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Barrister showed courage and zeal for social justice

Tony Macklin: A life lived to the full.

Tony Macklin: A life lived to the full.

Brisbane barrister Tony Macklin recently died of mesothelioma aged 62. His uncle Michael Macklin delivered this eulogy.

TONY was born in Ayr in north Queensland in 1951.

His first months were spent in what was quaintly called a “temporary dwelling” while his mum and dad, Tony and Sheila, with the help of a cousin, Roy, built their first dream home.

I was pretty excited since as the youngest of the previous generation I now had a little nephew, which made me an uncle – prestige galore.

The family grew and Tony gained a brother and three sisters.

This was a group who were extremely close to him and they to him.

In sister Paula’s beautiful words – “He was always there if we needed him. Always there ready to give advice and definitely always there to party. A caring, loving, generous brother. A fun-loving brother and one who will be missed each and every day. We know he and Steph will be looking out for us now and when we count our blessings, we will count Tony twice.”

Matthew has a particular brotherly memory – “Tony was a keen scientist. When I was three years old, he involved me in an experiment investigating gravity and wind resistance. He talked me into jumping off the verandah holding onto four corners of a sheet.”

After attending schools including Gympie Christian Brothers College, Tony went on to the University of Queensland in 1969.

He left with a combined Arts/Law degree, which brought together his growing love of literature and his passion for justice.

He began employment in legal practice in 1973 and spent the next 40 years first as a solicitor and then a barrister at the bar in Queensland from 1983.

From the outset, Tony’s work as a lawyer demonstrated not merely his enquiring intellect but also his courageous zeal for social justice.

As the principal Legal Aid Officer in Woodridge in the ’70s and ’80s, Tony would regularly take up the case for indigenous people.

This was not an easy matter to front up almost daily to the Beenleigh Magistrates Court, which is where the rubber hit the road and the niceties of the Supreme Court were a world away.

Tony was by nature a humble, patient man but, if confronted with injustice, he had a stubborn, fighting streak of which his Irish forebears would be proud.

Tony’s work was not always appreciated by those in power. This includes his work as treasurer of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties during the 1980s.

He worked hard to raise funds for projects such as defending the human rights of prisoners incarcerated in the Black Hole at Boggo Road jail, advancing the rights of the mentally ill in detention, and in seeking to uphold Australia’s international human rights obligations during the infamous electricity strike.

However, despite this intense engagement with the law, when one thinks about Tony one thinks first about the love of his life – his family.

He was quintessentially a family man.

When he met Julie in 1979, he was hooked for life and when Alexander and Hannah arrived you would have thought that he had invented fatherhood.

I never met him for coffee or lunch when he did not speak of all three and it was rarely about what they had done but more about their qualities as people. He simply loved them for who they are.

Wendy Streets, a close family friend, remembers when Alexander and Hannah were at St Oliver Plunkett school, Cannon Hill, how Tony and Julie threw themselves into the community and how Tony always seemed to be the one in the middle of the fun in his unique and mischievous way.

She tells of Tony at a parish camp donning a long wig and being Willie Nelson singing “Of All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” or of him climbing up to the roof of the log cabin while belting out “Fiddler on the Roof”.

After the diagnosis of mesothelioma last year, Tony chose to live until death.

He travelled, met friends, changed homes, continued as ever to enjoy listening to music particularly his daughter Hannah’s – and contemplating the world and his place in it.

As he said recently in one of his email discussions:

“Now for some more ‘medicine’ that is a little conversation and philosophizing … I hope doc will prescribe oral antibiotics and leave me at home. At least here I can see the sky, talk to Julie, read and play with Boo Boo. They don’t allow dogs in hospital and the food smells awful.”

Tony was a good man; not just nice, good – a good man who died in the middle of the story.

Tony Macklin died on January 26.

Written by: Staff writers
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