Bill Cushing obituary from The Mandarin

Obituary: vale Bill Cushing – a true mandarin

pasted from The Mandarin, 4 September 2020

Bill Cushing died during the Melbourne COVID-19 crisis just shy of his 80th birthday. Bill’s career as a senior public servant and his later retirement years epitomised the values that underpin a strong public service.

He was born in Deniliquin, NSW and educated at St Patrick’s College, Ballarat from 1954 to 1957 (dux 1957), and Newman College, University of Melbourne, 1958-1963 where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Commerce with honours in economics and economic history.

He was a brilliant student and was awarded a Commonwealth University Scholarship, 1958-1960 and Newman College Resident Scholarship, 1958-1963, a Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS) Cadetship, 1963 and a Commonwealth Public Service Board Postgraduate Scholarship for Overseas Study, 1972.

He continued his studies in computer programming, finite mathematics and operations research and post graduate studies and experience in national economic accounting at Canadian and US national statistics agencies in 1972-1973.

Bill’s career started in 1964 in the Commonwealth Public Service in Canberra in the Bureau of Census and Statistics. In 1973, as assistant statistician, he was responsible for production of Australia’s balance of payment estimates. In 1972, on a Commonwealth Public Service scholarship for overseas graduate studies, he undertook studies and work experience in national economic accounting at Canada and US national statistic agencies.

Bill admired the Canadian federalism model and often referenced this in his critique of the Australian federalism system. Between 1973 and 1975, Bill was assistant secretary in the Department of Urban and Regional Development, one of the new departments set up by the Whitlam government under minister Tom Uren, and with a significant reform agenda.

From 1975-1978, Bill served as assistant secretary in the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, and was then appointed to the Commonwealth Treasury Department, first as assistant secretary with an advisory remit that included education, student assistance, science and technology and protection of the environment. In 1982, he was appointed as acting first assistant secretary, with responsibilities covering Defence and Government, advising on resourcing and effectiveness of policies for defence, national security and immigration to name just a few of his areas of responsibility.

In 1983, Bill joined the public service in Victoria bringing with him the disciplines of the Commonwealth Public Sector and the benefits of his own wide ranging and senior level experience, first in the Department of Premiers and then as deputy director general in the reforming Department of Industry, Technology and Resources.

In this role, Bill brought together and nurtured a group of smart and up-and-coming young public sector managers to benefit from his professional approaches and disciplines.

Helen Silver AO was one of those, and Helen writes of those times: “I first met Bill Cushing in 1985, when he appointed me to head a newly created economics branch in the Industry department. I had a long relationship with Bill, who was one of my first significant mentors.

“As an economist with strong commonwealth experience, he brought a new level of intellectual challenge and rigour to the Victorian public service at that time. Bill Cushing was tenacious in advocating the creation of a state balance sheet that would be part of the budget papers. He provided me with many long lectures on this matter while trying to teach me the basics of public finances.

“Later, he achieved his ambition when in the early 1990s the then-Victorian Treasury published the state balance sheet. It was a first for Australia. Bill was highly influential in supporting a range of public officials by providing wise counsel and loyalty. Bill epitomised the values that underpin a strong public service”.

From Bill’s friendship and support given at this time when there was great vitality and a spring in the step of the public sector during John Cain’s ‘breakthrough Labour leadership’ in Victoria, Susan Oliver AM became a work colleague, beneficiary of Bill’s mentoring and advocacy, longtime friend and opera partner valuing Bill’s encyclopaedic knowledge of opera, performers and composers. Susan and Professor Andrea Hull AO organised many soirees and musical evenings and Bill always contributed by ‘putting out the chairs’. This partnership lasted until three years ago, when Bill’s Parkinson’s disease meant he could not enjoy the performances. It was sad to end this ritual. Susan and Bill’s close friendship endured.

Always the man to have on the team when reform was needed, Bill served in the Victorian Ministry of Housing, in 1988-1991 he was the associate deputy secretary in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and in 1991 joined the Victorian Treasury Department, as executive director of Budget and Economics. His last government appointment was as an expert advisor to Treasury on major economic and financial policy matters, and he was a high-level representative of Treasury on major committees.

Bill made a significant contribution within Treasury & Finance over this time to state government budgeting, and chalked up an impressive list of achievements within Treasury and Finance, which include:

  • Initiation and preparation of guidance on corporate and business planning for all budget sector agencies, detailing of the government’s ‘integrated management cycle’ and the successful integration of departmental business plans with the state budget;
  • Devising an asset use (capital) charging scheme to encourage efficient management by departments of their balance sheets;
  • Introduction and direction of the state’s first comprehensive co-ordinated and prioritised capital works planning process for the budget sector;
  • Direction of financial management improvement projects for modernisation of Victorian state financial management systems — including integration of national economic accounting and business accounting and reporting requirements, and redesign of the
  • Victorian budget papers to focus on outputs; and Devising and preparing of the state’s first-ever ‘whole of government’ economic balance sheet and linked operating statements.

Bill retired early after health issues and enjoyed travelling widely in Australia, and regular meet-ups on Saturday mornings in Lygon Street with a group of friends that included the late Richard Divall AO OBE, and George and Patricia Brouwer, reading and commenting in letters to the newspapers, the company of friends and classical music and opera.

In his retirement, Dr Vince FitzGerald AO commented on the support Bill gave him: “From 2000 for some years I presented a commentary on the Victorian budget at a post-budget breakfast briefing, and each year was given entry to the pre-budget lockup to get a head start on preparing my presentation. I arranged for Bill also to be in the lockup, since he knew the budget papers like the back of his hand. He invariably dug up a few ‘hidden gems’ for me to weave in! After he retired, a number of us with public sector backgrounds, including Bill, would meet regularly for lunch.

“He was always up to date with topical public policy issues as well as being a great lunch companion. We also shared a love for the arts and went to the opera together while he was still well. Vale Bill!”

The tributes for Bill have recognised a man of integrity, intelligence and a commitment to good governance and policy. George Brouwer, who was appointed in 1982 to head Premiers and Cabinet in Victoria by the late John Cain, added these thoughts: “Bill will be remembered for his outstanding qualities as a first-class professional public servant and, on a more personal level, as a man of great humanity.

“In our professional work together, Bill’s intellectual rigour and integrity were invaluable and contributed greatly to good governance in Victoria. He was fearless in putting forward what he believed made for good policy. His fairness in judgment was admired and appreciated by all.

“On a personal level, he was unswerving in his loyalty to his friends and genuinely cared for them. His outstanding intellectual qualities never stood in the way of enjoying the company of others and sharing with them his wide-ranging interests in art, music, theatre, science and literature-interests, which he kept up to the very end of his life.”

Terry Moran AC wrote: “Bill and I knew each other for more than 45 years. He was at the beginning much as he was as the end approached. Outgoing, quick to start a debate and quick to demand that his view be heard and discussed, caring in his approach to friends and devoted to his broad family.

“Economics was always apparent as the turn to system of thought for ideas to apply to the solution of policy problems. He abhorred hypocrisy (and particularly rent seeking) and maintained a concern for the interests of people at the community level.

“The basis for his philosophy of life reflected his experiences of many different sorts of communities, including some in Ireland, from where he traced his descent. That experience and his grasp of economics was apparent in most conversations. Invariably, Bill would have a strong view and was happy to express it to a person in a coffee shop or a senior political figure. There aren’t enough Bills left in the public policy world. He was a believer in frank and fearless advice (it was what he was trained to give but also what he most enjoyed providing).

“Compassionate by inclination, he was always willing to draw on his values and common sense as much as economics to caution ministers, as a good public servant should. We will all miss him and the passion he injected into any conversation or debate. Our lives will be more humdrum with his passing. RIP old friend.”

Garthe Lampe was a special friend to Bill during his later years, and Bill was very appreciative of this. Bill became an avid genealogist, connecting with distant relatives all over the globe, a topic of conversation and in such detail that could leave his many friends and admirers stuck for words. He was immensely and rightly proud of his nieces Melanie and Erin and was much loved and supported by his sister Betsy. Vale Bill, who never ceased to care that government policies were sensible and intelligent. He will be missed.

This obituary was a joint effort, written as a tribute to Bill Cushing by Susan Oliver, Vince Fitzgerald, Terry Moran, George Brouwer, Garthe Lampe and Helen Silver.

The Tallangatta Valley Mullins descendents

Patrick Mullins (1825-1922) migrated from Co. Clare, Ireland, about 1845. He m. Anne Liddy, taking up land near Yackandandah. Four chn. were born before they moved in 1880 to Tallangatta Creek (Cascade) and seven more afterwards.

These included:

Michael, (1873-1957, m. Elizabeth Curley Albury, two chn. William and Anne);
Bridget, (1862-1916 m. Thomas Carr, dau. Mary);
James, (Jim, 1876-1928 m. 1. Catherine Kirk, dau of Edward and Mary Ann Kirk, one ch. Mollie; Catherine d. 1905; James then m. 2. the governess Nellie Kelly, 8 further chn: Mona 1911-1933, Ellen 'Girlie' 1913-1981, John 1914, Thomas 1916, Margaret 1919, Josephine d. young, Patricia 1921 and Matthew 1923-1969.
Fr William Mullins (1879-1922), spend  his boyhood in the Valley, became a priest in charge of Tamworth parish for 8 years; d. aged 42;
Margaret, (d. 1925) m. James O'Connor; daughters Eileen and Molly;

The Mullins were the fourth family to settle in the Valley, after the Matthews, Campbells and Rapseys. Paddy survived his wife by 24 years, until 1922. We now follow the families of Michael and James who stayed in the district:

Michael lived in the Valley most of his life, but retired in 1930, taking his family to live in Mosman, Sydney. Strong district links, however, brought them back in 1935; they purchased Killara [correction Kallara] at Bandiana, a property later subdivided for housing and for (Bandiana) military use. Michael d. in 1957 aged 84; his son Bill (1911 [correction 1910]-1979) m. Genevieve Duggan (Ballarat); 3 chn: Michael, A.B.C. Radio, Sydney; Elizabeth (m. Richard Marsh, 2 chn. U.K.), James, (Registrar, Western General Hospital, Melbourne) and dau. Anne (1910 [correction 1909]-1980 m. Roy Trewella (Bethanga); 3 chn. Patricia (severely disabled in a car accident), Noel, and Barry.

Jim purchased his own dairy farm when the Ormidale Station was subdivided in 1902, building the brick house Clare in 1912. Of Jim and Nellie's descendents:

Girlie was a well-known Tallangatta resident, operating the shop Janice-Faye. Jack m. Madge Westwood, Bullioh teacher, later moved to Stanhope (dau. Carmel, m. Clark, 3 sons). Tom m. Doreen McKenzie McHarg (Walwa); moved to Tangambalanga in 1956; 2 daughters, Kerrie (Mullins-Gunst, now m. Colin Allison) and Vivienne (m. David Jenkins, 4 chn. Tangambalanga). Margaret m. William Power, Moorabbin, 3 chn. Pat m. Leo Smith, Preston, 2 chn. Matt m. Irene Welch: 4 chn. Karen (m. Robert 'Barney' Brown, 3 chn., live and work in Tallangatta, work the Mullins' property part-time. Adrian (Albury), Peter (Tallangatta), and Maree (m. Peter Dower, 3 chn, Mitta). After serving in WW2, Matt farmed Jim's property, originallly with Tom. Rene still lives in a new house on the property.

[Endorsed by Genevieve (Duggan) Mullins, Wodonga, and Kerrie Mullins-Gunst, Nth. Balwyn.]

- Extracted from Malcolm Ronan Old Tallangatta: A Town to Remember (Macron Publishing, Balwyn North, 1995), page 243

Textile artist Cathie Edlington completes Killara work

In the early 1950s, Michael Mullins (1872-1957) subdivided a corner of his property on the Murray Valley Highway half way between Wodonga and Bonegilla, to provide house building blocks to give a start to migrants from the Bonegilla migrant reception centre who wished to settle in the local area.

The settlement took on the name of the nearby section and homestead of the farm - Kallara - although it was the misspelling Killara that subsequently caught on and was gazetted as an official place name. 

Early in 2015, his grandson Michael Mullins (1959-) commissioned Sydney textile artist Cathie Edlington to produce an artwork based on a map provided by Charles Sturt University historian Dr Bruce Pennay that had been drawn by Ukrainian migrant and former Killara resident Roman Kitt.

In October, Bruce mentioned the project in a presentation he gave to the annual conference of the Royal Australian Historical Society, which took the theme ‘Migration Matters’. He said that showing an image of the map alongside a photograph of the artwork reinforced a point he made about 'imaginative ways of remembering migrant pasts at the local level'. 

The other example he gave was the stained glass window representation of the Holy Family as refugees fleeing out of Israel towards the Southern Cross. The window was part of the original 1967 construction of the Sacred Heart Church, Wodonga, and intended to pay tribute to the role of migrants in the local community. The window received local media attention recently in connection with the Catholic parish's resolve to welcome Syrian refugees to the area.

On completion of the Killara work, Michael interviewed Cathie about the project, and plans to also include audio of an interview he has scheduled with Bruce Pennay.

When it rains - Mahalah Mullins

From ANZ Snowboarding Magazine
Mahalah Mullins is one of Australia's brightest young snowboarders... male or female. We talk snowboarding, TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ and the time she showed up Marko Grilc and the rest of the Euro big dogs. Keep an eye out for Mahalah in the coming years on podiums, edits and gracing the pages on ANZ Snowboarding with her signature style. Not to mention her back 3 Method!

Recollections of Jack Duggan recorded in Wellington July 2015

The recording is in four parts. The text is a loose summary, not a transcript.

Part 1 (14'32")

0:00 My grandfather D.J. Duggan. Little connection with him because he died young (52). His name was legendary in the family. He was quite a people mover. 

4:00 Tarnagulla was an important part of my upbringing. Activities such as birdnesting. We'd take pot shots.

7:45 Who was Molly? The remains of D.J. Duggan's shop in the main street of Tarnagulla. Also the lolly shop. 

9:10 D.J. Duggan was in Melbourne in later life. He died in Melbourne. His widow Maisie died at 99. Account of her digging in the garden. She stayed with Auntie Win, the daughter of D.J. Duggan.

11:42 Auntie Alice married a pathfinder during the war. Auntie May was Dad's sister. A formidable nurse during the war. Danny burped at Auntie May.

13:55 Meeting Auntie May on the tram. She was quite a lady. She lost her memory in later life.

Part 2 (41'40"):

0:00 Creswick: my parents buried there. Tom Cushing was the mayor of Creswick and because he was a widower my mother was the mayoress. She painted. She also recited poetry and played the violin. She supported Dad. 

2:15 Dad took up law after the war and took up the articled clerk's course. I went to school proud and said 'My father was the sheriff'.

3:50 How Mum met Dad. We lived in a house in the middle of Creswick. Mum did wonders making ends meet. 

6:45 I remember the Pascoe's, the undertakers. In Ballarat we moved into a house which had been a big mansion, with a ballroom. We all got diphtheria at the same time. Toss was the family dog. We used to toast the bread in front of the open fire. Mum fed us well.

10:05 Dad was a great gardener and a mathematician. 

11:55 He did many brave things during World War I. They stole horses of the Poms. Dad led the raid. Dan and I used to call ourselves the son of a horse thief.

16:20 Dad didn't talk to us about the war. We got it all from Mum. 

15:50 He had a photographic mind. That made him an impeccable judge. He could tell an Irish prince when he saw one.

16:50 Where did he stand politically? Labor all the way. 

17:30 After being Clerk of the Court in Ballarat, he went to Bendigo, then he became the police magistrate of Ballarat. The family moved to Ballarat. 

18:25 He still had vestiges of the shell shock. If a door banged, he'd jump. 

19:00 Bendigo I regard as my home town. Our house was called Raheen, which was also the name of Archbishop Mannix's residence. He held Mannix in high regard. 

20:00 He'd seen all the horrors of hell. 

20:30 He was very firm in his views. There were only three things a girl could do. The girls of the family became nurses.  

22:00 Genevieve was the brightest. Dan worshipped the ground Ken walked on. 

23:05 We used to go around the towns and put on shows. I'd do a lot of clowning. I'd got thrown out of the school choir. 

24:45 How many in Dad's family? Poor state of health services. 

26:52 Auntie Win was in love with a soldier who was killed in the war and so she never married. She had a great sense of humour. 

26:25 She didn't talk about the soldier she loved because it was a very deep wound. There was a shortage of men. 

27:10 Uncle Jim. He was a bit of a dag, high up in the Commonwealth Bank. 

27:50 Dad's elder brother Michael John, I stayed with him sometimes. He was married to Hermini. The family was very much a family. 

26:45 Sense of community? Yes. Danny decided to become a patrol officer in Papua New Guinea. Uncle John wrote him a long letter stating the reasons why he should not leave the bank and go to PNG. A cadetship in the bank was a good thing. You automatically went through to become manager. 

30:20 Auntie May said my 21st birthday was coming up and what would I like? I was very dismissive, I didn't want gifts. 

31:09 D.J. Duggan - how did he die? He was 54. Asthma or something.

31:55 Diabetes was rife in the Cushing family. One of them died on the train between Melbourne and Bendigo. 

32:40 Mum's family - Molly. The youngest. She'd had a fall and was very spoilt. She said she'd never be marrying so her father left most of his dough to her. Then she promptly married Jack Charleson. Very strong willed. She was great on the stock exchange. Made a fortune. They had no kids but Jack was great with kids and dogs. 

34:30 He split up with Molly, in later years. He was a bit of a Romeo. He had girl friends. He was tall, like an English squire. A great sense of humour.  

35:25 Everybody smoked. I was shocked when I found out that Mum smoked. Auntie Hilda smoked as well, but she went to the races. 

37:30 The others in Mum's family. We kept more in touch with Dad's family. One lovely character was John Michael Duggan. The most kindly mellow man in the world. But beware the quiet man. He decked the bank manager. He was demoted. Then the union took it up and there was hell to pay. Not only was John reinstated, but he was promoted. 

40:15 He lived in Albert Park in Melbourne. Then he retired to a retirement home in the vicinity. I used to pop in and see him. He died at 105 a few years ago. He had a lovely wife but no children. She predeceased him by about seven years. He was, to use the Irish term, a darlin' man.

Part 3 (25')

0:00 There was a lot of bullying. It was a very tough school, Marist Brothers Bendigo. There were two characters who used to bully me. Goggles Keogh at the pool, I took him out to the deep water to drown him. Goggles and I became good friends after that. But not Brodie. He claimed later that he'd been a member of a secret organisation during the war. 

4:50 Teacher training college. It was a time of drought. The hills crawled with rabbits. 

6:35 Mum was a hell of a cook. Dad got the game and she'd cook it. Dad was a great provider. When he went up to Echuca he'd come home with a box of Murray crays. On occasion he brought home a Murray Cod. Years later I went on a cruise on the Murray.

10:00 Mum as a cook. She did beef olives. That had disastrous side effects. On my honeymoon. I had pipes coming out of me. Danny laughed and said I looked like the arse end of a television set. 

11:30 The first three of us were two years apart... Mum was a very lovely and holy person. I wish I'd been a better son. She played violin. She was a good business manager because she'd been a milliner. She made the clothes for the girls. 

14:30 When I married Mary, it wasn't without its moments. Danny came down from PNG to be my best man and he cobbered up with the bridesmaids. 

16:05 Dad didn't like Auntie Mollie but she was very close to Mum, her sister. We were going away on a holiday and Auntie Mollie decided to come too. 

16:55 When I was very young we went to St Kilda for holidays and stayed at the Bleak House Hotel, over the road from the beach. Somebody had caught a shark. 

17:40 Sometimes I'd be down in Melbourne with Auntie Win. I used to go up to local baths. 

19:15 I stayed with Auntie Alice. Her two boys. Two girls. Dorothy and Mary Brennan. Teddy was being put through Xavier by Auntie May. I felt embarrassed because I really was a country kid. He put me down once too often. So I dropped him. He raced into his mother. I haven't seen him since but he's probably grown up into a nice young man. 

21:30 Danny was eight years younger. I taught him to throw a boomerang. Danny got into my stamps. I wanted to kill him. 

23:30 I had a healthy disregard for my sisters at the time. When Mum was pregnant with Catherine Dad told me and I said 'turn it up Dad'.

Part 4 (15'27")

0:00 We used to ride our bikes. We used to lower ourselves down into mine shafts. We lit a fire at one stage. 

1:10 I remember the flora and fauna. Goannas, blue tongued lizards. Not too many snakes. In later years, I used to chase snakes. 

3:55 Dad was a dead shot. Even in closed season.

4:50 Merit class at school. I was in the bottom quartile, Grade 8. I got a new teacher, Brother Boniface. He use to steal dusters from other teachers. Under him I blossomed an moved from the bottom quartile to the top quartile. 

7:15 Soldiers who came home were an inspiration I wanted to join the air force. 

8:10 I'd been in the Air League. I was an acting sergeant. The war finished and we couldn't get in. The end of the war left me very disorientated. But I would have got myself killed.

13:30 As a student teacher I went to Maldon for a year. They sent some of us out untrained because of the shortage. I went to Woodburn Creek outside Meredith, between Ballarat and Bendigo.

Tarnagulla and Tallangatta – two links from Fairfax 'Traveller' 20/1/15

Tallangatta, Victoria: Travel guide and things to do
Tallangatta, located 39 kilometres east of Wodonga (338 km north of Melbourne) and 230 metres above sea level, describes itself as 'The Town That Moved' and that is its central claim to fame.

Tarnagulla, Victoria: Travel guide and things to do
Tarnagulla is an old goldmining settlement, although it is virtually a ghost town today. Gold was first found here in 1852 at Sandy Creek. Consequently a settlement emerged called Sandy Creek but it was renamed in 1860 after the 'Tarnagulla' station which was taken up in the 1840s.