Contributed by Joe Montero
I was saddened on hearing of the sudden death of an old acquaintance. His name was Simon Millar and our association goes back to the early 1990s.
Back then, I had been asked by the school community to be the acting principle of Richmond Secondary College, after the school council had decided to keep running the school unofficially, objecting to the Kennett government’s decision to close the school.
Simon came in as one of the community campaigners. The twenty something year old, soon established himself as a key activist for the long haul. His enthusiasm was infectious. Everybody took to Simon and appreciated the ideas he contributed. Before long, he was invited to be a member of the leadership committee.
This was an epic battle that eventually crippled the Kennett government and led to its downfall. The large-scale school closures were ended, and Richmond Secondary survived as a school.
Simon was motivated by a strong faith in people and felt that he had a responsibility to contribute his bit to the betterment of society. He had previously been a member of a political group, about which he became disillusioned, because of the way they operated. He was later to move through some other groups and eventually settled in the small Socialist Party.
Some people thought this was a good thing. Others were not so sure. This is not the point. What is important is that Simon remained true to what he believed in.
Not too long after the Richmond days, I ended up being one of the two coordinators of the anti-privatisation alliance Public First. The other was Barbara Sullivan, who had also been involved in Richmond Secondary College and worked with Simon. Sadly, Barbara passed away last June. At that time, Public First was a natural place for Simon to get involved. He brought here what he had given to defend Richmond Secondary College.
The three of us were among the six Public First members arrested after we entered the headquarters of the big American bank Stanley Morgan, to demand from the CEO details about their involvement in financing the state government’s privastisation of the electricity supply. We won an important victory in the court case that followed.
The magistrate waxed on about what a nice person Simon is. everyone liked him. Of course, the rest of us ribbed him about helping us get off because she had the hots for him.
Simon had his soft side. He had his music. Above all he had his family, wife Lucy and daughter Alice. His combination of gentle affection and angry determination against any form of injustice he saw that drew people to him.
Simon went on to become active in the trade union movement, including some work for the CFMEU in the La Trobe Valley, in connection with a lengthy dispute at the Yallourn power station. In 2004 he took up an apprenticeship and subsequently became an electrician.
Two months before his death, Simon spent Christmas on the UGL picket line at Longford, showing his support for those fighting against an attempt to decimate their wages and conditions.
The death of a good person is always a blow. It is doubly so, when the person had worked to make this a better world. The absence of such a person leaves a hole that cannot be filled.
There is another side, and that is that this sort of person leaves a legacy, which provides an example and inspiration to others.This is how the best achieve a kind of immortality, for they are carried in our hearts and through this, continue to have an impact on the world.
Still, Simon was only 51. Far too young and he still had far too much to contribute directly.
He willed be missed.