Raquel Stevens

Meeting Barry Golding is like having coffee with a dear old friend.  Familiar, comforting and you walk away feeling deeply satisfied.

He is the wearer of many academic hats, and this week added another to his vast collection. Professor Golding was awarded a State Library fellowship to write a book called ‘Six Peaks Speak.’ The peaks are all visible from his home in southern Dja Dja Wurrung Country. The six peaks are Kooroocheang, Beckworth, Greenock, Tarrangower, Alexander / Leanganook and Franklin /Larni barramul.

Enjoying a spot of sunshine from the courtyard at Pancho cafe, Professor Golding describes his desire to ‘shine brightly’ and how he became a Daylesford resident more than 40 years ago.

What brought you to Daylesford?

I had been a touring musician in Mulga Bills Bicycle Band, travelling around Australia non-stop for five years, and I was exhausted. I actively looked for a place somewhere northwest of Melbourne (towards where I come from) to collect my scattered belongings, restore my soul and re-orient my life. I briefly moved into a deserted and derelict farmhouse on the remote Moolort Plains by evicting the sheep, but quickly realised that it was an ‘alternative’ rural community that I was really seeking. I visited Daylesford one day in 1975 and immediately found half a house to rent on Wombat Hill. I later rented another delightful old farmhouse at Kooroocheang before placing a tender in 1980 to purchase the then deserted and vandalised Creswick Shire in Kingston. I successfully tendered all I had in the bank, $6,610, as I have had a lifetime aversion to debt, and it’s since become our wonderful family home and garden.

As an outstanding contributor to the ‘Men’s Shed’ movement, explain the concept.

Somewhere to go, something to do, and someone to talk with’, as originally envisioned by the late Dick McGowan in the first ever Men’s Shed in Tongala in 1998. It mainly attracts and empowers men beyond paid work who are seeking the company of other men. It ‘ticks’ three critically important ‘boxes’ which reduce social isolation and enhance health and wellbeing: self-efficacy, self-esteem and self-determination. In the process it contributes positively to the community. Men are not customers, clients, students or patients. They are co-participants in a welcoming, non-judgemental community of hands-on practice which is informally salutogenic (health promoting).

Describe your secret spot in Daylesford.

 If it was really secret, the secret would be out. The Botanical Gardens on Wombat Hill is a wonderful outdoor place on any day in any weather. So too is Tipperary Springs. My favourite public place in Daylesford, with so many memories across my 45 years in this area, is the Daylesford Town Hall.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My mother, Joan, made it very clear to me as a young boy that a good education would set me up for an interesting  life well beyond Donald in the Victorian Wimmera, my home town. As a consequence of my fathers limited options after war service in WWII, Donald had effectively trapped my father and also stranded my mother.

Name your 3 favourite dinner guests.

My wife and lifetime best friend, Janet Bracks. Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians. I have huge respect for her energy and intellect. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister I highly respect as a dynamic leader and champion for social equality.

What advice would you give your 18 year old self?

I read some wise words of advice, below, just last week in a book review in the Guardian by Kathryn Hughes, that I think might ‘nail it’. As an 18 year old, I regarded truth as scientifically firm and immutable, and believed that seeing and experiencing was tantamount to believing. Hughes cautions that:

Truth is tricky and experience slippery. The greatest sin is not to stumble or even fall but to insist, against all evidence to the contrary, that you are certain about what it all means.”

In retrospect, I’d advise that truth will always be conditional and provisional, and that experience will always be fleeting and lost in the moment. I’d advise that the exciting perpetual search for both truth and experience co-create the meaning that constitutes life, family and community.

What would the title of your memoir be?

Learning through life’, the same theme as my website www.barrygoanna.com

If you were a hashtag, what would you be?

#goanna (my middle name)

What’s next for Barry Golding?

As 72 plus year old I want to shine brightly and continue learning though life as passionately and as long as I am able.

I will intend to make each and every remaining year special. I really enjoy envisioning, creating and nurturing things that did not currently exist. Watching our three adult children and our two grandchildren grow and make meaning of their own lives falls into this category.

I will always research and write. In 2023 I will be working on a book to be called ‘Six Peaks Speak’ as a State Library Victoria Regional Creative Fellow. In 2024 I hope to be working on a Japan-Australia Foundation project exploring older informal learning and wellbeing through Men’s Sheds in Japan. Goodness knows what exciting new experiences lie beyond 75!

Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.