Barry Leahy - Class of 1968
Sunday, 6 May 2013
For those members of the Alumni who were part of Daramalan's early years, you may have missed the news Barry Leahy (Class of 1968) died in January this year.
His obituary was in the "Canberra Times" in the first week of May. For those that may have known him, it is an interesting read, so I have reproduced it in full below.
However I'm not sure some education facts are correct, as he was at Dara from 1962 to 1968, which puts the Chevalier incident in question.
BARRY LEAHY Born April 20, 1951; died January 4, 2013
When Barry Leahy died on January 4, the country lost one of its more colourful and effective public servants, one who never shirked from telling ministers what they needed to know, and who devoted himself to the public interest by loyal, honest and discreet service to governments.
Leahy was born in Melbourne in 1951 to Margaret and Daniel. He was the second of their seven children.
The family moved to Canberra in the late 1950s when Daniel was transferred by the Royal Australian Navy.
As a child, Leahy suffered from chronic asthma. It frequently landed him in hospital, but the determination with which he battled the illness, that several times nearly killed him, probably helped to form his character and outlook.
He attended a number of secondary schools in and around Canberra where he displayed flashes of what was to be a life-long commitment to the grand notion of a fair go.
At Chevalier College in the Southern Highlands a teacher became convinced that young Barry's education would benefit from frequent lashings of corporal punishment. While the student was probably not put out overly by the pain, he was offended enough by its unfairness to give the teacher a dose of his own medicine.
At the end of 1968 he was recruited into the Australian Public Service and became a base-grade clerk at the Public Service Board. It was the dawning of the age of Aquarius and Leahy brought all the long hair and approach to work that typified youthful recruits of that era. He displayed admirable staying power at the board's drinks-after-work functions, an endeavour in which he was nobly supported by many fellow workers.
In 1974, he completed a Bachelor of Economics degree at ANU, mostly by part-time study.
Leahy met wife Anne at a board Christmas party. They were married in 1980 and had two daughters - Megan in 1985 and Claire in 1989. At his funeral Megan said that ''dad was the only bloke in a household full of women. While he might have spent the recent decades of his career being the boss, to varying degrees, that wasn't quite the case at home. Dad was completely devoted to mum and pretty much agreed with everything she said.''
In the 1980s Leahy undertook an exchange with the California State Public Service. He was pleased when his duties there took him to Folsom State Prison which had hosted a famous live concert by Johnny Cash, an entertainer Leahy admired.
Leahy returned for a long career in the Commonwealth - in the Public Service Board, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Industrial Relations in its various guises and where for a number of years he headed the Policy Division. From 2001 to 2005 he was the CEO of Comcare.
In 2005 he became the deputy director-general of the Queensland Department of Industrial Relations. Later he was the associate director-general and then director-general of the state's Department of Justice and Attorney-General.
Leahy's career was largely taken up with industrial relations and it gave him plenty of scope to pursue vigorously his belief in a fair go. Employers and employees throughout the country can thank him for making their workplaces much better than they would have been without him.
While in the Commonwealth Department of Industrial Relations, Leahy strongly supported a work colleague who went through a gender reassignment and he made sure other staff also helped out.
Leahy was an intelligent and sensitive policy analyst with a strong intuitive policy sense. He was a canny negotiator who could cut through industrial relations gamesmanship.
He was a rigorous and tough-minded manager to whom staff were immensely loyal. One recently said that he was ''the colleague you'd feel you could only wish for''.
And he was able to take ministerial rebuffs in his stride.
When Peter Reith was his minister, Leahy sent him a minute on workplace bullying. At the time these minutes included a pro forma section in which the minister graded the advice scores from one to five. On the bullying minute, the minister enlarged the scale and rated it a minus five.
It was a first and Leahy wore the score as a badge of honour.
For all his self-confidence and willingness to press forcefully what he believed was right, Leahy was sometimes uneasy about the estimation of his superiors. It reflected a genuine, attractive and unwarranted modesty.
He felt his appointment as the CEO of Comcare might not be renewed. Before the last election in Queensland he believed he might be for the high jump under a Newman government - it promoted him.
Leahy was keen on sport as a participant and a watcher and he loved a day at the beach. His unwavering support for the Melbourne Football Club, which has not looked like winning a grand final since 1964, was a burden he bore cheerfully enough. When recently asked when he thought the Demons might get up again he said, ''Oh, around 2092.''
In June last year a cancer Leahy had seven years ago came back as secondaries. Other than palliative care, there was little that could be done.
In writing to friends conveying this bad news he said, ''Bit of a bummer, but shit happens.'' It typified the courage and uncomplaining fortitude with which he endured his painful last six months.
Barry's wife Anne and his daughters Megan and Claire, his two sisters and three surviving brothers were with him when he died. His mother also survives him.
For them, and for many others, he leaves a huge gap and a host of consolations.