I do believe that we have an implicit obligation to the community which sustains us. From my high school days until about 10 years ago (age 80), I have participated fully in what is known as civil society.
My greatest contribution was to have a federal government reverse (yes, reverse) a Cabinet decision. I was assisted by one of my Senators. We fought for the principle that one party to a legal contract (here, the federal government) could not unilaterally change the terms of the contract.
When, as National President of Australian Rostrum (akin to Toastmasters), I enabled – after 5 years of persuasion – women to become members, I was reportedly seen as a feminist. That apparently led me to be interviewed for the position of head of the women’s affairs unit in the Prime Ministers Department. I suspect that I was the token male contestant.
Going back in time, I was a foundation member of the Overseas Students Association of the University of Melbourne and also the Malayan Students Association of Victoria.
As the foundation chairman of a primary school board, I wrote the outline of a program to teach primary school children about religion (no religious indoctrination). The Schools Authority accepted my outline. I did express my hope to the Authority that high schools would cover comparative religion. (I had studied child development during my training as a research psychologist; and I had been reading about religion and religions since age 24.)
Ten years of a sustained effort (7 years as chairman of the union committee) on merit protection in the public sector in the national capital, and years of interviewing candidates for senior positions appearing before promotion appeals committees, led me to being granted a Meritorious Service Award by my public service union, the A.C.O.A..
Our efforts resulted in a legal judgement that natural justice did apply in the public sector; and an acceptance by the Public Service Board that total transparency in the selection and appeals processes – through written appraisals – should apply. This would deny oral personal denigrations – which were commonplace.
As well, I was the course director for 3 years of joint Public Service Board/A.C.O.A. courses (which I shaped each time, according to need) on interviewing techniques and selection procedures. My departmental head did say to me “I quite like the way you worked for the union” while denying me the promotion which my peers felt I had earned.
For another 3 years, together with a Scottish friend, I planned and taught, in the name of Rostrum, short courses for the federal public service, including one for foreign-service trainees from Asia.
I am the founder of a public speaking competition for primary school students in the national capital and surrounding townships; and the co-founder of a comparable national competition for secondary schools.
After retirement I served on 4 committees in one coastal township, and on 6 committees in another coastal township – where I now live. I am now too old, too tired, and too busy writing to make any further contributions to civil society.