abusive and a bully' and that all his friends agreed with that description.

John Marsden was either loathed or loved. As controversial in death as he was in life. John would have liked that too.

I do not want to dwell on the commentary about John's so called 'flaws'. Few published words about them have been balanced and too many have been cowardly. I will leave it to the distant historians perhaps not yet born to assess John's contribution to our times more objectively.

Instead, I stand here tonight as a good friend of the late John Marsden asking this Council to join with me in acknowledging the tremendous dedication and commitment to our vast and diverse community made by John during his 64 year life and to convey our thanks and condolences to John's family and also his colleagues. I particularly want to acknowledge John's sister Jane in the public gallery tonight.

Justice Michael Kirby described one's curriculum vitae and awards as the 'froth and bubble' of life. He went on to acknowledge the two key pillars of John Marsden's life - courage to himself and kindness to those worse off.

But tonight I do want to take a few minutes to acknowledge the 'froth and bubble' of John's life, because as we go through our own lives it is that froth and bubble - that work we do for our communities - that sustain and nourish so many of us. And local government seems so much about the froth and bubble of our daily toil.

John's life had a lot of Kirby's froth and bubble. It was calculated he devoted 140 volunteer years to roles with many community organisations spread across this city.

In the back of John's funeral program is reprinted his CV. Four pages of tight script detailing his work for various communities and awards presented by them in tributes during his lifetime. Let me outline a few:

From 1981 until recent years very active in the Law Society of NSW including a distinguished year as the NSW President.

He was the state president for the Council for Civil Liberties for 6 years and made a life member.

He was a director of various charities and community causes including Odyssey House and the magnificent Campbelltown City Art Gallery.

Member, director and life member of various sports bodies in his beloved Campbelltown.

He campaigned for many causes such as Aboriginal reconciliation and refugee support.

And of course he was awarded an Order of Australia.

But aside from Phillip Street - the Law, and Macquarie Street - Civil Liberties, the area that John worked most to support our City of Sydney was Oxford Street for Gay and Lesbian law reform.

Stretching from his decision as a closeted gay man to drive in to the city and help the first Mardi Gras marches - known as the 78's who had been locked up by Police in Darlinghurst gaol - John's courage for the causes of Gay and Lesbian law reforms and equality were untiring:

20 years as honary solicitor for the gay and lesbian Counselling Service

24 years as honary solicitor for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Life Member of PRIDE

Foundation and Life member of the Gay and Lesbian Business Association

Elected to both the Mardi Gras and PRIDE Halls of Fame.

John is also remembered for his work with HIV AIDS organisations including as a board member of the AIDS Trust.

And when private reflective moments would take John he would recall the hundreds of AIDS funerals he attended, friends he buried and the estates he administered during the darkest days of the AIDS plague that ravaged the Sydney gay community.

This Council should acknowledge JoMarsdenden, flaws and all. As Confucius said - 'better a diamond with flaws than a pebble with none'.

He was generous to a fault, passionate about his causes, overwhelmingly driven by the pursuit of equality and justice in our society.

Colourful, larger than life. I think that sadly we shall not see the likes of John Marsden again in our lifetime.

To John's wonderful family - particularly his sister Jane and his brother Jim, I convey my and Jesper's heart felt sympathy and sadness at your loss.

To his colleagues at Marsden's Law Group I also want to convey the Council's sympathy and respect.

Motion passed unanimously.

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